hafla dress editedThis past weekend I was invited to attend my 12th grade students’ graduation party, or as they say in Arabic “hafla.” I was nervous because it was in a different town, at a building with no sign, on a street with no name. I was given directions but I was unsure I would find the place. My students even drew a picture of the building on the board in class but it was a triangle with a square underneath – not too helpful! In Arabic there is a phrase “Inshallah” meaning “God-willing.” The girls kept saying Inshallah, Inshallah miss you will find it! Well I was praying while driving to the party Friday night and . . . Hamdulillah! (Praise God!) I found the place. As hopeless as my directions seemed they were spot on!

The DirectionsIt was really a touching night. The whole party was wonderfully organized by a couple mothers from the school. They organized the whole event, made adorable invitations, and created certificates for all of the girls.

InvitationsNow, when you go to an Emirati party everyone gets super dressed up and puts on heavy makeup. I went out and bought a nice dress floor length dress for the event but, as the girls and anyone who knows me knows, I never wear makeup. The girls really really wanted me to wear makeup and so offered to do my makeup for me. I couldn’t refuse but I knew I would look like a hot mess once they got done with me! I said girls, “you will make me look pretty?” “Wallah (I swear to God) miss we will make you look pretty!” I was told to get to the hafla a little bit early and they would do all my makeup and my hair. One student put liquid eye liner on my eyes, bright pink blush, and some eyeshadow while another put on this permanent-like lip stick/gloss that took a ton of scrubbing to get off! Just when I thought I was finished another student proceeded to put mascara on my eyebrows to darken their color! I felt like I had face paint on! The girls swore I looked so beautiful – but I will let you decide for yourself . . .

Makeup FinalI figured if I was born Emirati I would look something like that! I just could never get used to seeing myself like that. Each time I looked in the mirror I surprised myself. I think its the pointy lips that bothered me the most! The eyes weren’t so bad. If you look closely you can see that I’m wearing some pink and gold earrings. Well, the student who did my makeup also knew my dress would be pink and decided to buy me some earrings to match my dress! How sweet is that? So with my makeup and hair all done and ready for the party I was off to enjoy myself and celebrate their graduation!

Hafla dressI ended up buying little notebooks for the girls and writing a personal message in the cover of each one. While these students at times drove me crazy I still love each and every one of them. They went all out for this party too. This party was only for women, of course, and because of that the girls wore ball gowns – and I mean ball gowns, complete with sequins, trains, and all kinds of layers and pickups! They had their hair all done up, high heels on, and the jewelery to match! It was like their prom. I of course did not take any pictures because it’s only at these events, or at home, or school, or around only women that the girls remove their abayas and shaylas and show off their dresses and hair and makeup. Their mothers and sisters were there and it was a really nice time. At the party they did a slideshow, we had dinner, and different girls spoke. There was a bit of a break in the middle and one of the students asked if I would present the awards that her mother had made. She said that I was the only teacher who showed up and they would be really touched if I gave out the awards. So I stood on stage and congratulated each of my girls. It’s funny because back home you would shake your students hand and give them the certificate – well, not in the Emirates! The girls were called onto the stage, one by one, and each girl greeted me with a hug and three to four kisses on the cheek. The mothers were really touched too and many of them came up to me afterwards to thank me for coming. I even had one mother who said, “you’re a teacher? but you are so beautiful! Can I take your picture?” You can bet her daughter is getting and A! hahaha. It was a really great evening, even if I came home with a face full of makeup!