So as the eshkeneh cooks (onion and egg soup, it’s Iranian) for dinner, the DSL is finally back on and I was actually able to get into WordPress…oddly enough it seems like 50% of the time I can’t get into WP while the other half of the time I can, but only after trying to log in a dozen times. *hmmm*.
The past few days have been a bit strange…on Saturday evening we went out with 2 Iranian families who are working here in the EP. My husband knew one of the men from another University in the area (briefly met) and so this man called us and invited us out with him, his wife and an older Iranian couple. Well, I was a bit peeved about going out that evening (I was really depressed all day-being stuck on a compound can do that to ya) and also because I was NOT up for the small talk, chit chat and taro’of that hanging out with new Iranian acquaintances entails…I was not a happy camper. My husband pleaded with me to be nice and just go along with it, so I did.
So they show up and we had assumed the families would be like the religious and conservative sort of Iranians who, if we do associate with any Iranians…we only associate with those types. So we thought they would be like that because…hey they are here in KSA! They MUST be the religiously practicing, traditional sort. “our kind”.
Anyway to make a long story short, they show up and the one Iranian guy tries to shake my hand! (big no no!) and then their wives get out, both were sans hejab and although they were in abayaat I could tell this wouldnt be much fun. I was sans niqab for this outing as niqab tends to freak most Iranians out (esp the non religious ones) and since we hadn’t met them before we didn’t know how they would be. Basically the evening was a huge waste of time. We drove around pretty aimlessly, the women asked me really silly questions and me trying to sulk quietly. We then went to a cafe with a family area and sat there for a “gab session” by that time I’d sort of warmed up a bit and decided I’d try to be a bit more friendly. But, the evening kind of went downhill from there. First they insisted that we ALL sit together and one of the womans husband was sitting across from me…which I really was NOT keen on. Ive never been around Iranians who would sit all together. Everyone my husband and I knows always splits up based on gender. I thought the men would be at one table and we’d be at another. Nope.
Then we started talking about Saudi culture and they started to talk poorly of niqab and how Saudi women are *forced* to “wear that stuff”…(really? I really doubt every Saudi women hates their abayah and niqab! ) and then the topic of gender segregation came up, I was talking about how I really dislike all the shop clerks being men, one women said, well in Riyadh there are womens only malls! (like in a tone of “oh my God, how barbaric!) I got all excited and was like…really!! I’d love to go! I hate shopping and having these creepy men leer at what your buying!!! The older woman was like…thats so insane…what do you do in America? I said…well if I shop I try to only talk to the female sales staff, their eyes widened…then the other woman said…well what about school? I said…I never talked to the guys in the class unless it was for an assignment and I had too. They laughed and rolled their eyes at me. Like what a crazy “omel” we have in front of us! Like as if my preference for dealing with females in these situations was some how unnatural. No…it’s a sunnah! hello! Anyway then they started to launch about how gender segregation has ruined the middle east and how men and women should be free to do whatever they want together. I was really getting a bit peeved and then to top that off the older women proceeds to launch into some stupid lecture about how Iran has become so backwards because gender segregation is the norm now and how before she left 30yrs ago and how women were doctors and lawyers and judges, blah, blah, blah…meanwhile I felt my anger rising…and then she said…my mother was a feminist and would never consider wearing a scarf on her head! My grandmother helped to bring about the end of the chador!…and on and on shewent. Really feeling so proud of herself.
I brought her back to earth by saying how the situation has improved for women in modern Iranian society…especially for rural women, who before the revolution generally were illiterate and unable to attend school Their families usually wouldn’t send them to schools (and if they did it was for just a few years) because the school system in small towns and rural areas was not very good and they would be with boys and have male teachers! Secondly most girls were hence kept home to weave carpets and earn income for the families. This work tended to cause debilitating physical problems from a young age (loss of eye sight, back problems, etc) the girls also tended to be married off at a very young age. Girls from these same families can now attend school, go on to University for free if they pass the University exams and can have actual careers (as doctors, lawyers, etc) if they want! How are they being “kept back”??..she did NOT like this. I then said, oh and your grandmother didn’t actually abolish the chador because it was still worn in Iran, maybe in Tehran women didn’t wear it but everywhere else they did. The other woman said…well, gender segregation is a new thing to Iran…it’s not a part of Persian culture. I said…maybe in Tehran (since both women are Tehrani) it wasn’t common but in the rest of the country men and women didnt and still generally socialize…it’s Islamic NOT cultural.
This discussion really ticked me and them off and we got a bit icy with each other. I then decided to change the topic and ask about going for Umrah. The discussion really ended after that because both women said you can do Umrah in just a few hours…i.e. leave the EP by plane in the morning, do the Umrah and fly on back the same evening because, as they said “there was nothing to really see in Mekkah, and you dont have to go up to Medinah anyway”…
uhhhhhhhhh huuuuuuuuuh. (astaghfirullah!)
wow! That last comment REALLY p!ssed me off…I got up and walked off and the little gab session ended soon after. I didn’t say one word to them on the ride back and just gave them a cold “khodahafez” upon getting out. Once home my husband and I talked and he felt equally as disappointed as I was with meeting them. How can any Muslim have such a callous disregard for the two holiest cities in our faith?!?
Sigh…Thats why we rarely socialize with other Iranian families…