This Yemeni woman welcomed my photo. And I enjoyed the opportunity, for taking shots of traditional Islamic women anywhere in the world is still a difficult process. Particularly if you’re a male foreigner !

young islamic woman's eyes yemen close-up in veil

If you look closely, inside her pupils my image is reflected in this young Islamic woman’s eyes.

This photo was taken on route to Marib in western Yemen. The 4WD – with mandatory guide and soldier – had stopped to await other vehicles in our military escorted convoy.

yemen desert- mud-brick village fields

The village where the women lived; on route to Marib

Not far away was a tranquil mud-brick village. Soon a few women came over from the nearby maize fields. Via the guide I asked them if I could photograph them. A few giggles later …

islamic veiled women yemen

Staunch traditionalists in Islam believe the human soul is stolen by the camera (an idea some other traditional – non-Islamic – cultures also share). But also within Islam, the mixing of sexes – particularly outside of the family – is frowned upon and most-often women are protected / hidden from a stranger’s gaze.

islamic woman with baby Yemen

Mother proud to show her new baby, wrapped amid layers and now exposed to the desert sun in the western Yemen region of Marib

Yet, another reason is the taboo of depicting the human form in Islam (something only Allah is great enough to create). However, across the centuries some have ignored this edict and off course in art sometimes, and now with widespread camera use, social media and selfies on cellphones, traditional family & wedding photos, this idea is fading fast in the 21st century.

But still, many Muslim conservatives today fear and forbid the photography of people, especially of their women.

Islamic Woman's Eyes - Yemen-by Michael Robert Powell

Glamorized and repainted often: This young woman’s eyes – her gaze for this second, have been with me ever since …

[Note: The title should really read: “Looking into a Muslim woman’s eyes”, since followers of Islam are called Muslims. Yet, I decided this title was better despite it being grammatically-challenged.)

Travels in Yemen – 2005