Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Anonymous Beekeepers

The beekeeper uniformWhile most of us are familiar with the practice/dress of some cultures/religions wearing a veil/burka, I don't know that we are familiar with some of the intricacies of this practice. Not that we've all given it a lot of thought. Sure, there's some thought that has gone into it, but it seems to be limited to fleeting questions like, "Good Lord, it's 90 degrees outside and she's wearing a black, cloth hood. Why?" and "Are they paying homage to a deceased beekeeper with those getups?" We don't think about how long they wear that thing and when (if ever) it comes off. You'll think about it now. I do. (It's all I've been thinking about since I learned of this.)

A 50-year-old Saudi woman asked her husband for a divorce after 30 years of marriage. Now 30 years is a long time. Being married to Beautiful eyes behind a burqasomeone for 30 years has got to seem even longer. Being married to the SAME someone for 30 years? That just seems eternity right there. And after 30 years with the same person, you have to figure that you would know the person pretty well, right? You know what they like (which is usually things their way), what they don't like (things your way), how they like things done (their way) and how they don't like things done (your way). Now, let's say that your beloved suddenly went missing one day and you needed to give a description of what they looked like to a police sketch artist (because every single digital picture of your beloved has disappeared along with them). Could you do that? Of course you could. That's because you weren't living in a village near the south western Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt and conforming to the tradition of NEVER showing your husband your face. Wait. What?

Correct. They were married for THIRTY YEARS and he NEVER saw her face. NEVER. Not once. Always the mourning beekeeper look. Every day. Day in. Day out. For THIRTY YEARS. Are you freaking kidding me?! (FLDS ladies, you're off the hook for a moment or two with this one. These folks have got you beat by a mile!)

Veil wearing women or FLDS? Hard to tell, isn't it?
And after 30 years, the husband's curiosity got the better of him and he lifted her face veil while she was sleeping. She, naturally, left the house in utter disbelief. "After all these years, he tries to commit such a big mistake," she told the Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh (in English that translates to: "Something Unpronounceable"). The husband apologized and even promised never to do it again. (I guess he figured sex with a beekeeper was better than no sex at all.) It's unclear if that was good enough for the woman. It's VERY clear that this is nuts.

Do you think that she's the only nutjob living inside of a hood BY CHOICE for the past thirty years (in a DESERT with an average temperature of "Really-Freaking-Hot degrees Fahrenheit" outside?The similarities between the burqa and the beekeeper outfit are stunning She's not. And although I said I wouldn't be surprised, I have to tell you, I am. Just a little bit.) There's Ali al-Qahtani (see above for pronunciation) whose wife wore her face veil the entire ten years they were married. At the point where he finally decided to try and take it off, she threatened to leave him! He probably went through the same line of thinking as I surmised for the fellow above and swore that he would never do it again. That was good enough. He stayed in the house and she stayed under the hood and they lived ever after. (You can't really expect it to be "happily ever after" can you?)

Then there was Hassa Al-Atibi who told his wife he was going to marry another woman if he didn't get to see her face. (Seems reasonable. Maybe a bit harsh, but reasonable.) Well, the woman thought about that and decided the best way to handle it was to have one of her friends, who had enough sense to not observe this crazy ritual, be his new wife. She said that was a better solution that showing her face. (You have to wonder what ten years underneath a hood will do the appearance. It can't be good. It certainly can't be colorful.) So rather than show her face, she opted to pawn her husband off on one of her friends. Interesting.

Imagine being married to this for thirty yearsThen there's Om Rabea Al-Gahdaray. She's 70. She has a husband and she has children. NONE of them have EVER seen her face. She claims it's a family tradition which her mother and her sisters also follow. That was apparently good enough for her husband who never tried to change it. Maybe he knew the other fellows who tried to get a quick peek at their wife's FACE and figured why bother?

I'm not so sure you can call "never showing your face to anyone" a "tradition". In my family, we had "traditions" like "No opening Christmas presents until the whole family has orange juice together standing up in the kitchen" and "Board games and card games are mandatory at all major holidays and get togethers". We never even considered "Always wear this hood" or "Embrace the ways of the beekeepers". Not once. Not even an option.

The 70 year old Om Rabea Al-Gahdaray was asked by a reporter how she could have kids without her husband ever seeing her face. (Clearly, the reporter had NO working knowledge of that process.) She claims that "Marriage is about love, not faces." Maybe it's not entirely about the faces, but come on! It's about the faces a LITTLE BIT! Right?! At least ONCE it should be about the face, shouldn't it?! What am I missing here?! Oh, that's right. THE FACE IS MISSING!

:::sigh::: OK, I'm a bit frustrated, so let's review. There are women who live in Gulf countries who adhere to the practice of wearing a veil/burqa over their face. These outfits give them the appearance of depressed beekeepers. Some adhere to a very old tradition that those who wear the veil/burqa can NEVER show their face to anyone, including their husband! The husbands don't always like it and may get a little frisky at times and try to remove the veil, but that only serves to anger the women (or whatever is really underneath the hood). Angry women wearing veils are not what you want, especially when you're the husband of one of them, so most men just let it go. This "tradition" is practiced by a small minority of the people who live in Gulf countries and is not an Islamic practice. It is, however, pretty freaking weird to never take off the hood when you were never even a beekeeper to begin with.

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