A Muttawa’s Nightmare

I just left a huge block party composed of mostly young people under 25 who were gyrating and shaking and moving to the loud, rhythmic thump-thump of electronic trance music.  No gender separation.  Girls with no scarves on their heads, no abayas, showing bare shoulders, arms, legs.  Tight jeans, spaghetti-strap tanks, tee-shirts, short skirts instead.  Boys trying to impress girls.  Girls trying to impress boys.  Loud and boistrous.  In short, a muttawa’s nightmare.

Just for that reason, I have no photos for you to see.  I don’t want anyone to get into trouble.

I love to watch kids having fun.  90% of it is just youthful energy that needs to be expended somewhere.  The 10% that might be a little less pure in its fun – well, that’s going to happen anyway.  But, these kids were having a blast.  Sure, there were plenty of women and girls there in scarves and demure clothing; but, even they and their male escorts had smiles on their faces and were laughing and close by those less bound by cultural tradition.

Every year we have a street bazaar on the compound.  The last two years they’ve brought in about 25-30 vendors selling mostly Arabic and Pakistani/Indian trinkets and wares.  One of the vendors missing this year sold some interesting Russian items.  Usually, someone is here with Chinese stuff, and they were here again this year.  There’s always one or two folks selling beautiful carpets and rugs, some of which actually may be handmade as they claim.  Unfortunately, the vendor numbers were down this year for some reason, and the selection was not nearly as good as it was the previous two years.  Maybe it was the time of the year.  Normally, the bazaar is in November, and there’s lots of Christmas stuff to be bought by Christian expatriates who want a bit of home during the holidays.

We have a longish street – about two blocks uninterrupted – and that is where they put everyone.  Although the street is pretty wide, it was jammed tonight, and it took some effort to weave through the crowd.  This was especially true around the area where the kids danced in a tightly circled group, primeval fervor normally buried beneath abayas and Wahabist laws rising to the surface in response to primitive beats present anywhere I’ve ever been.

Camels and ponies stood lazy and bored at one end of the street, waiting for this parent or that to place their kid(s) astride the saddle so they could snap a shot with their phone camera.  Two shwarma stands stood near the Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s stands.  Starbucks competed with a locally owned coffee shop for a shot at the nighttime caffeine fix; the local place seemed to be winning.  Subway offered a more healthy option, and compound tenants with an entrepreneurial bent filled in by selling hotdogs and blended fruit drinks.

A wind blew in from the surrounding desert carrying fine particles of sand that looked like fog against the mercury lamps near the end of the street.  No doubt the wind also carried the sound of the trance beat over the walls to the nearby locals.  Tonight, somewhere, a muttawa will have a very, very bad dream.

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