Enas wants to make Skellefteå more colourful

One of the first lessons Egyptian Enas Elgarf learned in Swedish was the famous phrase about there being no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. However, when she explored Skellefteå’s clothing shops for brightly coloured fabrics she was met by a sea of dark fabric and earth tones. No speck of colour in sight. But she wanted to confound expectations and wear a bright hijab.

Enas has met a lot of friends in Skellefteå. Both Swedish and from other countries.

Enas has met a lot of friends in Skellefteå. Both Swedish and from other countries.

Foto: Donna Richmond

Skellefteå2023-07-26 09:27

– Those colours are not me. I love summer because it’s full of bright colours.

Enas came to Skellefteå with her family, a husband and three children, from Egypt a few years ago in search of a better life and more opportunities. Despite the Swedish summer being like an Egyptian winter she still loves life here.

– The kids are so happy here; they love the snow. And they also liked school very much, from day one. Skellefteå feels like it’s safe. I feel like I know everyone, every face in town is familiar.

”I feel pretty in a hijab; I can wear colours, it doesn’t have to be black.”

As it was difficult to find clothes, Enas started shopping online and having things sent to her from Egypt. One problem was finding hijabs. 

– I tried using scarves you find in the shops here, but they are the wrong size and fabric, Enas says.

For Enas it is important to colour match her whole outfit. Clothes, shoes, bag and hijab. She started wearing the hijab at age 22, saying that it was her choice.

– I was struggling in the beginning. I didn’t feel pretty and couldn’t do the matching with colours; it takes time to get it right. But now I feel like us women can look pretty in a hijab because we can wear colours, it doesn’t have to be black. A hijab is not something to be afraid or ashamed of and wearing colours will deliver this message without using words.

Finding hijabs in Skellefteå turned out to be difficult.

Enas also says that she is not prevented from doing anything she wants to do, such as riding a bike, and when she goes swimming she wears a burkini.

She has a whole philosophy when it comes to wearing colours and has found one she claims works for everyone. 

– Royal blue suits everyone – I feel that. We have different skin tones, different shapes. Beige is not so good for the light skin colour but royal blue works on everyone. We have to try different styles. I was in a bad mood earlier today, but then I decided on this outfit. I put on some mascara, looked in the mirror and said "let’s go", she says and snaps her fingers.

”Royal blue suits everyone – I feel that.”

Although the majority of people she meets are helpful and kind to her, there have been some instances of hostility.

– There are sometimes people who don’t like foreigners. For example, they will not help you in the shop. It got worse after the invasion of Ukraine. Some said that now there are white refugees who look like us Swedes, you should go home. This happens everywhere though, and I think it’s worse in the south of Sweden.

Enas is involved in a church group in Boliden that organises events. When there were heated emotions among immigrant groups about the social services taking children from their parents earlier this year, the group arranged a meeting.

– The social services came and talked to us, and they explained everything really well, and I think this is essential. We respect the law, but we have to know the law to respect it, Enas says.

Enas Elgarf with her daughter Kinda, 11.

The current discussion about burning the Qur'an is also something Enas has thought about. She understands the argument about freedom of expression but thinks that it can be done in a more diplomatic way.

– I understand that people want to practice their rights, but you don’t have to provoke. When the burning happened in Skellefteå last year I told people to not take it personally and give him an audience. We just want to live in peace and don’t want this kind of hatred in the place we live. 

”I think it’s like this for all women; when you have confidence you feel pretty.”
”I think it’s like this for all women; when you have confidence you feel pretty.”