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Who were these men in white robes and what exactly where they wearing?
March 16, 2014 6:32 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago I was transiting through the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and saw several men wearing odd robes. These were more like long towels than robes. The material seemed like white terry cloth bath towels, but could have been wool or another thicker material. They appeared to have one wrapped around their waists and another draped over one shoulder, although it could have been one long section. Each section would have been roughly 3' x 10' (1mx3m), or 3' x 20' if all in one. Now I am wondering, who were these men, what were they wearing and why were they dressed like that?

When I say odd, I am referring wearing them for the setting and climate. Normal for a spa, the gym or the beach on warm weather, not so much in an airport with frigid weather. The robes were definitely not a pullover or structured type robe, or even a layered hare Krishna type wrap. Most of the side torso was exposed, although most of the front was exposed. Some of the men were red or pink on their torsos as the temperature was a few degrees above freezing and they were likely bussed to the terminal from their plane. They probably flew from a warmer area. I saw at least 8 but there may have been more.

The men were all in the 40-55 age range. They had modern luggage, were well groomed and clean shaved for the most part. Light skin and dark brown/black hair. There seemed to be women with some of them and they were dressed normally. A couple of the woman may have had scarves around their hair but their faces were not covered.

If I had to guess, I would say they were on a pilgrimage, or had been through some type of cleansing ritual. Any ideas what material these men were wearing and why they may have been dressed like that?
posted by Yorrick to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
 
Could it be Ihram clothing for the Hajj pilgrimage?
posted by SJustS at 7:10 PM on March 16


The Hajj isn't until October, though.

Novice Buddhist monks who haven't been ordained wear a white version of the famous orange robes, but if they weren't bald, that's probably not it.
posted by gingerest at 7:28 PM on March 16


It was ihram clothing for the umrah pilgrimage, which is an individualized sort of pilgrimage that goes on year round in Mecca. The men have to be wearing it before they land in Jeddah, so they put it on before flying out of Istanbul.
posted by zerzura at 7:50 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Seconding zerzura. They're making umrah.
posted by BinGregory at 9:40 PM on March 16


Zerzura nailed it. I was in Istanbul International airport once just before the pilgrimage to Mecca, and when I entered the departures terminal I saw all these men walking around in what seemed to me white shower towels. It was quite odd until I realized what it actually was.
posted by zaelic at 7:18 AM on March 17


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