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I first saw a few of them when I got on the plane in Los Angeles. I had a stopover in Dubai and would be traveling there first. A few women got on the airplane wearing burqas.
A burqa is something that some Muslim women wear to cover their face and body so that all you can see is their eyes. The burqas are often all black. With a long flowing black burqa on, to a Westerner a woman looks quite sinister. The robe even drags behind them.
These women proceeded to sit the entire sixteen-hour flight without removing their burqas! How cool is that!
I like the look. It’s deep.
Not sure what the point of a burqa is, but there is something cool about being followed around by your wife wearing one of these things. To me it seems sort of like saying: “I’ve got some really sinister stuff going on. See that behind me? Back off!”
Personally, I think it is really manly being followed around with a woman in one of these. The guy is in charge and you cannot see his second half.
I’d even like to have a few women in burqas riding in the backseat of my car when I drive around.
Did I cut you off? Look what I got here? These women are sinister! Don’t mess with me, buddy!
I got to Dubai, still fascinated with these burqas. I also felt comforted sitting a row over from a woman in a burqa for sixteen hours. It was so traditional and unusual for me.
When I got to Dubai, I spent more than thirty minutes arguing with an Arab man in a white robe and turban because I had too many stamps on my passport. I was only there on a layover but the guy told me I would not be allowed to leave the country because there was no room for another stamp on my passport when I left!
I missed my flight and would be stuck there for the next few days.
I went to the U.S. Consulate in Dubai to get the passport pages put in that day. I went there, came back, and then waited in line for some time. In line in front of me was a man with his wife wearing a burqa.
I have been seeing these women everywhere and I am absolutely fascinated.
The man in front of me finally got to the first guard checkpoint (you have to pass through five separate security checkpoints in the U.S. Consulate in Dubai), and they told him that his wife needed to have a passport to be allowed upstairs. He argued a bit, then went to his car and came back fifteen minutes later and showed him her passport (women who wear these burqas are apparently not allowed to speak either). When he finally showed the customs officer her passport, the passport officer looked at her picture and then waved her through.
Her husband turned around and got angry again: “You are such an idiot! You cannot even see her face. How can you let her through when you do not even know if this is her?”
Then, last night, I had such a strange experience, I am still trying to get it out of my mind. I am still not sure if it was for real. It has transformed how I view the world to a great extent.
When a Westerner like me thinks of the burqa, I think it means a lot of things. In all seriousness, if you were to look at this very objectively you might say it represents:
I could go on and on; however, the burqa is not something that Western society looks kindly on. In fact, it has even been outlawed in France recently and there is a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment surrounding burqas. I am not really bothered by burqas, but do find them intensely interesting from a sociological perspective.
Last night, I decided to sample some semi-local food while in Dubai and went out to a fancy Lebanese restaurant in the hotel where I am staying. Instead of sitting alone at a table, I ordered and ate my meal at the bar. I am glad I did so because I was treated to some incredibly interesting information.
The woman who was serving me was working alone at the bar. She was not up to much, and the entire time I was there, very few people ordered drinks. We chatted for at least an hour while I ordered.
The bartender was Russian and in her mid-20s, and was quite forthright with her various opinions about people, her job, and so forth. She told me that working in the hotel was like being in camp. The 1,500 employees of the hotel were all from foreign countries and everyone stayed in a giant apartment complex where there were various buffets for people of different nationalities—Indian food, Filapino food, Chinese food, Russian food, and so forth. The employees even had their own movie theater!
She told me that she was “trolling” for a husband—European, American, she did not care. She predicted she would be married and starting a family within a year. Her family was from a poor village outside of St. Petersburg and were extremely proud of her and what she had accomplished with the job.
“I could meet the guy tonight, tomorrow, who knows. No problem. I will find my husband here.”
I decided to ask her about the women in burqas. She had shared with me so many details about her life that I figured she would be extremely forthright—and she was.
She told me that she generally works at the bar until around 3:00 a.m. Around midnight each night, she told me, the scene in bars around the hotel often changes dramatically. Women wearing burqas or head scarves show up. Sometimes they are alone. Sometimes there are a couple of them together.
She told me that most of these women are married, but their husbands are not around. They come out of the house late and sneak into hotel bars when their husbands are out of town. They sneak out late at night because they do not want to be seen leaving the house.
She told me that Arab men love these sort of women—and within moments of one of these women showing up, all sorts of Arab men start appearing.
“They are like sharks. The second one of these Arab women shows up, the men all tell each other and from all over the hotel, the men start appearing. It only takes a few minutes.”
The hotel has around ten bars, so this to me was quite surprising. What she told me next, though, was even more surprising.
She said that at least a couple of times a week, one of the men manages to seduce one of these women and take her to the bathroom for sex. They do not go up to hotel rooms … just the bathroom. And it only happens late at night and early in the morning. Then the women disappear into the night.
This story was so incredibly unusual to me that I was not sure what to make of it. The more I thought about this story, though, the more I realized that something quite powerful was going on.
The women, who seemed oppressed, really were not oppressed. Instead, the people they were (and/or wanted to be) were still able to come out despite being in such a radicalized and fundamental religious environment. Perhaps the women were even more radical, promiscuous, and so forth due to the circumstances of their lives and oppression.
To me, the entire thing seemed absolutely fascinating.
On a deeper level, though, I think you have to ask what all of this means. What it means is that people will always find a way (no matter how twisted) to be the person they want to be. Our desires and character are too difficult to hold back. They will come out in ways we cannot even imagine.
I certainly do not condone women sneaking out of the house and having affairs with strange men in hotel bathrooms, while their husbands are out of town and children are sleeping at home.
What I do find interesting, though, is that the lesson this teaches is that the person we want to be cannot be held back. It cannot be held back by religion. It cannot be held back by oppression. It cannot be held back by threats of violence (for all I know, fundamentalist women in burqas might be killed for such affairs).
I think the actions of these women represent the incredible drive of the human spirit to express itself—no matter what the cost and no matter how degrading it may be.
In other countries, you do not have to sneak out to hotel bathrooms at 3:00 in the morning to express your individuality. You can be whoever you want right now and do whatever you want right now. There is nothing holding you back—not time or space.
On a deeper level, I believe that most people are not oppressed physically like the women in burqas. Instead, the oppression for most people is part of their own mind and their belief that they cannot do this–or they cannot do that. You can do whatever you want and can do it now—you can be whomever you want. You need to express yourself and find the work and life that you want for yourself. Do not let anything hold you back.
You need to express your individuality and fight to do so.
People will always find a way express themselves and be who they want to be, as their character and desires are too difficult to permanently repress. When you attempt to repress your individuality, it will come out in ways you cannot even imagine. You can do and be whoever you want by expressing yourself, and finding the work and life that you want. Do not let anything hold you back.
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Tagged: career advice, career advice | a harrison barnes, hotel bars, hotel bathrooms, how to find a job, job market, job search, job seeker, legal recruiter, new job opportunities, potential employer, sociological perspective, women in burquas