A Beach Vacation
Translation into English by Vulcan and Dave Potter
Version for the website ‘Tales of the Veils’ Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publication format without permission of the author.
Translated and posted by Vulcan with permission of the author.
John and Judith Smith met two months ago and have been living together ever since. As John jokingly said, ‘Every Englishman is called Smith.’
‘And every second man is called John.’ Judith laughed. They planned their vacation when they received a letter. A two-week trip to the Arab-African caliphate. They got a last minute deal with an exceptionally high discount! Judith took care of that, noting that AAK was a very strict Muslim country, but the areas designated for tourism seemed to be relaxed in every respect. Women, who otherwise had to wear a veil, were completely accepted there in European clothes.
A few days later, they flew in. The hotel assumed they were married due to the same names in their passports. The place for tourists was quite small, but there was a great beach by the sea right in front of the hotel, with a big bazaar where to buy everything, with a cafe, a restaurant and a park. Sunbathing on the beach, swimming, with the other tourists. They ate ice cream and were happy. Many locals lived here, including those who worked there. Some local women stood in the street in their black veils and talked. When Judith saw them, she had laughed at them. ‘It has to be warm under the veil and you have to sweat terribly!’
‘That’s true!’ one of them said in English. ‘But as long as you have not tried it, do not allow yourself to judge,’ said the fully veiled woman.
‘Excuse me, I did not mean to insult you, but why do you have to suffer in this black clothes? It’s so hot enough,’said Judith.
‘Come and try it!’ the woman said. With her gloved hand, she took Judith’s hand and led her into a nearby house. Judith struggled slightly at first, but then she followed the woman. She took off her clothes to change her clothes. She wore black underwear, black shoes, an abayah, hijab. She tied the niqab and flipped back two of the layers from over her eyes and then fitted the long Khimar over her head. Finally she put on black gloves.
‘You’re done! Warm, right? The sun is not shining on you yet! Now laugh, if you like the veils! ‘ said the woman as they came out into the street and the sun shone on Judith’s veil. ‘It’s really terribly hot! I can barely breathe, but I do not need sunglasses anymore. The thick veil replaces it perfectly. ‘Do you like her, John?’ she asked the man.
‘She looks great in it! I would like to buy it, but I do not have much money,’ said John.
Judith shook her head. ‘No thanks! I’ll change back before I get a heat stroke.
‘We will find a solution! How do you earn your money?’ the woman asked, ignoring Judith’s words. John said Judith works as a waitress and he is a cook. The woman, whose name was Saba, offered them to work for her father. ‘We need a good cook and we always look for waitresses.’
‘I do not think it’s easy to work here while we only have a tourist visa.’ said John.
‘No problem. The necessary papers can be provided by my father,’ said Saba. Judith felt the sweat run down her face. There was something in the conversation that bothered her. It seemed like they knew each other. But that was impossible.
‘I’d rather get my clothes back! I roast alive,’ she finally said.
‘You’ve barely wore them! I’ve been wearing my veils for ten years!’
‘Even ten minutes is a lot! Please return my clothes!’ Judith almost screamed.
‘Good, then go! Here are your clothes!’ Saba handed her her clothes in a plastic bag. Then she went back into the house and closed the door.
Judith knocked on the door. ‘Please let me in. I want to change! ‘Nobody answered. ‘You have done well again! It’s best to go back to the hotel!’ ‘And where can I change my clothes?’ ‘
At the hotel!’
‘I have to go to the hotel in a veil? Are you serious?’
‘Of course I’m serious! Where else do you want to change? In the middle of the street?’
‘Then I’ll just keep on the abayah. I’ll take off the veil and the gloves!’
‘Think of the police! With your tanned skin and black hair, they’ll think you’re a local committed to wearing the full veil everywhere!’
‘Do you know how hot it is under that black veil? How hard is it to breathe?’
‘Are we going to the hotel now? It’s only ten minutes away! Remember, you cannot walk next to me! See the women walk three paces behind their husbands!’
Judith was angry at her ‘husband’. The sweat ran into her eyes and she could barely see because of the veil. As they left, some local women came to meet them. Judith greeted them and they greeted her because she had learned so much Arabic. They met two policemen, but they did not even care about Judith’s concealment, but only greeted her ‘husband.’ ‘Well, with a veil in front of my face, we do not need to explain anything to them. So everybody here treats you like a local woman, that’s how veiled she was, just natural,’ thought Judith. She said to John, who was walking in front of her, ‘I’m thirsty! I need something to drink!’
‘You know what? We’ll have a drink here in the cafeteria. Barely sitting under an umbrella (Judith was grateful for the shadow) the waitress came. She greeted Judith in Arabic and nodded to John. She wore the same black veil as Judith, but with a badge. Judith greeted her, also in Arabic. John ordered coffee and mineral water in Arabic. The waitress left and Judith was surprised that she did not ask what she wanted. She did not ask John either. John ordered without asking, just for himself. She was ignored. They did not have to wait more than a minute for the waitress to be back. She made him the coffee, a glass and a small bottle of mineral water and Judith got a half-litre bottle of mineral water with a plastic tube. The waitress knew, without her order, what a veiled woman needed in this sweaty heat. Judith watched two veiled women at the other table drinking without lifting their veils. She loosened her khimar and lifted the niqab to put the tube in her mouth and began to drink greedily. Soon the bottle was empty and Judith felt much better. At the other table, the two women paid and stood up. They waved to Judith and disappeared. Judith waved back. She liked the way they thought of her. Somehow it seemed she had adapted to the veil. Although she was still hot and sweaty, it was not as unbearable as before.
