The Maldives: Life on a Tiny Speck in the Middle of the Indian Ocean

Every morning, I passed Aisha on the sleepy sand streets of Bodufolhudhoo Island. Her black head scarf and ankle-length cloak revealed only her face, hands, and feet. I longed to speak to her, but after greeting me with a radiant smile and a heartfelt “Good morning,” she always lowered her eyes demurely and continued on her way. Like all the women in the Republic of Maldives, she seemed painfully shy.

On day four, I finally screwed up enough courage to ask her a question. “Can you tell me what your head scarf is called?” After she explained that the scarf was called a hijab and the cloak an abaya, I blurted out the question I’d wanted to ask for years. “Aren’t you hot?” I had long wondered whether the traditional clothing worn by Muslim women made them hot or was cooling because it afforded protection from the relentless sun.

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