Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Evening in the Heart of Historic Istanbul

It's hard to imagine a trip to Istanbul without some traditional dancing. We chose a cultural center within walking distance of our hotel, and I don't think we could have chosen better. The program consisted of traditional regional dances as well as some very talented belly dancers. However, as is so often the case, the audience provided entertainment in its own way.  First, the two ladies wearing burkas..

 I believe they were as much tourists as we were. They probably came from Saudi Arabia or some other country with much stricter restrictions than Turkey. They were escorted by a man in western dress who took charge of the infant they brought along. He was very patient with the child and tended to all his needs. The young mother had a cold which offered up some amusing images of her lifting her veil to drink water and to blow her nose while making every effort to keep her face covered. The older woman who accompanied them was very excited to be there. Her beaming smile carried right up to her eyes. The real surprise came when they both started snapping pictures of the dancers.

Watching those women enjoying themselves watching women gyrate in skimpy gauzy costumes while swaddled in heavy black robes convinced me I knew nothing about Islam. Watching the father gently cradling his child and speaking softly to the ladies reinforced this realization. Everything was so much at odds with what I thought I knew.

 I walked out totally convinced that Islamic men need to revamp the restrictions they place on women. Efforts to hide their women from those with unclean thoughts are a failure if they leave the eyes exposed. With her eyes framed by the dark burka, she commands attention like a beautifully framed piece of art.
Some men understand this and insist that the eyes be covered.  But that is an error in itself. With her eyes covered, men are forced to look for a bit of skin or even the glimpse of shoe.

I guess these men haven't ever read of Chinese men who developed a fetish for deformed feet, or western men who drooled at the sight of an ankle not so many years ago.

Who are these men who think they can protect women from their horny peers by dictating their mode of dress? It doesn't work any more effectively than our current efforts in this country to legislate morality. Now, enough of the sermonizing! The next surprise was the male belly dancer.

He was fabulous! Now, for details. Imagine the most perfect male body. Put in sculpted abs and strong arms. Don't forget a fantastic face, long curly hair, flashing dark eyes. Dress the body in a just enough gauze to make you wonder why he bothered with it. Fill the air with the scent of sandalwood. Now, we need music, but let's keep it simple with lots of drums. He burst on the scene with amazing energy and never paused for fifteen minutes. For fifteen minutes he put his body though punishing backbends, shimmies, spins - all designed to show off that wondrous body to the max. Of course all that movement created some real heat - enough to stir all the essences of sandalwood. Toward the end of his performance, every time he moved, the smells wafted through the audience pulling us even deeper into his allure. Just thinking about it now leaves me right at the brink of breathlessness, It was far more than sexy. It was seductive. 

The women belly dancers were marvelous, and the folk dance troupe was very good, but nothing they did matched the spellbinding act of Amir. The swirling undulating image will be with me every time I think of belly dancing. I became so wrapped up in the dance, I forgot all about pictures. These are just a couple of small samples.

And , then there were the girls . . .

Top the evening off with two plates of spicy food 

and an assortment of tiny pastries.  It was quite a day!