Living in the Middle East as a Western, let alone, Caribbean woman makes you conscious of the way you dress.
The slightest show of skin, whether it may be legs, arms or shoulders could draw the most intense stares from men, women and children.
And in some dire cases even worse reactions.
As a result, on those early mornings or late nights when I would have to run out of the house for something at the corner store, I paid particular attention to my dress much to my dismay because my fastidiousness often kept me back in time. Very precious valuable time.
So, when a friend was inviting me on an excursion to a waterfall in Soran, and I stupidly out loud lamented the lack of attire, he paused for a second and reminded me that local women would not be wearing such attire there and neither should I.
Indeed, bathing suits in conservative Muslim regions are not even anomalies, they are just simply unheard of.
Still bearing this in mind as I nipped out to the corner store some days later, I made sure to put on a bra under my tank top, cover my hair with a scarf and wear my hoodie as well, to cover me. And for bottoms I wore loose fitting pants.
Entering the store, the clerk greeted me with a warm smile and as I made my way around perusing, another woman had entered engaging him in conversation. What had caught my attention was that even though she was dressed in the abaya and the signature ruffle hair tie used by hijabis in this region, she was not wearing her headscarf.
By the time I made my way to the cashier, the woman was gone and we were once again alone in the store.
I pulled the strings of my hoodie even tighter around my face forming a circumference of dark blue around it.
Adding each item to a plastic bag, he tallied the total and in a visible state of confusion asked
"Are you cold?"