#Istanbul part 1

How ended up here is is rather miraculous or perhaps just a saga of the modern worlds technology and the power to connect.

In the past I have joked about being careful to whom you say hello to , as you can never be sure where that “Hello “ will take you. That used to happen to me on dance floors,  where I  met some of the most important people in my life in the 80’s and 90s. In the ot’s the dance floor for me it appears has been replaced by Twitter.

In the last few years I started to use Twitter as a tool to connect with the world rather than a mere “ Social Media” outlet .  I have met some remarkable women from around the world and slowly I have been meeting these women in person for tea,  phone conversation and now I have traveled to Turkey to meet Meltem Arikin @MeltemArikan
a Turkish Novelist, Playwright and Columnist.

I arrived two days ago November 30th for the purpose to attend the World Premiere of her latest play #MiMinor , a humorous political satire of a deMOCKracy that is a multi media event that uses “Social Media” as an roll playing game where digital actors have been invited to participate and I am now one of them.

I will share more about Meltem later, now I want to share about my journey here. It unfolded rather quickly an impulsive decision, but them some of my best adventures have been born of my impulsive nature. The flight was 16.5 hours with a layover in Schiphol airport. I love landing in Denmark or Amsterdam as they are hubs to world travelers and I always enjoy the people watching, so lay overs are a perk not an inconvenience to me. Schiphol is quite modern with a library , “museum” more of a trumped up gift shop, fake fireplaces, spa including those horrid fish pedicures , a playground for children and a grand piano for the enjoyment of more musically inclined travelers.

I really had no idea what to expect of Turkey and Istanbul. I had a window seat on the plane so I could take in the aerial view on the approach. Istanbul rather reminds me of Los Angeles and San Diego flying in . Istanbul is sprawled out over rolling hills and houses and apartment buildings are plunked down in and around the hills,  it’s quite an impressive spread. I spotted several cargo ships and fishing boats dotting the Black Sea,  all very familiar for someone who has lived in several cities by oceans , seas and harbors. So the first impression is familiarity , and that familiarity includes copious amounts of rain.  I was expecting Turkey to feel more foreign,  but I feel curiously at home here despite the inability to readily communicate with most people, very little English is spoken here.

The architecture is a balance of the east and west,  the modern and the ancient and the modern is a modern I know, where as the ancient holds the keys to the mysterious other and that is what I  really want to dive into.

Immigrations was very fascinating as it displayed the multi diverse culture clash of Istanbul. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists all collided here as we weaved back in forth in the line to passport control . Out of the corner of my eye I saw the profile of an older women who looked like she was wearing a big fake mustache and I giggled to myself. As my focus pulled back I realized she was shrouded in black and and I thought to myself  “wow I had no idea Muslim women have such sense of humor”  then is dawned on me that she was wearing some sort of traditional adornment and the mustache was more of face armor that concealed her mouth and part of her nose. I became more an more intrigued and was eager for every glimpse I could steal as we continued to cross paths on our journey forward. Mind you I was not blatantly staring her down but discreetly taking her in.

Traffic in Istanbul it terrible and that is saying something considering where I have lived and traveled to. The distance I traveled should have been 25 minutes max, it took almost 1.5 hours to get the the theater where my new Turkish friends were doing a tech rehearsal. I asked some of my new friends about this mysterious woman I had seen and if anyone knew what she was wearing and no one did.

I get on my computer to let my daughter and friends know I have arrived safely and I decide to check in on the Twitterverse and oddly enough or perhaps it is synchronicity at play , the first tweet I see is a post by @Khawlalmarri  Khawala Al-Marri “Documenting Middle Eastern culture through Contemporary Art and Design projects and research who lives between Dubai and London”  and tweets about art.

This image popped up


It was the woman I had seen at the airport,  well …. except the woman at the airport was alive not a skeleton, so not the woman but the mask i.e  the face adornment I had seen. I immediately started asking questions. It is the work of @Saeedkhalifa Saeed Khalifa “Emarati artist & Surrealist (resident dark artist)” .

Saeed , Khawala and I have a conversation about this image and they answer all my questions. The gold face adornment is a Burqa , I had always thought a Burqa was the long fabric gown that Muslim women wear. The clothing is a Niquab or Hijab. Sometimes the Burqa is made of fabric and more modern version but older women wear the old style made of gold or metals probably depending on the families affluence I would assume. I guess I should ask Saeed or Khawala about that.  The Burqa and hand adornment belonged to Saeeds grandmother who recently passed away and he misses her very much and clearly adored her from the brief conversation we had about this image .  “ her death is something i can never get over. I wanted to glorify what she passed on to us by the gold hand”  Saeed is clearly is reverential of his dear grandmother and from his point of view about the burqa seem to come from a creative and artistic point of view “quite fascinating that simple lines would completely change the identity. Gorgeous.”  Which makes me think again about the power of anonymity and the obstruction of the face the power and possible subjugation that it can have, but that is my point of view.

So, I google Naqib and my search contradicts what Saeed said only further confusing me on the understanding of and definitions of Niqab , also called a Ruband in Iran… Burqa , Hijab, Help!  Is a Burqa metal and Niqab the same only differentiated  by metals or fabric?

The definitions I found :
Hijab ~ I found it curious that in this definition of Hijab that the metaphysical definition refers to “the veil which separates man or the world from God.” which of course I take as the separation of men from the world of Goddesses .

Practical Niqab (part1) ~ A western woman shares her experiences and choice to wear a Niqab and the different styles.

Question : Is this cultural appropriation ? Are western women fetishizing these traditional garments or is this a religious choice?

Niqab Tutorial: Desert Rose ~ Not sure what the nationality of this woman is.




I rather enjoyed this article ” A Saudi Woman Embarks on a ‘Faceless Experiment’ , actually my favorite from this search, written by a Saudi Blogger Rana Jarbou @rjarbouabou her experiment in wearing a Niqab , that I found on PRI’s THE WORLD.

The recorded interview with her is fantastic and very much addressed some of my on going questions about the power of anonymity. This interview further helped me understand the definitions of Niqab and Hjib .

I seem to have gone on a tangent but perhaps this is a glimpse into how my brain travels and where my curiosities take me.


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