ad 4 Fahtiem

Gilded Serpent presents...
Rhea's Travel to Syria .
Part 5 -Sex and the Single Girl
The Trials and Travails of a Lone Female Traveler

by Rhea of Athens

Continued from Part 4

While shopping at the Souk (not an ordinary store) any male who approaches you (if you're a female of any age or appearance) and says "welcome", "where are you from?", "do you like Syria?", "sit down", "do you want tea?" wants two things.  The first is to take your money for his goods at inflated prices, while telling you that everything is hand made and, if it's his jewelry, hand made by him. 

The second is to have a liaison with you, the end result being carnal knowledge which you will be fortunate to participate in, as he is the lover of all lovers and only deigns to dip his member in the most exclusive pools.

I remember the Nubian horse and cart driver taking me around Aswan after agreeing on 10 Egypt pounds for one hour.  He would try to take me by his friend's shops, stop and offer me a coke (you will be offered and then he will demand you pay if you drink it) and try various other ruses.  When nothing worked and we had exhausted our conversational gambits (are you married, children, jobs, etc.) he turned to me with a broad grin full of broken teeth and informed me he had two wives and that he was too much for the both of them, but if I played my cards right, or even wrong, I too could experience this seething cauldron of untrammeled manliness. 

As hard as it was to restrain myself, I gave him the stock answer I had taken to in desperation, weariness and self-defense.  "10 pounds, one hour, no stopping, no talking."

In hindsight, the best thing to do is point to your throat and grimace and cough, meaning it is painful to talk.  It's better to have some Lozenges in your hand so that he won't try to take you to his friend's pharmacy.  He will anyway, as his friends medicine, like his own member, is superior but he will give up quicker and just drive away.

When I was in Damascus, I discovered two lovely restaurants with live music, dervishes, etc.  I had gone to the first one and the waiter spoke excellent rapid fire English.  The following night I went to the other, relatively close by the first.  I played my cymbals, Bendir and a little Darboka with the two musicians. 

One of the musicians doubled as a dervish and removed his Galibiyait to reveal his dervish clothes and put on his Sufi hat to dance.  When he was through, I danced. 

The Palestinian tourists went wild asking me where I was from.  "Greece." "But ow can you dance like zis?" "I live close to Turkey" I said, not wanting to go into how the American style effectively combines all styles.  I never said I am American while traveling in the Middle East.  Not from fear, although you never know, but the nuisance factor, unless you like having inane conversations with opinionated nitwits or even well-meaning nitwits.

"But your dance has many different countries in it." Now you can have a conversation. 

Everyone took photos of me and with me.  One little girl put on my cymbals and we posed together for her mother.  They were from Nablus

At the end, as I left to go to the other restaurant I turned to find that the musician dervish was with me.  "Where you go now? You like tea?" Unless you would like to have carnal knowledge with this guy, don't go.  It's as simple as that.  "No, thank you.  I go now to Effel.." "To dance?" "Yes, and play my cymbals with the orchestra." The previous night I had been invited to the stage and offered a seat and microphone and played as a comedian plied his trade.  Of course, I became his foil as he told everyone I was from Greece (everyone is shouting "Younani, Younani" and giving me the thumbs up with big smiles.  Believe me, it would have put a damper on the party if I said I was from America).  He kissed my hand and we left the stage together at the end of his act as it was now the turn of the handsome singer and they rarely want competition.

"I come with you?" Hmm.  What to say, to say no after having shared those musical moments seems crass.  Still I know this end desire. "We go for tea?"  Now I have him.  It's a minimum of 300 SP ($6) and for sure he is only interested in an easy lay.  "Okay" I say "Tea" and he follows me in. 

Once inside I see that many of the same people are there as last night and they begin shouting "Younani, Younani" and make finger cymbal playing motions with their hands. 

The guy looks a little overwhelmed and retreats downstairs.  "Good," I think "Now I've lost him."  But where is my English speaking waiter from last night?  He is located and places me in an elevated level close to yet another Palestinian family.

I tell him about the guy and he tells me not to worry.  Another waiter comes to me and is cheeky, so I ask for the other guy.  Off he goes and who should show up as "the other guy" but the dervish musician, apparently having waiting downstairs to see who I will choose to have carnal knowledge with.  "No, no.  Not him.  The other waiter." 

He leaves crest-fallen, his expectant smile slipping down to his chest, to be replaced by my first waiter, who now, unbeknownst to me, thinks it is HE that I have "chosen".

"He left."  He tells me reassuringly.  "But don't dance.  The boss is angry."  Completely perplexed, I agree but soon the musicians are inviting me to the stage and the audience urging me to dance so I say "what the hell" and go for it.  It is only in the final denoument that I realize that the waiter is the one who didn't want me to dance as no casual carnal knowledge sharer of his is going to disgrace herself on stage with this sharmouta (Arabic for prostitute) dance. 

