Anyone who strolls through the streets of Cairo these days, or for that matter during the last few years, will not fail to notice that younger women are mostly dressed in jeans or trousers, while the older ones wear the long robe commonly known as a galabiya. This holds true whether or not the women are wearing a hijab, the Islamic veil.
So whatever happened to the time honoured women’s ‘dress’ or ‘frock’, or even the knee-length skirt? To all appearances these have become almost obsolete in Egypt.
Beauty and finesse
This question led Dina Anwar, a pharmacist and writer, to launch an online initiative calling on Egyptian women to return to wearing dresses as a gesture of pride in their femininity. Her article, entitled “Elbisi fustanik westarridi unuthtik” (“Put on your dress and regain your femininity”), made a strong impact on readers, who hoped that dresses would bring back the good old times of beauty and finesse.
Anwar mentioned that she loved classic black and white movies with all their liberal and artistic characteristics, and was a great fan of the dresses the actresses wore. She says Egyptian society has totally changed and women are not able to wear dresses anymore. However, she decided two years ago to buck the trend and wear the dresses and skirts she loved. Anwar added that a month ago she attended an event wearing a dress modelled on those in style in the 1960s, and both the men and women present complimented her on it. This made her decide to launch her campaign.
The good old days
The campaign has met with wide support. “We wish the good old days would come back,” many people have commented. Anwar created a Facebook page and hashtag on Twitter. The campaign quickly spread and was supported by prominent people including Yasmine al-Khatib, Gehad al-Tabey, Eman al-Bahr Darwish, Injy Anwar, Amany al-Weshahy, Sherif al-Shobashy and Sarah Sherif, the journalist specialising in Israeli affairs and the youngest Goodwill Ambassador, who posted on the page: “Since I was young I believed that the dress was the sign of femininity; most of my clothes are dresses with different colours. The dress makes me feel I am real woman. When I got to know about this campaign I felt that it expressed me.”
Persons who believe in Islamic dress codes, however, have harshly criticised Anwar and her campaign sometimes to the point of insults and allegations of indecency.
Anwar has a last word on the matter: “Although many people reject the idea, I feel I was right about the campaign, and will carry on.” It remains to be seen whether the Cairo street scene will change any time soon to feature more women in elegant dresses.
2 September 2015