Abu Dhabi left an indent in my heart. I lost my passport on my first day when I arrived to the UAE, but eventually found it where I started at the Abu Dhabi airport. The Police Lost & Found had my passport safely stored away and, boy, was I happy to see it again. I almost lost my passport before in Paris when I was pickpocketed and this is the second time I lost it again. But this is not the indent in my heart I was referring to. I am referring to my first experience wearing an abaya at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
I was told that the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is super strict with dress code. It is very conservative, so everything has to be covered, including your arms and legs. Clothes cannot be tight fitting, so no tights ladies. Wear loose fitting clothes. Additionally, clothes have to be opaque so a white linen or cotton blouse is considered see-through. Females have to cover their hair as well. Ladies, you don’t need to buy an abaya like I did as they will be providing you with a beige or navy abaya once you pass through security.
Once you are inside, there will be a mini go-cart that takes you to the entrance of the mosque or you can walk yourself there. You will be asked to remove your shoes before stepping foot inside. The floor is very clean so don’t worry about putting your shoes back on after.
I was so excited to wear an abaya, especially the one I found at the souk inside the Dubai Mall for 150 Dirham. I went around many souks and found one particular shop selling rugs and abayas for a very low price. I wish I could remember the name of the shop to share with y’all but I don’t. So how did I feel to wear an abaya? I felt emotionally closer to the culture and religion when I was walking around in an abaya at the mosque. I actually layered a beige abaya underneath my own because my abaya had a slit in the front that exposed my skin. It turned out well and I didn’t feel hot or overheated. The fabric was very lightweight and airy so it was not resistant to wind and very well ventilated. Believe it or not, it was like a fairytale to wear this black abaya designed with gold trim details and walk about this majestic white mosque.
Photography by Brian Ngo