Surviving Hijab – A Dubai Resident On The Struggles Of Daily Misconceptions And The Burkini Ban


In light of the recent Burkini incident in France where a lady was forced to remove her Burkini on a public beach, we ask Manal Rostom, a Hijabi wearing Dubai resident. Manal is also a triathlete and races competitively wearing a Burkini. In her words, she tells what it’s like to wear a hijab and how such incidents make her feel.

Hi My name is Manal and I am a Hijab- babe.

I introduce myself like that because that’s the first thing you will notice and you will be locked in that moment for what will seem like forever to me when you’re  first introduced to me. I see the confusion in your eyes. sometimes I love it. sometimes I am honestly not in the mood to handle it. I know you’re sometimes thinking, ” oh my God, she’s talking to me!”. That’s if you’re a man. And if you’re a woman; you might also be as confused but anyway.

The second thing will probably be your look of wonder on whether I sleep in my Hijab, shower in my Hijab, was forced to wear Hijab, whether or not I have hair underneath my Hijab.

The answers to the above is no, no, OF COURSE NO and YES, respectively. 

“But aren’t you hot in these layers,” Okay shoot me now. 

Over the past 5 years that I have been in Dubai, I must have got asked that more than 100 times.At the start line of a Race. In a mixed gym. Arghhhhhhhh.

So sometimes I edit my intro, as Hi my name is Manal, I am a hijabi (option insert babe) and No i’m not Hot, although it would be cool to say yes I’m hot, in another context of course. Joking. But you get it.

Img 3980

‘It is compulsory as soon as we reach puberty’

I’m not sure actually how to describe the lack of information, let’s just put this way, when it comes to other cultures and their views of Hijab. 

Long story short, it is compulsory as soon as we reach puberty but should never ever be forced upon anyone. Did you know that? Well now you know. 

It’s a struggle. You do it for a strong faith as you try to ” Hold on to Heaven.”

So I wore it when I was 21. Against all odds. So what now? What does an hyper active athlete do with herself and all the energy ? Beach? Swimming? Running? Cycling? How does it all work?

It’s supposed to be a one way ticket so you need to pull your act together and work it. I learnt to work it over the years.

I shop hard and well. Yess I do wear Layers but how else am I supposed to practice everything I am passionate about in terms of adventure, the outdoors and sports when I am also supposed to hold on to a dress code that entails that I am covered literally from head to toe. Enter Project Burkini when Summertime hits. Because #SurvivalMode on.


Then you hear about the involvement of POLICE in the Burkini dilemma…

Seriously, a Burkini BAN?! How will I SUN TAN?!!! Look me in the eye and tell me that in the 21st century, women can be still deprived of their fundamental freedom to wear whatever it is they want to wear.

Whether it’s a 2-piece, underwear- like Bikini, or a full on Burkini, what does it matter if she’s respecting her values and religious beliefs.

Screenshot 2016 08 29 12 23 02

‘It offends me to see women abused like that.’ 

The ban insulted me and 220K other Female members on the Group Surviving Hijab where the prohibition of Muslim women to exercise their right to wear whatever they want just does not make sense.

The name will throw you off at first. But if you look beyond the name you will understand the struggle hijabi women sometimes need to endure to get by.

This is a non-profit making group I founded two years ago to counteract all the misperceptions about hijabis worldwide and to help support women in their journey of literally “Surviving Hijab”.

It offends me to see women abused like that. Shoved aside like that. Offended like that. If you choose to Bikini, I have every right to Burkini. Simple. Just like you’re free to uncover, I am just as free to cover. One life. My choice

How about the people dying, children who can’t find food…

…all the terrorism in the world – why can’t a ban be pulled up against that seriously? What kind of problems are you dealing with or are you merely straying away from a brutal, world .

Muslim Women who wear the hijab deserve all rights to appear in whatever they feel like wearing if they pose no harm to community.

This is very disturbing and luckily the ban was overturned but still. Puts so much into perspective.

It’s different here in Dubai…

…where this is still common and you get to see those burkinis down at Kite Beach, luckily the police is busy doing more important things than stopping a hijabi woman from enjoying a day out with her family. Stares aside, DUBAI has become rather tolerant – people might stare but they will let you be.

The diversity that the city exercises opens doors and room for cultural discussions that lead to better understanding of the Muslim culture. The different dress codes all over the city provokes you to stare but in some ask question to better understand why we do what we do. So that next time someone stares or ask, they can take the lead on explaining why Muslims dress like that.

That’s the beauty of Dubai. And that’s why we are always ‘Lovin Dubai’ ;-).


I end my rant about the burkini with one of my favourite , beautiful quotes from the Holy Qura’an from sūrat l-ujurāt (The Dwellings)

Yusuf Ali Translation : O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).


See more

More like this