Monday, September 13, 2010

dresses and plastic guns

Yesterday was the last day of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that celebrated the end of Ramadan. It kind of plays the social role in Muslim communities that Christmas plays in Christian communities. For example, children are given special gifts on the first day of Eid. Then they parade them around and play them into the ground during the next couple of days.

For the last four days I've been enjoying the parade of women's fashion around town. Girls have all received new, bright-coloured clothes, and they've been wearing them to go visiting or just to promenade around the block. I don't know what will happen to those clothes for the rest of the year - they are certainly more special-looking than the everyday I attire I usually see. The big thing this year for teeny-bopper girls were white boots with lots of bright shiny dangly things. Everything else was some variation on bright colours: mainly yellow, purple, green and magenta.

For the last four days I've been alternately fascinated by, then horrified by, the abundance of small boys playing with plastic guns, as often as not pointed at me. With a big grin, a 4-year old lad - one of many - will see me pass by and point the barrel at me. He'll giggle as he pretends to pull the trigger. It's a game, and his face betrays no thoughts of hatred or violence, but it does not seem to be a healthy start to a long life in a conflict-ridden region.

I remember my first Eid in the Palestinian camps of Damascus: children there did the same thing. But the Palestinian boys were playing with long-barreled plastic rifles pointed at each other. These boys in Dar are playing with small plastic pistols, pointed at ME.

So girls dazzle the region with fashion and grow into tall, proud beauties. And boys dream of the day they'll get to hold a real gun.

(I know I'm a bit fixated on the topic of guns, but I think that fixation tells a bigger story. I'm noticing the guns because they surround me on all sides. I've seen all these things before, but have they ever all sprung in my face as blatantly, all at once, as they have during the past week since I arrived in El? I hereby pledge that this is my last post talking about guns, at least for now!)

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