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In the Newsroom

May 1, 2009
Women in Morocco blend tradition and fashion

Women don jelabas in Morocco. See more photos from producer Rebecca Haggerty below.

Worldfocus producer Rebecca Haggerty is currently reporting from Morocco and explores the meaning behind the country’s clothing, from tight jeans to heavy headscarves.

Everywhere I travel, I check out what people wear.

Goth kids in Mexico City, in solidarity with mopey teenagers worldwide, stick to a uniform of skinny pencil leg jeans and abundant black eyeliner. French Canadians of a certain age protect their footwear from wintery slush with sensible rubber galoshes, whose design hasn’t changed since I was a child. Young Finnish women, bucking the global trend of revering blondeness, have a marked affinity for dark brown hair dye.

Here in Morocco, the traditional outfit for both men and women is a long-hooded caftan called a jelaba. Men pull up their hoods and stroll city streets with their hands clasped behind their backs. The deliberate pace, combined with the vaguely medieval silhouette, makes nearly all jelaba-wearing Moroccan men look like they’re contemplating weighty philosophical issues — even if they’re just headed to the store to buy milk.

After Worldfocus’ excellent story last year on women in Egypt choosing to wear the hijab –- the Islamic headscarf — I was looking forward to checking out Moroccan attire. I saw plenty of variety. On the streets of Casablanca, young women with tight jeans, hip sunglasses, and big hair jostled old-school grannies in jelabas and leteh, the traditional Moroccan veil that covers the mouth and cheeks.

Students wore the hijab along with form-fitting jeans and bright sweaters, and I spotted a very sharp pair of leopard-skin mules paired with an olive-green tunic and a black head scarf –- proof that stylish women can adapt to pretty much anything culture throws their way. Most chose a pretty embroidered jelaba in a range of colors and added a coordinating hijab, although plenty left off any head covering at all.

Occasionally, I came across women wearing outfits of flowing head-to-toe black drapes and heavy veils. A Moroccan journalist told me it was called a nakob, and was worn by followers of the fundamentalist Wahabist school of Islam from Saudi Arabia. The black-clad figures contrasted starkly with the vivid colors of Morocco, with its intricately tiled mosques and exuberant jumbles of red and yellow hibiscus blossoms.

They also served as a reminder that everywhere in the world, clothes carry a meaning far beyond their simple elements of thread and cloth.

– Rebecca Haggerty

Watch for Worldfocus’ series from Morocco in the coming weeks.

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Comments

7 comments

#7

I have to say that everyone has their own taste and their own way of expressing them selfs. i live in australia Melbourne the fashion capital of Australia.I was born in al hociema Morocco. i dresss according to where i live. In moroccco i dress more conservative as it is a muslim country and our elders have a hard time accepting our way of dresss and find it very offensive to expose any kind of flesh. so for that reason i choose to dress down when i visit morocco although there are many others that dont respect Moroccan culture and go on to dress like working girls. i disagree with that! i love Moroccan fashion and western fashion but i like to wear it all in good taste not in a cheap and tacky way so to all those girls who plan to visit morocco in july 2010, my advise to you is cover yourselfs and dont disrepect our elders and repect your selfs and dont dress too tarty.

#6

sobhane ALLAH!this what makes all the difference between winners of jennas and loosers in hell fire ,obeing ALLAH , and obeing ALLAH is making women cover theirselves so we don’t have FITNA . ALLAHOMA 3alyka bel-fassi9ine oi a-ddayotine , amine

#5

“Interesting!

The latest fashion trend in apparels today is the skinny jeans that give you a lean look. However, if you are unable to get into those, you would also be happy to put on those wide legged pants or trousers that are also hot with the fashionistas. When worn with a short narrow top and a slim fit jacket along with high heel shoes, this combination would look cool and give you that much longed for lean look.

Try it out this season!”

#4

Variety in fashion is natural and should be accepted. If a bouquet of flowers is only one type it would be boring. Women should be able to express their individual style. The covering of the female body is for helping the males not be tempted with desires. Well, so much for male self-control, if we have to cover up in the summer heat at least we will be ready for a dust storm. May Allah blow the sand in their eyes, then they would have self control!

#3

@ Amina,

You might not be aware of it, yet your outfit is for sure a product of wahabism. I am from the conservative north of Morocco where I saw women wearing a white hayek that shows only the face, hands and feet. My grandmother used to wear the jellaba with the hood and litham. However, I only started seeing the black Niqab as a college student in the 80’s. Not sure how old you are Amina, but trust me , before that black burqas, because this is what they are, simply did not exist in Morocco. I very much wish Moroccans did not import wahabism to their (my) country.

#2

I like the Morocco fashion, the black is a little drastic

#1

I have to smile…I live in Morocco and often dress head to toe in black with the face veil (niqab). I don’t at all identify myself with the Wahabis or with Saudi…most of us who dress in this ultra conservative way simply consider ourselves Muslim and are trying to follow guidelines for dress according to Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I wear the black fabric from Saudi because it’s the lightest, coolest available. Really!

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