a Perfect Woman, or Not….
I was worse than any
one of you! I fell in love with a fantasy created from
the Hollywood films
of my girlhood. ("Yonda lies da castle of my faddah!")
He was exotic, with his green eyes and olive skin. He sang to me Arabic songs
and in his lovely Arabic accent, translated them with his softly trilling R's,
and answered perhaps a million of my questions about the Arabian culture every
day. We traveled the Middle East together many times. He "protected" me,
explaining endlessly and untiringly, the transactions I observed and oddities
over which I exclaimed. It was a dream, well, a nightmare, really, for both
of us. He was an Arab through and through, and though I tried, I could never
understand his reactions throughout those seemly endless years of marriage.
I was "in the dog-house" more times than not. I was told, in all
sincerity, about my shortcomings as a woman. It literally took years to convince
me that the ten-something years I had spent dancing professionally before having
met him were wanton and degrading, and I very nearly bought it. Near the end
of our eight year long marriage, I announced to a therapist, "Please help
me! I have lost my magic." She was able to help me re-locate the magic,
scrape off the rust and tarnish before it was too late. Nobody would have been
able to convince me, at that time that our liaison would never work.
in love with the fantasy that was not real. I was in love with
culture" that I saw in the movies, and worse, the romantic
versions I had read in library books during my girlhood-stories
about desert love
Would that I had also read the description of a
perfect woman by Shaykh Umar ibn Mohammad Nefzawi in his
essay concerning love written in the
1500's! My romantic conception of Arabic dance and costume stemmed
My love of Arabian arches and courtyards blossomed from my weekly attendance
at the movies shown in "The Alhambra Theater" which had opulent
plantings in the enclosed garden walls, replete with water-cascades and
walkways, and a little bridge. Tres Romantic! It had palm trees, and
in the warm Sacramento summer evenings, the hidden lighting played on
and the dancing water. Darlings, I saw it all in those green eyes!
So here, for those of
you who are about to fall, or have fallen in love with
the Arabian fantasy love and be literally carried away
by your dreams
is Shaykh Nefzawi's description. You can try it on to see if it fits.
"She must have a perfect waist, and must be plump and lusty. Her hair will
be black, her forehead wide, she will have eyebrows of Ethiopian blackness,
large eyes, with the whites in them very limpid. With cheek of perfect oval,
have an elegant nose and a graceful mouth, lips and tongue vermilion.
Her breath will be of pleasant odor, her throat long, her neck strong, her bust
belly large. Her breasts must be full and firm, her belly in good proportion,
and her navel well developed and marked. The lower part of the belly
is to be large, the vulva projecting and fleshy, from the point where the hairs
to the buttocks. The conduit must be narrow and moist, soft to the touch,
and emitting a strong heat and no bad smell. She must have the thighs and buttocks
hard, the hips large and full, a waist of fine shape, hands and feet
elegance, plump arm, and well-developed shoulders."
As if all that were not enough to convince a fine American girl of the new
millennium to forget it, he continues on:
"She speaks and laughs rarely, and never without reason. She never leaves
the house, even to see neighbors of her acquaintance. She has no women friends,
gives her confidence to nobody, and her husband is her sole reliance. She takes
nothing from anyone, excepting from her husband and her parents…She does not
try to entice people."
It continues but I think
you have the essence. Well, perhaps it is not fair
to intimate that the Sheik's image was the one I could not
meet, but it is part of the root system.
Just as the reality
of the Arabic culture could not fulfill my fantasy, I, the American blond
woman could not live up to whatever fantasy was his.
However, I saw the
the Holy land, the camels, the dancing and the touching aspects of
the Arabic culture and those experiences forever changed
understanding of the music
and the sensual movements that became my dance in the second part of
my dance career. The price was very high.
The Perfumed Garden, Shaykh
Umar ibn M. Nefzawi, Translation by Sir Richard Burton, London:
Granada, 1963. Pages 98-99.
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Story Written with Arabic Idioms; Why it is Difficult
to Translate Arabic songs into English, Story by Annonymous,
Translations and interpretations by Rima El-Mouzayen, Introduction
by Najia El-Mouzayen
“just try to read it in English and at the same time, think in Lebanese Arabic…if