Onto Chapter 26 …Alisha Earns Her Veil
© Michelle 2006
Chapter 25 – Through a Veil, Darkly Pinkly
The next day Alisha is dressed for the flight to the Middle East. A full pink niqab with veiling across her whole face ensures she will take a very pink-tinged initial view of her destination.
As usual, Rana will accompany her, albeit in somewhat lighter clothing.
“Don’t you have to wear an abaya there ?”
“It isn’t Saudi.”
“Oh. So all this ?”
“Is to protect your modesty.” comes the usual answer.
A long and rather tiring flight and then taxi ride later later, Alisha at last meets Soraya in person at her home.
“I see you’ve dressed the part.” Soraya grins.
“I have to with your father here, don’t I ?”
“From what I’ve heard you wear this even in front of your own father.”
“I see news travels fast on the veiling grapevine.” Alisha laughs.
“Come on then, let’s get you bathed.”
Soraya leads Alisha away and at last gets to meet Alisha face to face whilst Rana cleans herself up and chats with Soraya’s mother.
“So who’s she ?” Alisha points to a poster on Soraya’s wall.
“Nobody’s totally sure but everybody calls her Fatima. She appeared on the Internet some time ago and has been a pinup all over the Middle East every since then.”
“I can see why.”
“So now you understand why it’s so hard to find a husband. They’re all after her !”
“Oh I doubt that. Everybody lusts after our fashion models but few men would want to be married to them, it would be far too much hassle and grief.”
“Yeah. But here men assume she would do what they say.”
“Now that is being delusional !” Alisha laughs, “So who are they ?”
“The burqa band.”
“Who are they ?”
“Some Afghan girls who put a couple of songs together for a German visitor there.”
“What are the songs like ?”
“I don’t know. But they risked being shot to do it. That’s good enough for me.”
“I suppose it is. And what’s this one ?”
“Oh that’s just to annoy father. I tell him if he let me dress like that I’d find a husband easily.”
“Would you want a husband like that ?” Alisha giggles.
“And not a veil in sight.”
“She’s got a small one on.”
“That hardly counts.”
“I suppose not. I assume she’s American. Don’t they do that sort of thing there ?”
“Uh … I suppose they might. Grandma looks impressed anyway.”
“Wouldn’t you if your granddaughter had a bottom like that ?”
“Uh.” Alisha is lost for words even though she is sure her own is better than that.
“Actually she’s probably suggesting they sew the tops of her stockings together.”
“I see bondage is alive and well in the Middle East.” Alisha laughs.
“Of course. We invented it.”
“Oh … I thought that was the French.”
“No way. We were tying up women for erotic pleasure when they were still living in mud huts fighting the Romans.”
“But I assume you won’t be showing your bottom at your wedding ?”
“Well not uncovered. But it is the centre of attention at one point.”
Alisha then explains about the caning she is to receive.
All Soraya can say in reply is “Oh.”
As is the custom, Soraya’s father has withdrawn from the house for a few hours to give his female guests a chance to make themselves comfortable.
“You’ll need to get yourself veiled again for my father’s return.” Soraya points out, “He’ll be back in a while.”
“Yes, of course.”
“It’s alright. I will as well so you don’t feel the odd one out.”
“Now that would be unusual.” Alisha grins.
She picks out an outfit from her suitcases.
“How about this ?”
“That’s fine.” Soraya smiles, “I’ll get something similar.”
But while Soraya is gone, Alisha looks in the mirror.
“Hmm. Perhaps I should have a bit less showing ?” she adjusts the burga and slips a piece of black lace across her nose. “There, that’s better.”
Soraya returns moments later.
“Oh my. We don’t normally cover our faces that strictly here.”
“Sorry. I’ll put it back.”
“No. Don’t worry, I’ll do the same. Father will be most impressed.”
“Are you sure ?”
“Oh yeah. He’ll think you’re a very good influence on me indeed.”
A few hours later Soraya’s father returns to find Alisha and his daughter both heavily veiled under full robes, Al Shailah headscarves and Al Burga yashmaks, his wife and Rana less so in their more usual attire.
“What more beautiful pair of daughters could a man desire ?” he grins, “Your husband to be is a lucky man. Perhaps he will find a cousin for my own daughter some time ?”
“I am honoured sir. I did ask him about a cousin but he does not have one. But I am sure a jewel such as your daughter will find a husband soon.”
“You speak like one from the desert.” he laughs, “Were it not for the language you use anyway.”
