My family gave me the freedom to be what I wanted to be, to do what I was interested in, and to find my own way. They provided me alcohol in my teenage years; and I never abused it. They expected me to go to university, but I chose what I wanted to do. In that way, their expectations were quite low, providing I stayed within the unwritten moral line.

Now I’m in the Middle East, where family expectations are very different. One of the first things I am often asked is ‘Are you here with your family?’ ‘How many children?’, when I say none, they respond saying ‘Soon! Insha’Alla’ (God willing).

The traditional dress (abaya (cloak), niqab (veil)) intrigues me, having never been in a heavily Islamic setting before. Some women try to gently rebel, while still within the bounds of conformity, by showing some hair, or wearing bright colours that are just visible, and who would throw their abaya off as soon as they travel overseas.

However, others cannot, due to the family they come from. They are expected to cover their faces, to cover their bodies, some even when in their own home. Some can only be free from this coverage in their own bedroom. Even if they were to travel elsewhere, they must follow tradition.

I am not questioning the tradition nor passing judgment as some women have said they like to wear it and feel more comfortable when doing so, but I am questioning if I had been brought up in this environment, would I continue to conform as an adult? Or would I rebel, go my separate way, but perhaps risk losing everything I have ever known?

I will never have to find out, and I am thankful that my family is accepting of my choices.

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