Fashion and faith meet, on foreheads of the pious

Fashion and faith meet, on foreheads of the pious

CAIRO: There is a strong undercurrent of competition in Egypt these days, an unstated contest among people eager to prove just how religious they are. The field of battle is the street and the focus tends to be on appearance, as opposed to conviction.

It is not that the two are mutually exclusive, but they are not necessarily linked. As Egyptians increasingly emphasize Islam as the cornerstone of identity, there has been a growing emphasis on public displays of piety. [...]

The zebibah, Arabic for raisin, is a dark circle of callused skin, or in some cases a protruding bump, between the hairline and the eyebrows. It emerges on the spot where worshipers press their foreheads into the ground during their daily prayers.

It may sometimes look like a painful wound, but in Egypt it is worn proudly, the way American professionals in the 1980s felt good about the dark circles under their eyes as a sign of long work hours and little sleep.

Two decades ago, Egypt was a Muslim country with a relatively secular style. Nationalism and Arabism had alternated places as the main element of identity. But today, Egypt, like much of the Arab Middle East, is experiencing the rise of Islam as the ideology of the day. [...]


Read it all over at IHT.

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