in force the trojan horse
BIKINI JIHAD IN PAMUKKALE (TURKEY)
ROBERT J. LEWIS
We all meet our destiny
on the road we take to avoid it.
which translates into cotton castle, is one of the natural wonders
of the world and is a recognized World Heritage Site. The extraordinarily
beautiful and blinding salt and calcium cliff formations include
exquisite terraces, basins and travertine pools formed over
millions of years by saline water deposits.
has become a favorite tourist attraction for especially eastern
Europeans (Russians, Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians and former
arrive by the busload, and at the lower entrance they remove
their shoes (obligatory) and most of their clothing (not obligatory),
and begin one of the most pleasurable and delightful ascents
on the planet. The feet, enjoying the reassuring grip of the
vermiculate-grooved, crusty (lapidified) surface, seem to float
over even the steepest sections while warm thermal water washes
over the body’s most neglected appendage. Along the way
up are knee-deep turquoise pools into which the bikini clad
submerge themselves and come out dripping wet and glistening
in the hot sun. The leisurely and thoroughly sensual climb terminates
in a modern, fully equipped spa where eco-friendly run off from
the plateau has been converted into a collection of inter-connected
pools shaded by palm tree, leaf and frond. And if all this weren’t
enough, just behind the spa are the spectacular ruins and amphitheater
the first time ever in human history, fifty percent of all people
live in cities, but especially for newcomers, city dwelling
is not a first choice but a necessity, a means to making ends
meet. This is no less true for Istanbulers and Ankarans than
other city people. Well aware that steel and concrete do not
answer to the basic human need to be in direct contact with
nature, and that Pamukkale is superbly disposed to answer those
needs, the authorities, in the 1960s, decided to restore the
site to its former pristine state by removing all the hotels
and shops that were threatening to desecrate the area. With
the water temperature at constant 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit),
tourist revenue is a 365 day/year proposition no government
the visionary reforms of Ataturk in 1923, the founder of the
modern, secular Republic of Turkey, the country remains religious
and its people, for the most part, are practicing Muslims. In
the rural areas and small towns and villages, the Mosque still
regulates life, and in the larger metropolitan areas, where
handsome apartment blocks (that put ours to shame) ring the
downtown core, the Mosque is almost always included as the centerpiece
of any new development.
to western women, Turkish women, even those who identify as
secular in their world view, are modest in their dress. Traditional
female dress consists of the tesettür, the head
scarf that resembles the hijab; the toptan pardesü,
similar to a light topcoat or kaftan cut off well below the
knees, and the salvar, the airy balloon pant. When
outside the home, even in temperatures that sometimes climb
to 40 Celsius, the older generation keeps to traditional dress
while most of the young, over jeans and high heels, continue
to wear the head scarf.
when the Eastern Babe arrives on the shores of Pamukkale, she
strips off her clothing down to a bikini, which might be a string,
insouciantly takes to the slopes in gesture of appropriation
that neither ineptitude nor asininity can account for as she
tosses both modesty and respect for local custom to the warm
winds. And when she rises, Venus-like, from one of the many
travertine pools that follow the ascent, the onlookers, some
of whom are traditionally dressed Muslim women, suddenely find
themselves in the crosshairs of bikini bottoms clinging to every
cleft and crevice, and swollen nipples and breasts pushing against
the flimsiest material. There is no looking away because the
Eastern Babe has taken over the site in what can only be described
as the bikini equivalent of Jihad, a state of affairs that must
leave a vacationing Muslim family, that might include a 14-year-old
son and 12-year-old daughter, in a state of consternation and
bewilderment. If the bikini count is a reliable indicator, the
West has already won the clash of civilizations.
government apologists, for whom monetary policy is more worthy
of attention than the directives that issue from the Mosque,
argue that what is on display in Pamukkale isn’t even
a talking point when compared to the topless and nudist beaches
in Tunisia and Morocco, to name two popular Muslim beach fronts.