After a few minutes on foot they entered the hotel, where Judith began to freeze in the cool, cold air after the heat outside. ‘Good morning, Mr.Smith. Good morning, Mrs.Smith‘ The receptionist greeted her.
‘How did you know I was behind the veil?’ Judith asked surprised.
‘A local woman can not enter here if she does not work here. Then you carry the sign of the hotel. You followed your husband, so you are his wife. And the director said that you will come in veil. Allow me to say that you look very well. It’s as pretty as ours.’ said the receptionist and handed John the key to her room. Judith was amazed at how the hotel manager could say she would come in a veil? Only Saba could have told him! She did not understand all that, but she liked being thought of as pretty. She looked at herself in the mirror, but all she saw was the black veil. Now that it was not so hot, the veil no longer disturbed her. Especially not because they said it was alright. They went to her room.
‘The clerk is right, you’re really pretty in that veil! You are my Arab woman! ‘ laughed John. He hugged and kissed Judith through the veil, and she hugged him with gloved hands. They stopped for several minutes and cuddled together. She was tired. She wanted to take off the veil, but she just fell onto the bed and fell asleep immediately. She was awakened by John. ‘Sleeping Beauty awaken! The dinner is here!’ Judith went into the bathroom, undressed and entered the tub. She gave herself the pleasure of bathing. She almost fell asleep in the pleasant, fragrant water. John knocked on the door: ‘Time to get dressed! Your clothes are on the bed! ‘ Judith did not know what clothes he was talking about? Then she found her clothes. As she walked into the room, she saw a pile of black clothes. ‘I will not wear the worn clothes again.’
‘They are a fresh set! Saba was here! You now have three sets just for you.’
‘How did she get here?’
‘Her father brought her! Come on, I’ll help you put them on.’
John helped her put on clothes and veils. Then she went to the mirror. ‘Look how beautiful you are! Seriously, in the end, I’m still holding out for your hand,’ he laughed, but did not cheat. Judith looked at herself in the veil and enjoyed the man behind her. What if he really asked for her hand? She has been waiting for weeks! And if he expected that she veiled herself? If that was to be the price for a marriage with John, she was ready to pay that price.
On the way to the restaurant, they met the manager. He greeted them and then escorted John to the restaurant. The veiled woman behind her said to Judith, ‘Hello Judith! I am Saba. I am glad that you are wearing the veil! Come on, I have to talk to you. She went with Judith to a small part of the restaurant where veiled women could eat without being seen. They sat down at a richly set table, and Saba began to eat, lifting her niqab lightly. Judith successfully imitated her. Then they talked.‘Judith! What do you think about John? I know you are not married, but do you want to become his wife?‘ asked the veiled woman.
‘How do you know? And of course I want to be his wife!’
‘What do you think about veils? What would you say if that was a condition for marrying him?’ Saba asked.
‘The veil is not comfortable. It is very hot. But if that was the condition of marriage, I would accept it. But why are you asking such questions?’
‘And if you have to stay here and are forced to cover yourself like local women?’
‘If I worked here, should I wear it?’
‘Of course, as John’s second wife.’
‘Do you think John is divorced?’
‘No! He already has a wife, she’s sitting here in front of you!’ said the veiled woman. Judith winced as if the chair had burned her. She was confused. ‘You are his wife?’
‘Do not worry, John likes you and wants to marry you. I met and loved him five months ago. It happened when my dad was with him. We were looking for a new cook who cooks for tourists. My father promised to help him and succeed if he married me. After a month he became a Muslim and we were married. After a month of happy marriage he had to go home, he still had his old contract. There he met you. He candidly wrote me that he loves you and wants to marry you, but it is only with a woman and he did not want to leave me. I told him to bring you here. I also did the trade letter and sent it to you. Here you could become John’s second wife. My father talks to my husband so he stays here with me. And you have to choose: A: Go home alone and forget John. B: You stay here and marry him. If you choose the second option which is what I want, you will become a Muslim and live here according to our strict rules. Of course, wearing a veil, but now it’s your turn. You said that if you could become John’s wife, the veil would not be an obstacle,’ said Saba, grabbing Judith’s gloved hands. The thoughts in Judith’s head were jumbled. What was to do? She gasped under the thick veil and came to rest only slowly. She wanted to stay here.
‘You have made the right decision! We’ll get along well,’ Saba said, sitting down next to her. They knocked on the door. John opened it and he looked questioningly at the two hooded women. ‘Judith wants to be your wife, and she will stay here with us,’ said Saba. ‘Many thanks! Come in! I promise you both will get a good husband, you will not be short of anything and I will treat you the same. Dad! Please call the imam. There is somebody who wants to take the Shahada!’ said John, hugging the two veiled women. The father introduced a bearded man who started the ceremony immediately. Judith had mixed feelings. On the one hand, she had achieved what she wanted. John will marry her! But she never thought that she would become the second wife of a Muslim and would wear veils for the rest of her life.