I went to the mall last night. As I don’t much like malls at home, this was a milestone for me. I have heard how busy they get here, especially in the evening during Ramadan. But, I needed a backup abaya and wanted one that was a little shorter and more my style than the one provided for me upon my arrival. So I scheduled my driver for 10 pm and off we went. We went to the Andalus mall as one of my colleagues recommended it for abayas. It was huge! Parking was virtually non-existent due to the busy time of the night that we went but my driver always finds something!
I feel very fortunate that he is so helpful. He escorted me to the elevator and up to the correct floor from the parking garage and then pointed me towards an abaya shop. He then waits until I call him to come back and find me! I wanted to shop around a bit but took much longer than I expected in the abaya shop. The choices for a relatively simply black robe are mind boggling. They vary in style from very decorated to very simple. Bling seems to be very popular here and many of them have some form of beads and sequins. Additionally there was lace and embroidery and everything in between. Although most abayas are black, the embellishments are in every color of the rainbow. Some of them very ornate. They also make ones that are a more streamlined and ones that have a drawstring type tie in the front for a better fit. I prefer a simpler look and was aiming for the most light weight garments I could find. That being said, I had a ball trying on a ton of different ones!
The store I went in was small but the walls were completely lined with racks of abayas, plus racks in the center of the store. They have a mirror behind one of the racks and I was told that I could take off my current abaya back there to try on new ones. I was pleased that they shop women were so friendly as I wasn’t aware of the social mores of abaya shopping nor the sizing and they were patient and helpful. I got a lot of feedback from the shop women and they would have an opinion on each one I tried on and then bring me another option to try. I felt comfortable asking them how short I could go without getting into risky territory and they advised me on this.
One of my favorite abayas was too short which was disappointing. The store will tailor any abaya to fit through any number of custom options but making longer wasn’t one of them, unfortunately. They will shorten hems or sleeves, take in seams and make sleeves narrower at a customer request. It is an incredible customer service experience. I had two women and one guy helping me. They seemed to get a kick out of my lack of experience. I imagine stories of my naivete provided comic relief to their family that evening.
We had quite a moment at one point when I opened up an abaya to try it on and a lizard was hanging on for dear life inside it. I don’t get too nervous about them but didn’t really want him to hop on me and didn’t know what to do with him, either. Plus I had my abaya off so I couldn’t walk out to the front of the store to get help. I just started laughing at the silliness of the whole thing and one of the ladies came back to check on me. I showed her the lizard and she screamed so the guy came running to save the day. He took the abaya and the lizard and returned a minute later with the abaya sans critter. I ended up purchasing that one.
In the end I purchased two abayas as I couldn’t decide between them. I got one with beautiful lace, bell sleeves and a drawstring tie at the front and then one that has blue and black embroidery all over the yoke and on the cuffs, plus a line of blue trim down each side of the front.
|Hard to capture in photos but the lace on this one is really pretty and I like the drawstring front and bell sleeves. So unlike anything I would ever wear in the states. That is what makes it fun|
|That is NOT my unmade bed in the background, it is my guest room and I haven’t finished putting the sheets on. I am able to get farther away from the mirror in there to take a full length photo. I don’t have a full length mirror here.|