Women should go forth modestly

          This is what it says in the Christian Bible, and what the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said. Nowhere did he say that women should have their faces fully veiled and be covered from head to toe in shapeless black robes (the Abayah). This is tribal custom enforced by men.

          Even as recently as my Mother’s generation she and her friends would not dream of leaving the house without a headscarf covering her hair, and a coat covering her dress. She looked like the Egyptian women you see today who do not wear Abayahs, and yet are not fully Westernized. And if my Mother went to church she would certainly cover her head–and for weddings and funerals she would wear a hat with a veil.

So until about 50 years ago traces of Middle Eastern culture remained even in the UK. And it still persists of course most strongly in Spain where 700 years of Arab rule has left an indelible mark.

          At a recent art exhibition in our local village in the Valencia province I bought a painting of the roofs of our village from the perspective of the minaret of the mosque. (our mosque dates back more than 600 years and is not in use because it is unsafe). And amid the tumble of terracotta tiled roofs every house has a small rooftop courtyard. This was the territory of the women of the house where they would go unrobed and unveiled to wash and gossip.

          The apochryphal story is that the Muezzin who called the faithful to prayer from the minaret had to be blind so that he could not see the uncovered females of the village.

          If you want to know more about tribalism in the Middle East, and how since the 1970s their fabulous oil wealth is breaking down  tribalism in this fascinating and atavistic region read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”.  It is a linked series of stories set in The Arabian/Persian Gulf from the perspective of Western expatriates who have washed up there for whatever reason.

You can preview my book at:

http://www.amazon.com/author/mike richards

and download it if you have a KINDLE, if you do not, or you prefer a real book you can order from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide

 

 

Stupid Women

          Miss Piggy of Muppet fame was a brilliant comic invention because, like all true comic inventions, her role contains a strong thread of truth. In the main modern Western women are shallow, vain and entirely self-centred

          The recently released movie DIANA has been panned by the critics for lacking depth or complexity. How could it have: Diana was quintessentially shallow, vain and self-centered—an Essex Girl with a posh accent. Ava Gardener was honest when she said “I am not deep, just endlessly shallow.”

          And in a recent story Oprah Winfrey was incensed because while shopping for a handbag at a cost of US$ 28,000 in Geneva the typically haughty Swiss salesgirl doubted that an African-American could afford such extravagance. But the essence of this story is not the overt racism of the Anglo-Germanic races. The true essence is how any educated woman of whatever race, colour or creed could contemplate spending that much money on a handbag.

          I now know 9 women of a certain age whose husbands/partners have walked out after 20, 30 and even 40 years leaving them bitter, hostile and lonely and thinking that they have been hard done to. Yet these women treated their relationships/ marriages as a base of operations, lying or cheating or stealing from their partners (and in some cases all three). They neglected their relationship in favour of going to the spa, lunching with friends, and going boutique shopping every day to buy outrageously expensive items they could not afford.

          When I challenged one of them about her out-of-control spending she said “You don’t understand . . . it’s not a question of need . . . it’s a question of want.”

          They considered themselves independent women in the modern manner—but unlike the truly independent highly educated modern young girl who expects to go Dutch on a date, and when in a relationship pays her share of the bills, these women have never made a mortgage payment, or paid an electricity bill, or the land taxes. And what is more they expected their partners to subsidize their extravagant lifestyle. At least Oprah was spending her own money.

          In my book THE GULF: “Reaping the Whirlwind” I tell the stories of American and British expatriates who wash up in The Arabian Gulf for whatever reason—and mostly the reason is the infidelity and/or extravagance of their wives/lovers.

One story I did not tell is of a Third World Charlie who was fortunate enough to get an American Green Card in the lottery, and went to live in the USA. His wife, confronted with this consumerist Paradise, went crazy. At one point she bought 4 brand new cars on credit. He had to declare bankruptcy, sell his home, divorce his wife, and was fortunate enough to find high paid employment in The Gulf and get out of the deep hole dug by his wife’s greed.

          And like most of the other estranged males I know he is now a very happy man married to a lovely Filipina girl half his age (and one has married a very wealthy Swedish widow) while his ex-wife lives in lonely poverty. How stupid is that?

