I decided to go to Ankara for a day.
In making that decision I was not prepared for the reaction towards what I chose to wear for my day out.
Summer days are long, hot and unforgivingly humid in Turkey. To combat this uneasiness, I chose to wear a maxi dress. It was patterned and sleeveless and like all maxi dresses, skimmed to the arches of my foot.
In addition to the maxi dress, I also chose to tie my hair up in a black headscarf. The choice of style was typically Afro-Caribbean- the bun style on the nape of the neck.
Before heading to the station to get the coach to Ankara, I needed to attend to some 'formal' affairs, and so decided to wear a light cardigan over my maxi dress since it was sleeveless.
I didn't think much of my outfit at all. I was covered, comfortable and cute.
However, I didn't that realise being in a predominantly Muslim country and being fully covered with a head covering would be automatically interpreted as being Muslim.
Please note I was not wearing a hijab, which stipulates that your neck should be fully covered too if not by the head covering, by some other article of clothing.
My hair was simply tied in a black headscarf and wrapped in a bun.
My cardigan clearly showed my neck.
Yes, everything else was covered.
Hence, my shock when walking to the place of business and the station, I got a copious number of double takes, stares and pointing of fingers- way more than the average daily norm.
On my way, I heard whispers of "Ojam, hijabi."
It was only then that it dawned on me, that people thought that I had converted to Islam and had not learned how to wrap my hijab correctly to cover my neck, which was clearly exposed, at least to the front.
And as a result, I sensed that some were offended. Deeply.
I clearly was not wearing a hijab, but in a Muslim culture, a head covering was almost certainly identified as such.
In an effort to end the ambiguity, I took off my cardigan, thereby exposing my arms. In so doing I thought that it would be clear that I was not attempting to wear a hijab- just simply a headscarf.
I think that made it worse.
Retracing my steps from the place of business as I made my way to the station, most people stood in shock and confusion.
They couldn't figure it out.
And I couldn't figure out why?
In 2015, when everyone had internet and satellite television and most Turkish people consumed quite a bit of Western media including channels like BET and MTV, I couldn't understand why a woman wearing a headscarf not as a hijab but as a summer headscarf would attract such attention.
I had worn headscarves already, I believe. Ethnic headscarves but never a solid black one, and that is the only difference that I could attribute to getting that much attention.
I thought about it and thought about it some more.
And I'm still thinking about it.
The point is, is that I'm not sure if I was perceived as rude; as if I were mocking the meaning of the hijab. I believe so- given the response.
But, obviously that was not my intention.
I was simply wearing a headscarf.
So, if there is fault to be given for this situation, whose is it?
Mine, for not thinking about the implications of tying my hair in a headscarf or the people who are not au fait with the use of headscarves by non Muslim women as a hair accessory and/or maintenance aid; the purposes for which I used my head scarf?
What do you think?
Photo taken and edited by Petra.