SOON after the liberation of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, this correspondent met a woman sporting a niqab, or face veil, along with a floor-length black dress and black gloves. Her eyes, all that could be seen, gleamed as she revelled in a new-found freedom. For 40 years under what she disdainfully termed the “liberalism” of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, the niqab had been forbidden. “But now we can wear what we like!”
Aliaa el-Mahdi, a 20-year-old university student in Cairo, has found a very different way to celebrate the Arab spring. She recently posted an alluring photograph on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog. It showed herself standing unclothed, bar thigh-length stockings and a pair of bright-red shoes.