The fate of the Santri’s Sarong and Robe

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Santri and sarongs are like two sides of a coin; birds and their beaks, like Fridays and sandals, are inseparable. Where the santri walk, there the sarong is carried.

That’s more or less the chemistry between the santri and the sarong and the public’s mindset about the sarong. Besides representing identity, gloves are also considered to have a more complete efficiency of use. Friendly in all conditions and multifunctional. It can be used for prayer, it can be used to recite the Koran, and it can even be used to hang out at the mall for those who have rai gedheg (shameless).


However, the placement of the sarong as the fashion of the highest caste of the santri needs to be rethought carefully. This is because sarongs are basically cultural products that have local values. On a national scale, it may still be possible for a sarong to receive public information if it is seen in unusual places. However, if you have stepped into the international realm, come on… think again.

This story is an incident the author experienced when he had the opportunity to experience the taste of studying in the Middle East three years ago. The author then participated in the student mobility exchange program at the Tarbiyah Faculty of Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt. Together with colleagues from several leading campuses in Indonesia. Indeed, basically santri, in the suitcase, three folded sarongs are ready to be wrapped and taken to the land of kinanah. But unfortunately, the mistake is that the author never thought of googling the culture, customs, and unwritten rules in Egypt.

Arrived in Egypt a few days after it was Friday. Of course, as a Muslim, it is obligatory to perform Friday prayers. So after bathing and changing clothes, the writer rushed to the mosque near the apartment. Suddenly, a friend answered rather loudly,

“Lum, where are you going?” he said while wearing a typical Middle Eastern robe.

“Yes, Friday prayers, after all. It’s Friday,” I answered confidently.

This friend immediately shook his head, then said, “Sit down, I’ll tell you.”

I just obeyed, considering it was still an hour before the call to prayer was sounded.

“Want to pray Friday wearing a sarong?” he said.

I firmly replied, “Yes, this is normal too.”

He then continued his words, “Do you know what happens when you wear a sarong here?”

I just shook my head. He continued, “Here, let me tell you. Here,

if you wear a sarong, you will be laughed at.”

I wonder why it should be laughed at. Is it because Cairo is a big city? Just like when we walk in Jakarta or Surabaya, are we embarrassed to wear a sarong? I asked curiously, “Well, why?”

My friend replied with a little amused laugh. “So this is it. In Egypt, for example, if someone visits and the host wears a sarong when meeting at the door, it is a sign that the house owner is having fun with his wife. Why wear a sarong? Because that’s a sign that the game isn’t over yet, I want to continue.”

I laughed non-stop, hearing my friend’s explanation. Finally, I laughed so hard that I fell off the chair. Wow, there’s something wrong with this sarong too. Luckily I was told. Eventually, I returned to the room; I changed the sarong with trousers.

Sure enough, a few days later, I accidentally opened Twitter. In one of Gus Usman Ar-Rumy’s tweets, a video shows Mbah Sudjiwo Tedjo being laughed at by mothers near his apartment for wearing a sarong in the middle of the street. Mbah Tedjo looked confused until finally, Gus Usman explained. It’s a fascinating video.

At Al-Azhar University, many Indonesian students wear sarongs to go here and there. But the locals there are used to it because they have understood the culture of Indonesian students who mostly lived there for years. This differs from the writer and his friends who live in the Heliopolis area (Misr Gadida); of course, they will be surprised by such an apparel set.

The sarong that the writer carries is useless. It can only be used indoors. It was also scarce because the cooling function of the holster at that time was worthless. It was December, Egypt was experiencing winter, and the temperature could reach 30C. In fact, you need something warm.

Finally, because he was bored and seemed uncomfortable every Friday prayer, he had to wear pants; the writer bought a robe like his other friends. Its function is only used during Friday prayers. If conscious and thought, it is also used for congregational prayers at the mosque.

Well, the fate of this robe when the writer returns to Indonesia is the same as the fate of the writer’s sarong when he was in Egypt. Useless! It’s a shame to want to pray because, in the village, it’s not uncommon to see people praying wearing robes. Well, just don’t forget that if you want to go anywhere, research the local culture first, so you don’t get caught up.


Note: translated by editor from


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