I spent last Saturday at our church’s 16th annual ladies retreat. This year’s theme was Pilgrimage and as part of the program, my friend, Leigh, shared her testimony, the very moving story of God’s intervention and work in her life, and I did a slide presentation on our recent visit to Jerusalem.
Almost two months ago, when the retreat was still in the planning stages, I received this message from Leigh.
I had never heard the word “abaya” before, but I quickly Googled the term and learned that an abaya (pronounced a-buy-a) is “a loose-fitting full-length robe worn by some Muslim women.” In the photo that Leigh sent me it looked quite beautiful, so I let her know that I’d love to try it on. When I slipped it on later that evening, I felt like a princess!
It fit as if it had been made to measure and, believe it or not, I even had a pair of orange sandals that matched it perfectly! I quickly sent Leigh a message with a photo and here’s the conversation that followed.
I was blown away by her generosity!
Sometimes worn as an outer garment over other clothing, a traditional abaya is often black and covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands, but like most other clothing, colours and styles vary from region to region. You can find some beautiful examples here. In some Muslim countries, abayat are worn with head coverings and/or veiled faces.
Though mine looks like two pieces, it is actually an all-in-one garment. Apparently, it was handmade and the detailing on it is exquisite. With no zippers, buttons or snaps, it simply slipped over my head and in a moment I was fully dressed and completely transformed!
When I asked for the story behind the abaya, Leigh told me that both the one that she wore and the one that is now mine were gifts from Arab friends in the community where she used to live. Mine, from Syria, is one that would normally be worn as a wedding dress by a village girl. She jokingly told me to tell my husband that he now owes my father the bride price of nineteen goats and one red camel!
Photo: Doris Johnson