From Bellydance to Burqa - My experience teaching bellydance in Kuwait Part Two

From Bellydance to Burqa - My experience teaching bellydance in Kuwait Part Two

As an empowered woman who celebrates her sexuality, I was interested to see how a burqa would make me feel.  Would I feel oppressed? Or would I feel relieved in not being viewed as a sex object?

What I actually experienced was so unexpected it completely surprised me and everyone around me.

Before I traveled to Kuwait, my opinion on women being veiled in the Middle East was that it is not oppression if a woman makes her own choice to be veiled.  So I found it ironic that my experiment from bellydance to burqa would be all about choice.  Unbeknownst to me, there are many pieces to the abaya (what a burqa is called in the Gulf States) and many styles to choose from.

Jessica and Dorothy, my generous hostesses from the US Embassy, brought me to a Starbucks to watch the fashion show of abayas to help me select one that would suit me.  The coffee shop is the social gathering place since alcohol is prohibited and there are no nightclubs.  After purchasing an iced Cafe Americano that cost me $15 US dollars (the exchange rate is $3.75 for each Kuwaiti Dinar), I sat down to discreetly watch the parade.  A full abaya consists of: a loose-fitting black robe, a hijab (head scarf), niqab (face veil).  Also, some women wear gloves and socks.  Though the purpose is to completely cover the woman's body, many burqas have elaborate adornments.  And of course, the bellydancing showgirl in me immediately chose the one covered in rhinestones.  Everything looks better with rhinestones!

From Starbucks we went to the open-air souk to purchase my abaya. Then came the question: what do I wear underneath? Do I wear ordinary western clothes? Long pants and a top? My favorite lingerie? What is appropriate? I decided to that because this was an experiment to see what I would feel like to wear a burqa, I would wear exactly what I would be wearing under these circumstances: a bellydance costume.                           

My bellydance classes were held at the US Embassy and the students were from many different backgrounds: from the first female US Ambassador to Kuwait (Deborah K Jones in photo to the right) to an American Nurse to a Kuwaiti Housewife to a US Military wife. The first day of my workshop consisted of breaking down basic moves and teaching isolations.  The second day, I taught a complete bellydance choreography.  On the third day, I taught them how to make their own bellydance costume.  They do not sell anything associated with bellydance costumes in Kuwait --no rhinestones, no beads, and no sequins--so I brought a suitcase full of costume sparkles from Los Angeles.  I decided to conduct my "burqa" experiment on costume day since my students would not need to see any movements.

5 comments (Add your own)

1. Sanndi Thompson wrote:
Hi I am wtiting in response to Dolphina's Kuwait adventure. I was really touched by the fact that the women there have to bellydance in hiding, so to speak and that they have no dance studios to go to or gyms. It truly makes me appreciate my country here in America. The women Dolphina visited at least had the good fortune to be able to own some bellydance dvds, but what about the other women there that cannot? So my point is this: I would like to DONATE some bellydance dvd's to women there who have an interest, but cannot afford or obtain bellydance dvds. I realize that laws there are very strict, but perhaps with your connections you could give me an address or name of someone who would be affilitated with these sorts of things such as donating. On my path of bellydance, over the years I have accumalated many bellydance dvds, some of which I have out grown and no longer use. And I am sure someone out there would Truly appreciate them! I would love to be able to donate these as well as throw in a few new ones. I realize that there are women here in America that woulld want them, but I would rather donate to a place where there are no gyms or dance studios for women. I think they deserve to learn their dance, it is their right! Your trip truly made me realize how blessed I am to be able to go the gym or dance studio any time I choose and that we here in America take alot for granted. Thank you for any info and have a beautiful week! with HUGS & SHIMMYS! a "southern goddess"

Thu, August 14, 2008 @ 11:36 PM

2. Darrell Salomon wrote:
When my group, Sacramento Seminar, travelled to Turkey, and had the good fortune to meet you at the Embassy, I had no idea that our ambassador, in addition to all of her learning, languages, and invaluable middle east experience, had in addition such a delightful sense of adventure. I wish all of America's representatives in the region represented our culture so well. Thank you for all you are doing and have done for your country.

Darrell Salomon
Salomon Law Offices
4040 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903

Fri, July 30, 2010 @ 2:18 PM

3. Darrell Salomon wrote:
When my group, Sacramento Seminar, travelled to Turkey, and had the good fortune to meet you at the Embassy, I had no idea that our ambassador, in addition to all of her learning, languages, and invaluable middle east experience, had in addition such a delightful sense of adventure. I wish all of America's representatives in the region represented our culture so well. Thank you for all you are doing and have done for your country.

Darrell Salomon
Salomon Law Offices
4040 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903

Fri, July 30, 2010 @ 2:18 PM

4. SHOME NATH MAJUMDER wrote:
I WANT TO NEED BELLY DANCES C.D. IN MY ADDRESSED ATAHMEDABAD INDIA HOW IT IS POSSIBLE.

Wed, April 4, 2012 @ 7:23 AM

5. SHOME NATH MAJUMDER wrote:
belly dance c.d needs in my addressed and kuwait songs, and want to go kuwait

Wed, April 4, 2012 @ 7:25 AM

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