You can always find another beach, they argue on the way to
unlike beaches, that number in the thousands, there is only
one Pamukkale and Muslims, many of whom have come from far,
are forced to share the same public space with hundreds of near
naked women. You would think the Eastern Babe, a guest, would
be more sensitive to the local culture and abide by house rules,
but in point of fact she is too wrapped up in her own person
and sensuality to even notice the host. From the moment she
takes to the slopes, she knows she is being made love to by
a 1001 cameras which she conveniently confuses for friendly
advice and consent.
her detached airs and sashay, it would be a mistake to compare
the Eastern Babe to the self-reliant, genuinely liberated Western
woman. Even as she strikes a pose and raises nonchalance to
an art form, she is in almost every case an extension of the
man who has her on tight leash. Her confidence, equipoise and
self-indulgence is her man’s pleasure, just as her pleasure
is to flatter his conquest and command. She comes to Pamukkale
not to indulge the site but to make it a backdrop to her vanity,
which is proxy for his vanity.
distinguishes the Eastern Babe from all other women is that
she is able to transform the trophy that she is into a virtue.
It’s a ruse that arouses both our curiosity and envy because
we’re not sure it is a ruse, and if it isn’t, is
a clutch of tourists, without the least inhibition, she’ll
stop, perch a slender arm on a cocked hip, take a deep breath
and look into the camera as if she were the last female on the
planet. The spectacle is so bold and defiant we wither before
it in admiration, and are at a loss to explain what it is that
allows her to affect such utter indifference to the commotion
she has instigated. When in motion she is in perpetual motion,
her lithe and lissome body curving, angling and bending to the
voluptuously uneven lay of the undulating terrain. Whether in
front or behind her, there is no averting the eyes because she
is everywhere, offering glimpses of what our world will look
like when cloning becomes de rigueur.
a working girl or young mother at home, in Pamukkale she is
both queen and goddess, an altar of sensuality around which
men from all the world’s religions congregate to form
a not so secret society of worshippers.
her art and innocence, the Eastern Babe has managed to undermine
an entire way of life by revealing its incommensurability with
the laws of nature. The temperatures are hotter than July, turquoise
waters beckon at every level, the weather not only begs for
the removal of all superfluous clothing but makes a strong case
that refusal is tantamount to offending the natural order.
long-legged deer paused in a stream, the Eastern Babe makes
her case in silence.
this were a mating ritual along the lines of the Italian La
Passeggiata, the Muslim woman, wrapped up like
a mummy, suffocating under the weight and wool of tradition,
would become extinct.
a day on the slopes of Pamukkale, one must wonder to what extent
the Muslim has been irreparably destabilized by the exposure.
In the days just prior to the destruction of the Twin Towers,
the 9/11 bombers did not spend their remaining hours in the
Mosque of their choice, but in strip joints, brothels and casinos;
the Koran was no match against the consolations of the West.
the Turkish authorities wanted to put an end to Bikini Jihad,
they could do it on a lira. In Saudi Arabia, for example, fearing
the effects of being exposed to western culture, guest workers
and professionals from America and Europe are routinely sequestered
in compounds where with impunity they can indulge in alcohol,
topless sunbathing and their 47% divorce rate.
2012, for the occasion of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage), a thousand
Nigerian women were sent back home packing because they weren’t
accompanied by a male guardian. No such tough love in Pamukkale.
The authorities know that a cheap flight with everything included
is something the cash-strapped Eastern Babe cannot turn down,
that outsourced bikinis and long legs are good for everyone’s
the past 25 years, in a concerted effort to gain entry to the
EU, Turkey has transformed itself into a country that now looks
and feels like Europe: its state-of-the-art autoroutes, new
cities and urban design combine aesthetics and efficiency on
a scale with which very few places on the planet can compete.
But rapid growth and modernization have burdened Turkey with
a huge national debt, on top of which it imports 90% of its
oil, which means the country is hungry for foreign currency.
For the average Muslim, for whom modesty is still an idea whose
time has not yet gone, Bikini Jihad (invasion by invitation)
is a stark reminder that the government’s first priority
is to feed its coffers, which leaves Mustafa and his brothers
caught between a thong and a hard place, between westernization
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
the slopes of Pamukkale, that nebulous zone between fantasy
and reality, a victory flag, stitched together from abandoned
bikinis, has already been hoisted, and the not so secret goal
of the West to undermine Islam from within looks more and more
inevitable with each arriving busload of tourists: Trojan Horse
foresee the day when Pamukkale will open up the site to the
night, and under the cover of darkness a Turkish Delight modeled
after Las Vegas will rise in ascendency and transform the once
pious Muslim way of being-in-the-world into its unholy opposite.