An Unusual Perspective: I Wore a Niqab for a Day In a Major German City

May 5, 2010

Author: Chamselassil Ayari

Source: Deutsche Welle,,5560643,00.html

Chamselassil Ayari, a reporter for Deutsche Welle's Arab language service, wore a Muslim full-body covering garment for one day. Her experiment begins on a sunny spring Saturday afternoon in Cologne's busiest shopping street.

People jostle through the streets and the many stores. I glance into the window of a luxury shoe store not far from Cologne Cathedral. I see a glittering display of this summer's fashion shoes, from ballet flats and sandals through to strappy high heels and tennis shoes. Perhaps I should get a new pair of shoes before the start of summer.  Not a bad idea. I might just find what I'm looking for.

Getting uncertain glances

It's very busy inside the store. Nearly all the customers are women. I see many faces. Some are smiling, others look rushed or stressed. The only face where you can't immediately gauge what mood the shopper is in is mine. A young sales assistant pushes through the crowd. She brings me three pairs of shoes to try on, the ones I asked her to bring. She helps me put on a pair of rather tight ballet flats.

She smiles, but looks a bit unsettled. That's hardly a surprise, because every time she wants to help me try on the new shoes she needs to lift my long gown to get to my feet. She looks at me and asks whether that's OK. All she can see is a pair of eyes surrounded by dark material. An unusual situation for her, no doubt.

"I see plenty of women wearing a veil. We are used to that," says the sales assistant later, when my colleague Hicham Driouich asks her how she felt. "Seeing women completely covered with a burqa, that's something completely different." Her nervousness disappears once she realizes that I speak German.