Why do Qatar Women cover their faces?
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Contents: Qatar Women | Misconceptions about Women in Qatar | How free are women in Qatar? | Why do women in Qatar cover their faces? | Qatari Women and Education | Qatari Women, Love and Marriage | Changing our Perceptions
Qatar Women and the Niqab
Not all Qatari women cover their faces. Most Qatari women wear a sheila (head scarf) and an abaya. Many Qatari women on the request of their husbands cover their faces either with the face veil, the nikab, or with the end of their sheilas, the ghishwa, when they get married. The idea is that the husband wants to keep his wife's beauty exclusively for him to see, which if you think about it, in a way it is quite romantic!
the husband wants to keep his wife's beauty exclusively for him to see
Some Qatari women wear the nikab and ghishwa before they get married, out of their own choice or at the request of their families. Many uncover their faces at school, university and work and cover their faces only if they are going to a busy public place. Some Qatari women wear the nikab, abaya, sheila and abayat raas, again either out of their own choice or at the request of their families.
Not all Qatar women cover their faces: Her Highness Sheikha Hind, Daughter of and political advisor to Emir of Qatar. Image by Ammar
The extent to which a Qatari woman is covered does not always determine how religious or traditional she is. There are many Qatari women who wear the full extent of cover because their families are religious or traditional and requested them to do so, but not because the woman herself is particularly religious or traditional. There are Qatari women who wear just the sheila and abaya and are more religious and traditional than the women covered from head to toe.
Covering the face in Qatar gives women a higher level of respect and protection from men then uncovered women
An increasing amount of Qatari women are putting on the nikab and abayat raas out of personal choice. I know some Qatari women who put on the nikab even though their husbands disapprove of it! Wearing the nikab or ghishwa for many women is liberating. There is an unwritten rule about women who cover their faces - they are not to be touched, disrespected or harassed. Covering the face in Qatar gives women a higher level of respect and protection from men then uncovered women - and means they can go about their business without being bothered.
Just because a Qatari woman covers her face does not mean that she becomes a silent, non-existent being. On the contrary, most Qatari women who cover their faces are extremely assertive and get their voices heard above everyone else. The nikab also does not limit a Qatari woman from doing anything. Many Qatari women work while wearing the nikab, including Qatari female doctors and university professors.
What is interesting is that Qatari women have only started wearing the abaya, sheila and nikab in the past two or so decades. In the seventies and early eighties many Qatari women actually did not cover at all! Many Qatari women who are now in their forties and fifties recall how when growing up they did not cover their hair and could go out wearing trousers and knee-length skirts. It after was the breakout of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 that the Gulf region became more concerned with the practice of religion - and Qatari women started to cover up.