And Under It All, She Was Wearing Really Sassy Leopard Print Ballet Flats

“And Under It All, She Was Wearing Really Sassy Leopard Print Ballet Flats”

We’re on an eight-day trip to Parts of Turkey As Yet Unseen, and I’ve been fighting for hours with the Internet access here at the guest house, so I’m just going to slam this thing out into the ether during my three minutes of connectivity (albeit “very low” connectivity–akin to how we feel back in the village of Ortahisar).

My husband’s parents flew in from Minnesota this week, and so we’ve come to Istanbul to meet up with them.  Here, in Istanbul, the lot of us has remembered how much we like a big city; in a way, coming here feels like re-entering the real world after floating around an extended dream.  Don’t get me wrong:  life in Ortahisar has its benefits, and it’s been providing us with more authentic experiences than we get in Days as Tourists…but for now, during these Days as Tourists, we’re just having a really good time.

Let me put it this way:  after seven weeks of Nescafe, I’m currently drinking a latte from Starbucks.  In the States, I don’t so much like the Starbucks.  But here?  After Nescafe?  Starbucks is my new boyfriend.

So, yes, we’re seeing the sights of Istanbul–yesterday, the palace of the sultans (called Topkapi Palace) and the Grand Bazaar (everybody high five me for bargaining twenty lira off the price of my new wool shawl!); and today, the spice market and the underground Byzantine cisterns.  We’ll be here until Monday night, at which point we’ll take an overnight bus to the Black Sea coast town of Amasra for a day and a half, and then we’ll head to the national capital of Ankara, which has an apparently kick-ass museum (The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).  Then we’ll head back to Cappadocia and show our new favorite places to my in-laws before they head off alone for a few days on the Aegean.

I’m about to head off for a run here.  Groom ran along The Bosphorous yesterday and saw ten whole other runners, INCLUDING A WOMAN.  So hear this, Turkey:  I’m not the only one.  There’s that other gal, too.  Stare at her, wouldya, and leave me alone?

Yesterday, at Topkapi Palace, I spent some time watching the woman in the photos below.  I’m guessing she was on her honeymoon (this palace is a hub for many Muslims, as it houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Islamic relics) as she and The Bearded Hubs were holding hands.  Don’t tell him, but I saw her hand!  I saw his wife’s hand! And it was HAWT.  She definitely seemed to be in charge in the relationship, leading him around, taking off by herself, setting the pace.

Mostly, what I noted, outside of her spirit of independence, was how perfectly the drama of her burka suited the ancient palace, with its ceremonial chambers, treasury rooms, and harem.  Her fabric flew in the wind when she walked, and her presence fit the place ever so aptly.

As she walked around, snapping photos, I couldn’t decide if having only one’s eyes exposed would set one up to take excellent photographs; essentially, a woman in a burka is always seeing the world through vision the size of a camera lens…or if having only one’s eyes exposed would make taking photos feel like yet another veil between the photographer and the world.

What do you think?  Would the camera be an extension of her usual vision–or might it feel like yet another obstacle between her and the air around her?





15 responses to “And Under It All, She Was Wearing Really Sassy Leopard Print Ballet Flats”

  1. Deborah Avatar

    All right, that's it – I'm taking you with me next time I leave home. Never had a better travel guide than you – obviously the only person who could make museums fun.

    I hooted and hawed and guffawed. And I'm so glad you're having such a great time in the Big Cities. More, more!!!

  2. Deborah Avatar

    PS Thought you might be interested in this quote from a NYTimes op-ed piece:

    'The burqa is not religious headwear; it is a physical barrier to engagement in public life adopted in a deep spirit of misogyny.'

    Feiisal G. Mohamed
    Asst prof of English
    University of Illinois

  3. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I think the camera would be freeing in some way–though I'm not sure I can quite articulate why.

    I love that quote Deborah posted.

  4. alwaysinthebackrow Avatar

    Perhaps running in the bargain shawl will keep the stares away?? And high-five for your bargaining skills (skills which I know do not come naturally to a Minnesotan).
    I hope to visit Turkey someday, and these glimpses through your eyes and your camera are so wonderful. The burqa may allow surrepticious peeking at things not otherwise allowed. Wouldn't it be interesting to see what her photos might look like from behind a burqa as well as from outside?

  5. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    There are some crazy relics in that place.

    I always felt like a burqa would both provide privacy and distance you from life.

  6. kmkat Avatar

    Have you considered running in a burka? Might cut down on the stares. Or increase them. Hard to say, really.

  7. unmitigated me Avatar
    unmitigated me

    I really hate to impose western morality on a woman in a Burka. Where I live, there is a tremendous and vital middle-eastern Muslim population. Some of the sexiest clothes I have ever seen are on women who dress "hijab" or modestly, with ONLY face and hands visible, but with some of the most gorgeous fabrics and styles, eek. I am waxing rhapsodic here. Anyway I, for one, think she doesn't look terribly oppressed, and I think she's using that camera to capture some of the beauty of Allah's creation for her scrapbook, or to post online! Want to meet some wonderful, articulate young women, some of whom wear the burka? Go here:

  8. haphazardlife Avatar

    I couldn't say about the camer, but I'd never wear a burqa. It must be incredibly uncomfortable in the heat.
    – Jazz

  9. lime Avatar

    i tend to think the camera gives her the chance to display what her vision is. the burqa is very hard for me to understand in any terms other than oppression. the only woman i've ever seen in one in person was on a hugely pregnant young mother with 3 under school age children in tow as she pushed one in a stroller on a very hot august day. her husband ambled around quite freely though.

  10. choochoo Avatar

    I'm reading 'in the land of invisible women'. It's about things like women being veiled. It's interesting.


    He saw WHOLE runners? I can't help but think that it would be more interesting if there was just bits and pieces running around.

  11. monica Avatar

    so – for your next run – just wear a burka – that'll keep 'em from staring – unless they're
    non- turks..

  12. Shrinky Avatar

    Ahhh, I could almost smell the spices in the air, reading this – what a wonderful read. You run in this heat? Wow, cudos! I cannot imagine how it must be to live my life behind a veil, but I guess the woman in the picture would probably say the same about my choice of dress. At least I do have a choice, I wonder if she does?

  13. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    that's amazing, to be able to read a couple so well when one is completely undercover. Body language says a lot though.
    I give you and your new boyfriend a year tops.

  14. Pam Avatar

    I'd probably enjoy wearing the burqa. I'm the type who enjoys a sigh of relief escaping to the privacy of the toilet away from work/parties/anything!
    Best time I had at a party was at a masked fancy dress party as an ape – all I had to do was bounce around and scratch myself, which is what I do anyway!
    Plus,the relief of not having to worry about bad hair days, a "nothing to wear" dilemma or a big blind zit.Sounds great to me.
    While admiring your efforts Jocelyn,I'd use it as a perfect excuse NOT to run.

  15. Midlife Jobhunter Avatar
    Midlife Jobhunter

    I sense a touch of comfort in your post – that returning to the city and having the in-laws arrive has offered a chance to breath and recollect the good things about choosing this adventure. How great that they can come and how nice to have someone who can understand what you see as different. Sort of a regrounding.

    HAve a great time. I love the photos and the glimpse of what you see.

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