Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Dress

Modesty is always a good policy for women when traveling! I am amazed nowadays when I see the attire of young women on university campuses. Tight fitting, labels in provocative places, belly buttons showing, low cut garb. Everyone knows about this now in Western countries, and it may be fine when young people are among their peers, but what really curls my hair is to see women traveling with provocative attire when they are overseas.

I have had some pretty uncomfortable feelings myself over the years trying to avoid too much attention. It can be tough just trying to swim in a pool. In Cairo, I went down to the pool at a major hotel, and was scandalized to see all of the men sitting around the pool in traditional Saudi garb watching the women go swimming in their typical western bikinis or bathing suits. It was clear we were there for their enjoyment, and they did not hide it! They simply ordered drinks and enjoyed the show.

I am heading to a beach area in Bangladesh, and I am advised not to even think about wearing a bathing suit! Because I do not have too much experience in Muslim countries, this will be a first.

I wrote my supervisor, with the firm International Resources Group, who are managing my project. I asked him to fill me in on appropriate attire. I had read that loose long sleeve shirts and pants are the best choice, but what about for meetings in the city? He informed me that Western women are treated differently, but that clearly modesty is the best policy! I asked if I could buy a few salwar kameezes (dress like tunics over baggy trousers) on arrival, and was given a quick go ahead to go shopping. That will be nice. I find the cottons and rayon clothing of India and Bangladesh are so comfortable in the hot weather, and I have always wanted to wear these tunics with trousers.

Women friends of mine working with me in India told me that they were thrilled to adopt the salwar kameezes for every day wear, rather than the saris. Saris are so beautiful, but I have actually gone hiking with women in saris, and I can frankly say they are not designed for active women!

I will also need a dupatta, or long scarf to cover my head. I will hope to have some pictures taken of me in my new outfits after arrival. I loved the way women like Benazir Bhutto wore here clothing and her dupatta was always such an important part of her modestly beautiful attire. She was such a beautiful woman, and her attire made her that much more a local woman to admire. How sad she is gone.

On the more practical side, I bought a brand new pair of trousers at Outdoor Exchange in Burlington, that are zip offs. They should be good against mosquitos and with all the pockets you could dream of for days in the field.

I think I am ready with the clothing I need, and that is an important consideration for any traveler.

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