How not to look like a tourist in Delhi

If you are a women who likes to travel, then have you ever considered how the way you dress might affect the people who live in the place you are visiting? A lot of times, people will walk into my neighborhood and I can almost always tell if they are tourists by the way they are dressed. I live in a very conservative Muslim neighborhood and the standard rule for women is that you have to cover your bottom, chest, and shoulders. This means that it is not a good idea to walk around in shorts and a tank top.

This is what I normally wear when I go into the basti

Because of the strict rule about clothing here, when I go out, I normally wear a long shirt or dress that covers my bottom, jeans or leggings, and a scarf that covers my chest. When I go into the basti, my clothes are slightly different, but still very similar. I normally wear what I would wear in the neighborhood minus the jeans. For covering my chest, I wear a dupatta which I drape across my chest and wrap around my head.
Muslim women will often wear a salwar kameez with a dupatta or sometimes if they are more conservative, they will wear a burkha.

This is a Indian woman in a burkha

The reason I have mainly talked about the clothes women should wear is because there are only a few rules for men on what they can wear. The only rules I know of are that men and boys have to cover their elbows, and when they are at the dargah, they have to cover their head, which for them means that they wear a small, normally white hat called a prayer cap. Other than that, I think they can pretty much wear whatever they want. Most of the time, the clothes I see men and boys wearing are T-shirts, shorts, and
the occasional tank top.

He is wearing a prayer cap

Another type of clothing that some men and boys wear is the kurta pajama. The kurta pajama consists of a kurta very similar to the kurtas women wear, except less decorative and colorful, and pants. Unlike the women’s kurtas, the mens’ kurtas are normally made up of a solid fabric, which means that the fabric doesn’t have any patterns on it.
Now I am no expert on clothing rules for Muslims (or any of the Muslim culture for that matter), but this is what my experience living in India has shown me. The rules are probably different depending on where you go in India, but I think they are probably generally the same. I hope you visit India because it is a bright, colorful and beautiful place.

Nizammuddin’s busiest market

Just down the street from our house is a neighborhood known as the Nizamuddin Basti, which is a very large and crowded neighborhood.Like many small neighborhoods in Delhi and India as well, animals wander freely, motorbikes speed past with just a loud horn blast for a warning and at all times noises and various smells fill the air. When I go with my mom sometimes I have to pay very close attention so I don’t lose sight of her among all the people rushing around, even if she is one tall white person among hundreds of smaller, dark skinned people.

Here is a picture of some cows, goats, and a boy in front of some houses in the basti 

 Every Monday in this neighborhood is a market that is famous in Delhi and is commonly known just Peer Baazaar or Monday Market. One can buy everything from bangles and bras to diapers and dishes, and of course prices are always negotiable.

This is the basti on Monday

People are everywhere, and stalls are flooded with wares everywhere you look. The air is full of people shouting, people either buying or selling, you are being shoved and pushed from all sides, and everything is bright and colorful. Including the people.


Here are some people in front of a bangle stand 

Sometimes the market is less crowded, but if it is, then it is either early in the morning when it is just opening, or a holiday. Other than that, there is probably no other time when Monday Market is not filled to the brim with people.


Sound like a place you want to visit? It goes without saying that it is very different from Amsterdam or Innsbruck or some of the other places I’ve written about.  It is crowded, noisy, and you do need to pay attention as you walk, both to the ground and in front of you, however the fact that it is probably not like any other place you’ve visited or seen makes it even more special. The basti is a place all it’s own.