Cultures Mix as Hijab-Wearing Athlete Plays Against Bikini-wearing Volleyball Competitor in Rio

Team Egypt's Doaa Elghobashy wears a hijab on the beach volleyball court

Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty

Team Egypt’s Doaa Elghobashy wears a hijab on the beach volleyball court. Kira Walkenhorst, on Germany’s women’s team, plays in a bikini.

The stark contrast in uniform is making headlines, thanks to a photo captured during Egypt and Germany’s match on Sunday night, during which the African country fell to the European nation.

Elghobashy, 19, and her partner Nada Meawad, 18, both wore long-sleeve jerseys and leggings to compete at the Copacabana Stadium. Walkenhorst, 25, and Laura Ludwig, 30, donned matching bikinis – the traditional uniform of choice for beach volleyball.

Until four years ago, Elghobashy wasn’t able to wear her hijab in play, due to uniform size regulations set by the International Volleyball Federation, according to told the Associated Press.

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

However the International Volleyball Federation tweaked the rules to allow for more modest outfits – if athletes wanted it.

“It was to open it up culturally,” International Volleyball Federation spokesman Richard Baker told the AP. “The goal was to allow more people to play the sport of volleyball.”

Of the inclusive decision – which was made just ahead of the London Games in 2012 – Elghobashy told the AP, “I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”

This is the first year that Egypt has ever qualified for the women’s beach volleyball tournament. The country was one of 169 that participated in the Continental Cup qualifying process.

“I’m proud to be seen raising the Egyptian flag in a carnival with so many nations,” Elghobashy told the AP.

RELATED VIDEO: Road to Rio: The U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team

Many have championed the photo for highlighting the Olympics’ ability to bring multiple cultures together.

Wrote one social media user on Instagram, “No matter what the results will be #doaaelghobashy is a true winner for sending her message across that #hijab is not a barrier to make your dreams come true.”

Elghobashy and Meawad will next play Canada on Tuesday and Italy on Thursday.

Related Articles