. At one point I had to completely cover up with a chador, basically a large piece of material that you wrap all around you so that the shape of your body, your hair and your neck is all disguised. It was like an oven and almost drove me over the limit. I always found women carrying newborn babies in their chador to be interesting...almost like an acknowledgement of sexuality in some sense in a place where women cover up so much. Prior to this trip, I felt more cultural acceptance almost of the hejab and chador customs however, after experiencing it myself for two weeks I feel more strongly than ever that women are missing out on the freedom that men are able to enjoy every day. Seeing men and boys in bathing suits one day in the Bird Garden in Esfahan splashing and having fun in the river with the women covered up siutting on the sidelines...I think that summed it all up for me. In Egypt, many women cover up as well but it is not required by law as it is in Iran. All of this aside, I found Iran to be beautiful, captivating, interesting, hospitable and a place that I will return to in the future.
Here is a bit of Egyptian history (compliments of my new friend, Rohini's, blog except for the bit İ added ın italıcs):
Started with Ancient Egypt, then the Persians invaded, then Alexander the Greek invaded and kicked out the Persians.The famous movie Cleopatara which portrays the last of the Greek rulers, was then captured by the Romans. After the Romans came the Arabs, then the Ottoman Turks, then the British, and then came independence. Cairo is the largest city in the Arab world and it is the entertainment capital of the Arab world. Lot's of bellydancing although that is changing as the fundamentalist Muslim ideology takes a greater hold on the Middle East. Apparently many traditional dancers are 'retiring' as well as other artists such as movie stars and begining to wear the hejab and denounce their previous professions. Unfortunately, the history and tranditions are also slipping away in the name of female purity. Some of the former movie stars are buying the rights to their movies to take them out of general viewing.
Listening to some songs by Egyption Lover on my IPOD as I was landing at Cairo International Airport this afternoon after a marathon session of travel from Tehran and Bahrain to get here. No direct flights from Iran to Egypt...they don't have great diplomatic relations apparently due to Egypt's recognition of Israel among other things. The Bahrain airport made much less of an impression on me than it had last year when I arrive straight from Europe having seen so many strange, different and interesting things on my travels to date, very little shocks me now. Still the same mixture of people from different arabic countries. New and old mixing in different ways. The minute I got on the airplane in Tehran, I pulled my head scarf off and shook my hair out. It was divine! I had a reputation on the tour for having a slipping head scarf. Our guide would often tell me, "Tracy, your hair is out!" or something to that effect as if my hair was alive and was trying to escape the confines of its cover