Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Putting on special clothes

The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, is the Notre Dame of Damascus. It's an architectural gem and still a center of worship in one of the oldest Islamic capitals. The Sunni Muslim mosque is open to followers of all religions -- John the Baptist's head, buried inside, is of interest to Muslims and Christians; Hussein's head, of interest to Shiite Muslims.
But in order to visit, female visitors, Muslim or non-Muslim, must obey this sign at the entrance.
Many Syrian women arrive properly dressed, wearing the floor-length abayeh, as they do everyday, but foreign women are often woefully unprepared. Thus, the special clothes: a gray, hooded cloak of modesty, which can be rented for $1. Some call it the Jedi robe. Men enter without restriction.