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Recommended Saudi Niqabs, Fabric care and Stockists
By Umm Abdullah
When it comes to Saudi niqabs, the quality can vary enormously. 99% of the time its best to go for those genuinely made in Saudi. Also be aware that there are several sites in Egypt (essenceofblack.com and alhadqeedah.com are only two examples) under a banner of a company called ‘Rahman Enterprises’ who offer ‘Saudi’ niqabs but many sisters have been ripped off by these sites; either they have never received the products or they have been sent extremely poor quality products they cannot even use; and refunds are impossible to come by. Buyer beware!
I mentioned in one of my other posts the long Saudi niqab with the very large eye-hole and it appears the site Al-Hannah is selling a slightly longer version of the exact one I have MashaAllaah although they only have navy in stock at the moment
Although I’m not usually a fan of overall very long niqabs; but this is a worthy exception. It is very very well made; comfortable and breathable. Also it is ideal if you wear glasses or have problems with niqabs feeling too tight or ‘binding’ around the eyes.
Generally for niqabs, the following sites and ebay stores are a fairly good bet; though there is no guarantee every niqab you order will be 100% in terms of quality control. I have heard excellent things about Al-Mujalbaba though; and they are US based, although their niqabs never come with screens.
In ‘real life’ I can only really speak about stores in areas where I have visited. In London, Ajwa (Fieldgate Street, behind East London mosque) and Aisha’s Hijabs (in Brixton market) have the best quality and most breathable niqabs I have come across. On Brick Lane some of the Bengali Islamic shops sometimes have lovely lightweight headband niqabs; but they may not have them out on the shop floor so it is always worthwhile asking. Sister Aisha in Brixton Market sells the Al-Abrar brand as well as genuine Yemeni and Saudi niqabs; she also sells at most major events in the Uk so it’s worth keeping an eye out for her stall. Al-Madina in Green Street (Upton Park, few doors down from the tube station) does sometimes have amazing niqabs; at other times the selection is terrible so don’t make a special trip. Most Somali stores in London sell very breathable niqabs but they tend to be the type with the poppers or snaps, that I mentioned in my other post so unless you have a very specific head size and shape; they don’t fit!
In the US; if you ever get the chance go to Philadelphia, PA; they easily have the biggest selection of niqabs available. They have a lot of Islamic stores there; but the best are The Islamic Place and Al Minar opposite on Chestnut Street, both have a massive selection of headband niqabs in every colour under the sun. I got several while I was there mashaAllaah. The quality and breathability is usually second to none. They get all their niqabs made and most are similar to the niqabs sold by Al-Mujalbaba. Al-Minar on the other hand have more Middle Eastern; particularly Saudi niqabs and while they do have some lighter coloured ones the majority are in black, navy and brown; that is where I got my long Saudi niqab from. The Islamic Place have a website; and also a spin-off site for sisters but I have never ordered and don’t have much confidence in the fact they rarely update their site (and certainly don’t offer anything like the selection they have in store); nor do they answer emails. There are several stores in certain areas of New York, such as Brooklyn (not far from the bridge; on Atlantic Avenue and surrounding streets) that look promising, and Al-Mujalbaba now have a real life store in Jamaica, NY a mile or two from JFK airport.
Lastly if you ever get to go on hajj or umrah, the street markets tend to have the better quality breathable niqabs and they cost as little as $2, you may have to go off the beaten track a bit as the tourist markets and malls tend to have nice looking but overpriced; unbreathable niqabs. If you get to go to Jeddah ;Baab Makkah market has several stalls run by Yemeni brothers; and these have very nice quality niqabs in a variety of designs and styles. Be careful though; not many tourists venture down there so make sure you blend in. You often get Somali and Yemeni female hawkers in various neighbourhoods and they also have great ones mashaAllaah. I purchased some as gifts (and the sisters I gave them to were extremely happy mashaAllaah) and later saw them sold online; for 6 times as much!
Now finally; a word on fabric care. Many advise washing niqabs by hand with baby shampoo but the reality is something next to your face needs to be washed in something non-irritating but also that kills all the bacteria, and gets rid of bits of food and such that can cause spots or even damage the niqab, and only machine washing can really do that. In my experience a good quality niqab will stand up to machine washing, providing it is on a medium to low temperature and a gentle cycle; you don’t need to use any special powder or liquid; a normal non-biological one that is suited for colours is fine. You can get liquids especially for washing black garments and keeping them black; but I have not tried these and I am not sure if they are suitable for washing something you are wearing next to your face. I always wash my niqabs by machine and sometimes through them in with my other clothes if I am in a rush; Alhamdulillaah the decent niqabs I have still last a good 2-3 years. The poor quality ones unravel at the seams but then again that often happens with such niqabs even if you only handwash them; or sometimes they fall apart before the first wash!
With regard to ironing; some of the very modern Japanese synthetics can be ironed on the hottest settings; but I wouldn’t chance it zas most fabrics used for niqabs can only be ironed on the medium setting or cooler; unless you want a shiny or burnt niqab. I’d advise ironing when slightly damp; press the niqab gently and carefully. Some niqabs; even some synthetic ones do benefit from being spray starched every once in a while; but don’t do it too often as spray starches often contain chemical nasties that are not ideally breathed in; and also too much starching can eventually lead to a build up on fabric which you cannot get rid of. If you want to starch a niqab; hang it on a coat hanger on a rail; a bedpost or something similar while it is slightly damp from washing, spray liberally with the starch and leave to dry thoroughly overnight. Then iron the niqab in the morning on the hottest setting possible for that fabric. If the niqab has eyeveils try to avoid starching these too much; or you will look like a medieval nurse!