Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Note: Some of the sequences of events and identities of individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy of my friends and contacts.

A friend owns a hotel near the sea.  I stop by for a visit.  It’s in a part of town frequented by tourists – domestic and foreign … there are local nightclubs in the area and alcohol is available.  His niece runs the reception desk – she majored in English in university and is the only girl employed in this part of town.

‘What’s that you’ve got covering your face!?’ he exclaims as I arrive.
‘I feel more comfortable this way,’ I reply, ’no one bothers me.’
‘What? You are so beautiful that you can’t walk down the street without being bothered?!’
‘Nooooo,’ I’m taken aback by this question. ‘I just get less attention and feel happier.’
“You shouldn’t hide your beautiful face!  Just cover your hair and go about your business.’ 
‘Well, I don’t cover it everywhere,’ I retort, as if this lessens the impact, ‘just some places.’

 A few days later, I bump into his niece in town – she pulls me aside.  ‘My uncle told me that the authorities were asking – why is this girl covering her face?’

‘WHAT?!” My stomach drops into my feet.  Since when are my fashion choices worthy of the attention of the authorities?

We go to a nearby cafĂ©, order some tea and discuss.  ‘You know,’ she explains, ’they just want to know who is in the hotel and sometimes girls that cover their faces, they are not behaving in good ways.  Also, people think it’s strange that you cover your face in some places and not in others.  Like maybe you are doing something bad?  We have to be careful here.  We are between so many different countries and try to keep ourselves safe.’

‘I don’t understand,’ I reply, ‘when I visited the police station last week, they were pleased.  I even told them that I don’t wear it in all places.’ 

‘It’s difficult for them to tell you this directly – maybe because you are a foreigner... I don’t know.  Just be careful, please.’

I pause and consider the ramifications of my actions.  It was never my intention to endanger national security, I was simply looking to my personal security.

I call my neighbor, perhaps the most-level headed man in southern Jordan.

‘The authorities are upset that I wear nikaab,’ I stutter over the phone, my message dramatized by the onset of tears, as my emotions overwhelm me.

‘Lina,’ he pauses and collects his thoughts.

‘You know, I was afraid about this.  To wear nikaab, you cannot take it on and off again.  If you are going to wear it, you must ALWAYS wear it.  If you wear it in some places and not in others, the people will say – who is this girl?  Why she wears it here and not there?  What is she hiding?  The police must think carefully about the security of our country because we are in a delicate position – between Israel, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia.  I ask you one thing – if you are going to wear nikaab, please  wear it always.  Do not take it off.  I will support you whatever you do.’

His words permeate into my consciousness as I realize that I have a huge decision to make.

Photo c. My Life with Hijab