I sit down to satisfied smiles and applause and receive the sweets, fruit and tea that your 300 SP entitles you to.  400 would be the whole menu - what I had plus food aplenty. 

The Palestinian family spokeswoman, the grandmother, takes me around and introduces me to other tables where everyone seems to know her. 

I am invited to dance a little at every table and finally return to my seat.  The grandmother stuffs all the leftover fruit and sweets into her capacious bag and seeing, that I didn't eat mine and smilingly admiring my semi-slim figure, asks if she can have mine.  "No problem."  And off they all go, smiling and waving, each one stopping at my table to say goodbye, down to the children.

Up comes my waiter and invites me to go to a disco.  "No, thank you. I go now to my hotel." "I take you?" "No, I go alone." "What hotel?" "I can find it." I don't want to go from the frying pan into the fire.  He disappears.  I prepare to leave.  He is downstairs, waiting outside the door.  "We go to the disco?" Oh Boy!  Now I am curt.  The Souk is empty and dark and I don't want anyone following me.  It's not the safety issue. 

It's the annoyance factor.  I have only mastered the teasing bantering with Middle Eastern men when I want to work somewhere and only with the top dog or the guy who pays me. 

I know many women who dance because of the male attention.  As a cute little girl I was a warrior princess, disdaining any and all male attention.  If a boy asked to be my boyfriend I would tell him he would have to beat me in a fight and I never lost a fight till I was 14.  I could take on 5 or 6 boys at once and the teenage boys used to set me up in fights and bet on me, like a fighting rooster.

My curtness deflated him and he left.  Another man follows me later closer to my hotel and I try the usual diversionary tactics: walking not on the sidewalks but on the road, crossing from one side to another, nothing works.  At the last lonely stretch, I see two men approaching. 

I scream at him.  He scurries off.  They raise their hands questioningly. 

Not to ask what happened.  Maybe I prefer one of them.  That can be the only reason a woman alone rejects a man in the Middle East.  She wants another, because if she didn't want to be bothered by a man she wouldn't go out alone.  If she didn't have her brother, father, husband, etc. with her, she takes a taxi.

In fact, if you are unaccompanied by a man in the Middle East (not in major hotels usually but don't count on it) but are alone or with a group of women, you must know that whatever your stated purpose for visiting their country - tourism, shopping, business, a kidney transplant - you are there to find a man.  Once you have found him, to ---- him, because you don't need a man to protect you financially.  That is obvious.  You only want sex and, for some reason are unsatisfied with what you have found so far, or want a change.  Otherwise you wouldn't want be unaccompanied. 

Because if you have a man, he will NEVER let you go out alone

(except with a bunch of women covered up with head scarves, etc. all holding tightly to each other and adverting their eyes or giggling).  And if he does, he doesn't care about you and that's why you are looking. 

I have heard the most elaborate stories that seem to have nothing to do with this carnal end result.  After hearing the stories, you wonder why the guy doesn't write a book or a screenplay.  The Egyptians are best at this and you wonder why all that creative energy doesn't find some less carnal purpose.  Perhaps it's a combination of the natural romantic poet inside the Egyptian combined with the restrictive access to available females. 

It's said that the Egyptians write, the Lebanese publish and the Iraqis read. 

So it must be the writing instinct in its oral expression.  

Now you might ask - well Rhea, if you know all this why subject yourself to it?  When I was little, I wanted adventure.

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Ready for more?

5-10-06 Rhea’s Travel to Syria,Part 4 – Damascus
12-4-04 Rhea’s Travel to Syria, Part 3– Surrounded by Men in the Airport
10-1-04 Rhea’s Travel to Syria, Part 2 – The Airport Nightmare
8-25-04 Rhea's Travels to Syria, Part 1 - The Delusion is Shattered

12-2-04 My Vision of the Desert Archidance by Piper Reid Hunt, Ph.D.
I had heard about trance dancing before, but had never seen it in an authentic context.

7-31-06 From the Land Down-under, Part I: The Festival by Trisnasari of Melbourne, Australia
In the wings, before we hit the festival stage, Andrea whispered to Mel and I, “Well, this is our first international performance!”

7-25-06 Freedom From Choreography: A Lucy Report by Nisima
Lucy certainly did “Free me”! ...

7-20-06 About Cymbals & a Workshop Checklist, Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 13 by Mary Ellen Donald
Believe it or not, playing cymbals can be a real pleasure. Playing them well can greatly enhance your dance performance. Playing apologetic or offbeat cymbals can ruin your dance performance.

7-5-06 Sheikka Rimitti, Queen of the Rai by Linda Grondahl
Unlike most of the music that we are familiar with from the Middle East that are usually unrequited love songs or patriotic love of country songs, the rai songs are about drinking, suicide, suffering, colonialism, poverty, exile, homesickness, corruption and the passion and pain of actual love making.

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