I didn’t want to get out of the pool tonight. Then I got out and I didn’t want to go down to my apartment. The air on the roof was just perfect, warm and still. The call to prayer came drifting over. It’s so beautiful when you only hear it as music.
Kate and I talked about this when we were in Jordan, where we heard it a lot. Jordan was a lot more Arab than Dubai. I guess I should have thought about that before I left, that in Dubai you are always surrounded by the expat effect. Not so in Jordan (though we met some very nice ones. If you ever go to Amman check out By the Lemon Tree – the macroeconomics over breakfast were illuminating). Amman was a place where I felt uncomfortable walking around alone with my hair uncovered. Of course, it’s different in different places and in the tourist parts, Petra, the Dead Sea and even Aqaba it was more usual. But in Amman, I arrived a few hours before Kate and went out alone to get some snacks, and I was a little scared by the staring and comments.
Could I have covered my hair? Probably. But while I try to be culturally respectful, I also don’t want my liberty to be infringed or to have to do something which I violently disagree with. At the end of the day, I understand that that is how these people live and I can’t change it. I can even understand that some women feel more comfortable covered up. But I don’t think that they should do. Women are not responsible for male desire, and I have a fundamental problem with the rules that apply to one half of the population and not the other.
Which brings us on to the fascinating subject of the burkini. We spotted many instances throughout our trip. If you don’t know what this is, have a look here http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/02/10/article-2276313-177531BC000005DC-602_630x873.jpg
Even if I didn’t have a deep-seated love of frivolous bikinis, I could never imagine swimming in all of that. The weight of cloth, apart from anything. (Although in hindsight it would have prevented me from getting sunburn on my bum while I was snorkelling.) It makes me grateful that I was born in the time I was, in the culture I was.
Yet what women’s equality exists, is relatively new and very fragile. The horror stories that are coming out of the States now about restricted birth control, attempts to ban abortion all prove that even in the western world, women still have to fight to have control of their own bodies. Christian fundamentalists are no less extreme. I vote for reviving the cult of Artemis. We need at least one religion where women are on top.