Hijabi Barbie Dolls

 The popular Fulla doll sold in Egypt will now be sold wearing a veil as well as a head scarf to better reflect conservative morals and current "Muslim values." 

A bit of interesting, doll-related cultural news comes to us from the Al Bawaba Group network of news websites based in Saudi Arabia that claims to be largest independent producer and distributor of online content in the Middle East and one of the most popular online media websites in that region for over a decade. A recent news feature from Al Bawaba has announced that a new line of veiled toy dolls are now available in toy shops in Egypt just in time to celebrate the Prophet's birthday. These new more conservative new dolls have been taken by some as a sign of a shift in Egyptian culture that reflects more conservative values and compliments the conservative current trends developing in that country today.

Although traditional western-style Barbie dolls disappeared from the shelves of most toy stores in the Middle East back around 2003, the Barbies were almost immediately replaced with a similar “Fulla” doll  sold wearing a white head scarf and long coat that was felt to more represent current "Muslim values." Fulla was introduced back in November 2003 and quickly became a best seller all over the region as she shared Barbie's size and proportions, but came out of her shiny pink box with an extensive wardrobe of much more modest "outdoor fashions" than a regular Barbie doll would come with. Today, it is nearly impossible to walk into a corner shop in Egypt without seeing Fulla breakfast cereal and Fulla chewing gum, both products designed to appeal to the young Egyptian girls who often ride to the stores on their Fulla bicycles, all in the now trademarked Fulla pink color. The modest Fulla dolls even came with their own tiny pink felt prayer rugs and the Egyptian children who wanted to dress just like their dolls could buy their own matching Fulla outfits too, complete with young girl-sized prayer rugs and a cotton scarf set, all in coordinated Fulla pink.

The release of the latest Fulla dolls timed to help celebrate the Prophet's birthday are going a step further and will now be wearing proper veils as well. Fulla was not the first nor only doll offered in the region to wear the hijab traditional Islamic head covering, but none of the other dolls have enjoyed anything approaching Fulla's widespread popularity in the Middle East.

Although the Prophet’s birthday is celebrated by many Muslims and is a public holiday in countries like Egypt, the holiday is not strictly Islamic as the faith does not actually require celebrations of any kind on the Prophet’s birthday. Some have even said the holiday is “un-Islamic” since the orthodox religious establishment does not recognize the holiday. Whether the latest veiled version of the Fulla doll a sign of the times in Egypt or just another way of celebrating a religious birthday is up to the buyer’s interpretation, but many observers say the new veiled doll is merely a move to reflect a more diverse Egypt. However, for most of the little girls who end up receiving the new veiled doll for the holiday, it’s a good bet that it probably did not matter too much to them what the doll was wearing.


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