Expatria · Istanbul · Women

strange burkah behavior and how to recognise a turkish woman

i know i keep saying it, but this is truly a place of vivid contradictions.

today we walked around a shopping mall (don’t roll your eyes! they have a good supermarket in there!) that could have been in glendale, california. except for the turkish writing, of course. steve saw a woman in a full burkah holding her boyfriend’s hand! in a traditional muslim country there is no physical contact at all between the sexes in public, and especially not a woman in a head-to-toe burkah. it is quite strange and i can’t say i understand it. if she can hold his hand, why does she wear the full black burkah? i tend to see the two behaviours as in complete contradiction with each other, how are they reconciled?

walking just beside the burkah-clad women, some even with the full-full burkah with only their eyes showing, are some extremely scantily clad women of all ages. and i mean scantily, like spanish girls from the south. so scantily that any reasonable mother from anywhere in the world would have a word or two to say before threatening to ground her daughter if she doesn’t go inside RIGHT NOW and put something decent on!

i am also floored by the number of blonde turkish women. although there are some who are natural blondes, apparently there was a very famous film star a few years back who was quite dark and dyed her hair blonde, so now everywhere there are blonde ladies. sometimes i look around and i could be in spain, or in italy, with olive complected women who have green or blue eyes! this is a reminder of alexander the great’s path through anatolia all those years ago…genetic history fascinates me, but unlike the south of spain, they are very proud of the different peoples that have passed through their lands. i like this a lot. spanish people have an internalised racism against any mention of their moorish or asian ancestors. they get quite angry, in fact, if you mention they may have brown people and (god forbid) muslims in their lineage…

BUT i have figured out the difference between turkish women, bottle blonde or not, and other european women: they do not have tattoos. all of this beautiful flesh around us and not a sign of ink in sight. this, to me, is the tell. anywhere else in europe where so much skin is exposed, there would be a flower on the shoulder, an anklet butterfly, something visible and accentuated. not here. i learned today that tattooing, in islam, is considered dirty and only bad men and men who were in the army have tattoos…i didn’t ask about women, i can only assume that we would be considered lower than those men. you make your own conclusions on that one, i stick by my decision to keep covered. the farther east i go i think i will have more and more problems with the perception of my tattoos. sigh. it is curious though that an exception can be made for very tight and revealing clothing in sweltering humid heat (read: bacteria factory for women…girls, you know what i am talking about) which is not considered dirty, but the sterile process of tattooing is considered filthy…and then there is the whole gonorhea thing i mentioned a few blogs back where men go to prostitutes and bring the STDs back to their wives and girlfriends. this is acceptable behaviour and not considered filthy for muslims, but tattooing is? like i said, rife with contradictions. i think this will become the theme of my writings on life in istanbul.

well, then, back to ‘true lies’ in turkish…not nearly as cool as ‘the lord of the rings’ but hey, ahnold is far more bearable dubbed, i must say.


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