Bessemer, Alabama: The Accidental Start to the Project

December 28th, 2012


This holiday season I’d been traveling around the southern part of the US to see various family and friends. Our travels took me from Texas through Virginia, going through many of the southern states.

Initially I thought I would start my experiment during this trip but the realities of suitcase limits on the airplane shut down that thought very quickly. We were flying from Washington DC down to San Antonio Texas and driving my mother in law’s old car back to our house. The size of the case, the weigh limits with the airlines made it an impracticality so I gave up the idea and decided I would start here in Virginia after the first of the year.

As we were driving back we decided to stay the night in Bessemer, Alabama as I have a friend I wanted to see in nearby Hueytown, Alabama. Stopping at the hotel that first night was my first foray into veiling, and it started most accidentally. After checking into the hotel we had to drive around to the side where our suite was and carry in our bags. It was raining, righteously pouring cats and dogs and chickens, you could barely see through the deluge and we had no umbrella in the new car.

My husband is a manly man (or so he likes to think) chose to grab a suitcase and rush madly for the door. I took my long brocaded silk scarf, wrapped it over my head, throwing the ends over my back, grabbed the other suitcase and ran for the door. Once we were in the mirrored elevator my husband said to me that I looked fully Muslim with my head scarf and loose tunic. I could see he was right and I had to laugh, I almost didn’t recognize the me I know.

We settled into our room and waited for the rain to lessen and waited and waited and waited. It didn’t. I finally decided to make a foray out to get my toiletries bag and the bag containing food for the trip home. Wrapped up like before, with my scarf wrapped hijab style and down the elevator I went. On the return trip to the room I came upon two attractive middle class white ladies waiting for the elevator pulling suitcases behind them. I came up, waiting for the same elevator, smiled at each of them. Once the elevator door opened both of them froze, made no attempt to get into the large elevator. I got in and motioned to them to come forward, telling them there was plenty of room. Both said that they would wait for the next elevator.

Most curious.

3 thoughts on “Bessemer, Alabama: The Accidental Start to the Project

    • Bessemer is a stones throw from Birmingham, which is one of the more cosmopolitan Southern cities. What I’ve found so far is if the city is near a university no one bats an eyelash. You might get weird looks but that’s the extent of it.

  1. Hi there

    Or as we say in our traditional greeting – Peace and blessings of God be upon you (yes, I’m a horrible translator)

    I am. Speechless.

    As a muslim woman, I applaud you for this experiment. It takes a remarkably open-minded and tolerant person to really want to experience what others go through on a daily basis. I still cant put all my feelings into words, but you are doing a great social experiment and I would love to see the results eventually.

    I hope that you do not encounter any harm on your journey, and that you are always safe wherever you may be.

    Thank you. For trying to bridge the gap, for being the person you are, and for bringing so much positivity into the world.

    Kind regards

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