“Thank you.” Alisha continues to try to make a good impression.
“Now young girls. I will retire from this house to my brother’s for a few days so that you can have some freedom. But first I need to check you are both happy with this adventure my aunt has arranged for you. It would not be to the choosing of many.”
“I am sure we will be safe sir.”
“And perhaps I will find a husband my father. I am told the king does make such arrangements for favoured servants.”
“So I have heard. Though my young sister-in-law Aysha appears content to remain there.”
“She is only nineteen father.” Soraya laughs, “She can find me a husband first !”
“Perhaps she will. You understand you must obey every word she tells you even though you are both older than her.”
“No change for me then.” Soraya laughs, referring to her own sisters.
“And you Alisha ?”
“My future niece has taken her duties in training me for this task most enthusiastically.”
“I see. Good. Do you have any questions ?”
“When do we travel there sir ?”
“In three days. Rana will of course take you. Until then please feel free to see our city. It is quite safe and you seem well tutored in protecting your modesty.”
“Thank you sir.”
“And of course Eid ul-Adha begins tomorrow so I trust you don’t mind Soraya taking you to the huge prayer meeting. I expect you haven’t been to one of those before ?”
“Oh yes please.” Alisha bubbles with excitement, “I’ve been to a large one in England last summer but I expect it’s far bigger here.”
“You must let me know how it compares. So I must depart now my daughter. I will see you again at the airport to say goodbye and I will pray you complete your task safe and well.”
“Thank you father.”
“Thank you sir.”
He leaves and Soraya and Alisha burst into giggles.
“I think he’s more scared about this than us.” Alisha remarks.
“I know. I think aunt Aysha has something of a reputation.
“What for ?”
“Herding women into her master’s bed.”
“I see. Has he many wives ?”
“He seems to have. And lots of concubines as well.”
“I was always told harems didn’t exist anymore.”
“Oh no. They still do but generally they’re kept quiet about.”
“But this one ?”
“It’s more well known. I’ve heard it’s even an option for national service over there.”
“After their schooling, boys are expected to work for two years in the armed forces. As is usual around here, girls aren’t allowed to join fighting forces and so have the option of being nurses and so on. But the South Emirate also offers a position of odalisque in the harem.”
“Oh. Do many choose that ?”
“A few. Some even decide to become concubines.”
“Can they do that ? And how is it arranged anyway ?”
“Well concubines attend the wives in his bedroom and could in theory even be lucky enough to be called upon for sex should they wish to make themselves so available. Odalisques are just base level servants like we will be. We do the dirty work and bathe and dress the wives and concubines but would never see the king, let alone his bed.”
“So how come it’s acceptable for these concubines to have sex with him as they’re not wives.”
“Well most never do but of the ones who might choose to do so, some aren’t Muslims and the rest marry him temporarily. It’s called a Mutta marriage.”
“Mutta ? Sounds a bit of a dog.” Alisha jokes.
“It is a bit. The contract specifies a length to the marriage, be it a day, a week or whatever.”
“So what do these concubines specify ?”
“If they become pregnant then forever, else until the king finds them a husband.”
“So the husband gets … uh … used goods ?”
“Well yes.” Soraya giggles, “But the king pays the dowry so the husband can therefore afford a bride he wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. It’s mostly his army officers and pilots who take this up.”
“I see. I think.”
“I’m sure we’ll both understand it better in a few months anyway.”
“So do they get many takers ?”
“So I believe.”
“Uh … why ?”
“Same reasons as Zinah had I would imagine. People wanting their daughters to have a bit more training in the ladylike arts can send them there as an odalisque. Didn’t you used to have that sort of thing in Europe ?”
“Uh … oh yes. Finishing schools. They still have a few of them, mostly in the Swiss Alps so that you can learn to ski as well I think.”
“So anybody can go there ?”
“Oh no, they’re really expensive I think.”
“Well then. The harem is free tuition with board and lodging thrown in as well. And if you don’t mind one night’s fling with the king you get a husband and your dowry thrown in for good measure.”
“Well you’re certainly making it sound a bit more attractive though being called a harem is still a bit of a negative to most I suspect.”
“Well they can hardly call it anything else. It’s there for the very reason you imagine.”
“I suppose it is.” Alisha grins, “So how many virgins does a king need ?”
“I guess we’ll be finding that out shortly.” Soraya giggles, “We’ve got to help bathe and dress each one.”