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.