How I Used My Hijab to Hide -- and Why I Don't Anymore
A Turkish bath session made me realize covering up isn’t about concealing.
Illustrations by Alice Yu Deng
My older sister and I were outside a hidden glass door of a hammam, a Turkish bathhouse. We were there to experience a ritual, born in the seventh century, of washing and purifying one’s skin. Up above the glass door was a giant gray, faded dome, made of huge chunks of stone. We had traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, eager to see the world after saving up enough money for a summer trip. I was 24.
“Are we in the right place?” I asked her, as we navigated down a wide staircase with no signs. When we got to what appeared to be the entrance, we found arrows on the floor which indicated women were to turn right. This took us down to a locker room, made of more stone with black and pink pebbles.
This was no American locker room. Instead of women changing, we walked straight into a group of Turkish women in a circle, dancing, clapping their hands, and shaking everything Allah gave them. One woman yodeled while another clucked her tongue, in what seemed like a festive f…
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