Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Portrait #19: Passionate about heads

The other day we went to visit Sitt Zaynab, one of the principle Shiite Muslim pilgrimage sites. It was a very eventful mosque trip and at least half a dozen people there made an impression on me. But for now I'm going to share about the man who stood at the entrance making sure women were appropriately dressed.

That was his entire job description, as far as I could tell. Make sure women were appropriately dressed.

The first time we walked into the mosque, he stood up and pointed at the coat rack with big black cloaks hanging on it. He did this even though I was already walking straight toward it and reaching to grab one of the cloaks. There was a woman also, whose job was apparently to help women like me arrange the cloaks properly on our heads. She did help, and the man pitched in with advice as to how to cover me up well.

As it turns out, we entered the mosque three times that day. The second time, I wanted to talk to them, not get a cloak from them. It took some convincing for them to listen without throwing a huge black sheet over me. The woman was kind and sympathetic to my query, and so pointed me to an office right by the entrance. When I started walking the two metres to the office, the man went into a rage at the woman. How could she let me walk into the office without covering my head?! They had a bit of a shouting match and I quickly grabbed a cloak and slipped into the office.

The third time, we wanted to go straight to the office. In fact, we were a bit indignant and my friend was mad about the very fact that we were forced to wear things that limited our mobility so much. We were going to the office to make a very serious complaint. In fact my friend had lost a significant sum of money. The man didn't really quite seem to get the fact that someone in the mosque had stolen from us. What he got was that our heads weren't covered. We tried to explain to him that we weren't even entering the mosque, just the office, and were in fact here on a serious matter. He replied by shouting to us that our heads MUST be covered. He kept shouting that at us even after we grabbed cloaks and slung them over our shoulders for the 2 second walk.

No comments:

Post a Comment