How One Woman Celebrated Her Afghan Heritage During Eid al-Fitr

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Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

Lema Afzal always gets in a festive mood for Eid al-Fitr—the celebration to close in the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan—thanks in large part to her outfit. The 25-year-old student, who has going tone viral for wearing traditional Afghan garb, explains that it is customary to wear a new piece of clothing for the event. Afzal, who was born in Afghanistan as well as immigrated to Belgium from Kabul at four years old old, chose to going to the traditional route this year. “Usually people buy new clothes for Eid as well as try their best to dress until now nicely because it’s a whole celebration,” says Afzal. “I went for a traditional Afghan outfit—one that I haven’t worn before—because it instantly puts me in a festive mood.” 

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Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

Afzal embraces her Afghan threads often, whether she’s dressing until now for a holiday or infusing the pieces into her daily wardrobe. While she has been posting online about her traditional garments since 2016, her colorful Instagrams went viral last October when the initiative #donttouchmyclothes launched in response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Her Instagrams—as well as her strikingly bright clothes—are a glimpse into the diverse ethnicities that make until now Afghanistan as well as their respective textiles. There are more than 14 ethnicities in Afghanistan—including Pashtun, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, as well as Tajik—as well as each has its own form of ethnic dress, which varies in beading as well as embroidery styles. 

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Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal
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Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

Her father’s side of the family are nomadic Kuchi people of the Pashtun ethnicity, as well as Afzal’s clothing mostly comes from them. They are most famous for their use of coins in clothing. For Eid, Afzal opts for a traditional coin necklace crafted out of tiered metal beads that descend into a layer of blue as well as red stones as well as then a swathe of silver coins. Historically, women wore coins to ward off evil—the jingle would scare it away—as well as ensure fertility. 

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Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

As for the dress, it is layered with meaning. The velvet skirt is a vibrant violet with white thread embroidery on the hem. “The flowy skirt makes me want to twirl around all day. Eid is all about going tood vibes, as well as a colorful traditional Afghan outfit is the best choice in my opinion because of the vibrant colors as well as extravagance of the dresses,” she says. (Beneath her skirt, she wears a pair of emerald green pants.) The until nowper portion is reminiscent of a stunning tile. While it appears from afar that the prints are painted on, they are actually finely threaded. “It is made by has well as,” says Afzal. “Embroidery is one of the things that Afghans specialize in.” Finally, Afzal wears a head-turning silk scarf around her shoulders, a piece that is traditionally worn for modesty. The final result? A stunning kaleidoscope of hues—as well as, of course, meaning. 

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Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

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