|The siren song of islam|
On our first night in the hotel in Izmir, I woke up at dawn to the electronic, prehistoric yell of the muezzin. I walked naked to the open window and looked out over the city with its minarettes spiking the pinkish sky. I had not been in Asia before and now felt it reverberating inside me, with a force proportional to its landmass and population size.
After half waking up my girlfriend we had almost violent sex in the nest of
crumpled, sweaty sheets on the screaming iron bed before making plans to move
on. She was a borderliner, frankly: never a dull moment and lots of fun, booze
and sex in between the fights, the midnight arguments, the break ups, the
adultery, the hysteria and the final showdown after seven months that led me to
my first attempt at unsollicited graffity art (on her house) and a night in jail
to cool off.
Turkey offered surprising experiences, erosion of prejudice and lasting memories. While I was not sure at all what it meant, seeing flocks of women in black burkhas (the total body veil that leaves open only a narrow slit for the eyes) routinely dropping in at the Istanbul McDonalds for hamburgers somehow expands your perspective on fundamentalist islam.
We also went out one night with a Turkish guy we met at his sister's hostel in Istanbul: me, him, my girlfriend and the call girl he ordered for the occasion. He was married, of course, but his wife was safely left behind in Germany. The call girl was a nice and surprisingly civilised person. Like many Turks she had lived in Germany for ten years, but recently relocated to Istanbul to avoid the mounting xenofobia over there. We could all talk to each other in German, and all stayed in his sisters hostel that night.
I felt that the guy, while basically good natured, was a typical example of someone corrupted by the culture of hypocrisy: as long as you don't get caught, it is your right as a man to do what you like. He probably felt that the gold bracelet he bought for his wife on this trip amply made up for his fornication, while God or Nature or some Holy Book entitled him to cut her throat at any hint of her doing the same.
On the other hand, another Turkish man, whose name I should not have forgotten, was one of the most cosmopolitan, sensible and agreeable persons I met while travelling. We stayed at his place for a couple of days, and hung out quite a bit at his carpet shop (and the cellar below which served as a private bar) with him and other travellers. He was one of those rare men that are attractive to women simply because he was good company and because they felt at ease with him (and other than almost all Turkish men, he shaved off his moustache). While in his forties, still every summer season more than a few tourists girls ended up in his bed.
He lived in a small house with a well kept, secluded garden. His ageing father, a devout Muslim, lived upstairs but never meddled with the busy and in his eyes probably sacrilegeous social affairs of his son. To Westerners the son would readily admit that he had lost all religious faith, which is ok there as long as you don't advertise it. 'Don't ask, don't tell' goes a long way to real tolerance. He even called me from Turkey when my relationship with miss Borderliner had exploded, I'm sure out of genuine compassion for the two of us; in fact he was the only one who did that (which says more about my handling of personal affairs than about the friends I have).