Jakarta, Day 3: Burqini, Bikini

burqini muslim swimsuit

Babe in a burqini. By Flickr user Giorgio Montersino

I love to swim and own about a dozen bikinis. When I travel, I toss swimwear into my bag just in case.  Indonesia being a Muslim country, I’d packed long pants, dresses and skirts that covered the knees, and shirts that didn’t reveal the shoulders. And a bikini.  Hey, it’s the tropics.

Today, after coming back from a meeting, I headed down to the pool in the apartment complex. Almost everyone who lives in the Apartamen Mediterania is Chinese, which means they’re probably not Muslim. Tight long pants and long sleeves — the norm in Jakarta for both fashionable men and women (Style + Muslim dress code + 75% humidity = Torture) — are here too, but I’ve seen relatively few headscarves in the Mediterania. I even spotted some female residents walking around in shorts yesterday. So I assumed the pool would be like any other pool, i.e. people in swim suits splashing around.

Wrong. The first woman I saw in the five-feet-deep water practically had a shorty diving suit on; her arms were bare but her legs were covered to the knees. Another woman had on a T-shirt and shorts over her bathing suit. A young woman climbed out of the pool and revealed her swim skirt, so modest it almost reached her knees. Another swimmer doing laps had donned a sporty, full-length suit that revealed only her hands, feet, neck and head. A bit like those technical suits that helped Michael Phelps win his gold medals, but cuter and less constricting. And unlike the burqini, no head covering.

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