          You can preview my book of stories at:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it for US$2.99 if you have a Kindle. If you prefer a real book you can buy the paperback for Euros 12 from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

Irrestible Force meets Immovable Object(s)

                         Another wonderful aspect of my last summer in Spain is how unchanging it is in spite of waves of aggressive, drunken and drugged-out Northern Europeans— and greedy property developers selling houses to people who should never come to Spain. They don’t like the heat, the food, the people—and they don’t understand the culture.

It is fiesta time in our local village— and all this week every midday a rocket soars into the sky and expires with a thunderous bang signaling the start of yet another party with running with the bulls through the streets etc.: and it ends at 2 am with fireworks. As a contrast to the noise and activity some evenings we go to the next town to a chiringuito (temporary beach bar) and sit with a glass of wine and a dish of olives watching the sunset as the fishing boats return to harbor.

These chiringuitos are on a rocky beach used by Spanish families (the N. Euros like the crowded sandy beach surrounded by fast food cafes and souvenir shops) who stay on the beach with their kids until the last gasp of sunshine having tapas and wine. And the Ninyos play in the rock pools catching small fish and pulpos (octopus). It’s not exactly duende —but it does induce a euphoria that is part of the Mediterranean experience. And this week we took the fast ferry to Eivissa (known as Ibiza to the non-stop party people) and stepped back even further in time.

Eivissa is very different to mainland Spain: it seems more like North Africa. No sloping terracotta clay tiled roofs or Tosca stone arches as we have in the province of Valencia: the houses are just simple unadorned flat-top white-washed cubes with dark squares of deep set windows.  When you see them under the brilliant vertical sunlight you understand cubist painting.

Landing in Sant Antoni you see the worst effects of Ibiza being the partying capital of Europe. Lovely young girls totter about the streets in stilettos, and little else, and the older women wear see through lace dresses with just a black lace thong underneath, while the young men stand around bare foot in swim shorts screwing T-shirts in their hands and arching their backs to display pink and muscular heavily-tattooed bodies. It is all very primal— or maybe it is feral.

There is a multitude of cafes selling fast food, and souvenir shops selling tat and tickets for that night’s raves in PACHA, or AMNESIA or F*** ME  I’M FAMOUS, or any of the other hedonistic mega-discos around the island—and unbelievably cocaine use is promoted openly.

Ibiza Town, the capital on the other side of the island, is very different. A typical old Spanish Puerto (port) of narrow streets clustered at the foot of an ancient Arab (or Crusader?) fort set high on the headland with individual boutiques selling Ibiza style— usually crumpled white linen for both sexes. And a new town of elegant name-brand shops, restaurants and cafes along wide avenues that radiate out from the port area, now converted to a smart marina.

We took coffee under the arches of the old theatre to escape the fierce midday heat. It was originally built in 1868 and still functions as a theater pub with musica en viva (live music) every night. 

Inside, like the saloons of the Wild West a long, dark and narrow well-stocked mahogany bar with a stage at one end—and the barman the ultimate immoveable object. Probably in his 60s, bullet headed and 5 by 5 of solid muscle—he could bounce any number of obstreperous youths onto the pavement outside. But he probably has no need. This is a venue for adults and not lager louts. What a pity we could not stay for the night. The compensation was late lunch at the ultimate chiringuito.

On a rocky promontory on the far side of the bay, just a steel container that serves as a bar and kitchen; plastic tables and chairs on gravel under canvas sails, and a simple menu that consists of sepia (cuttlefish), or sardinas, or gambas (prawns) or lubina (sea bass) a la plancha (on the grill hot plate with olive oil and garlic) with a tomato and raw onion salad and crusty bread to mop up the juices. And the wine list is simple too—you can have red or you can have white.

The cabaret was a bonus. Sunbathing on the rocks were 4 topless women, two naked women—and two naked men. All tastes tolerated in Ibiza. Life stripped down to the bare essentials in more ways than one. And so different to the fierce and sometimes barbaric bare essentials that I experienced in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Eivissa may look North African and Arab, but it is a totally different world: the Arabian Gulf is no permissive and tolerant society. The women are covered from head to toe in black and shapeless robes—and faces are veiled. And the love that dare not speak its name truly dare not speak its name.

To get some insights into this cruel and fascinating and rapidly changing world read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. You can preview it on my website:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it for just US$2.99 if you have a Kindle. Or, if you don’t and you prefer a paperback, you can purchase for just Euros 12 from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide.