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Until just a few years ago, women in some parts of Morocco still wrapped themselves in a broad wool cloth several metres long, which was wound around the head and body. This usually pale-coloured haik had its origins in pre-Islamic times, and its drapery, reminiscent of statues of women from the ancient world, was a source of inspiration for many artists.

But this traditional dress is gradually disappearing – not only in Essaouira, the Atlantic port that was famous for its haik-clad women, but also in other parts of Morocco. Instead, new versions of the full-body veil are rapidly becoming popular. The most common of these is the black niqab, in which a narrow slit leaves only the eyes exposed. In an allusion to the masks worn by riot squads, women who wear the niqab are sometimes referred to as "ravens" or "ninjas". -- Beat Stauffer

Photo: Burqas, niqabs, haiks and khimars … Unlike in Europe, most people in the Maghreb are able to interpret the subtle distinctions in meaning signified by the various different head and body coverings.