On the off-chance that the weather is nice for two consecutive hours some day in August, offering the opportunity to flaunt a new bikini, fitness fanatics around Ireland are longing for the weather to improve so they can take to the roads and walkways of our rain-stricken land to tone up and slim down. On the flip side, over in this part of the world, the weather is heating up to unbearable measures, taking all the activity indoors. Today the temperature was recorded at 43° c in Abu Dhabi and humidity at 30% and rising. Just weeks ago, neighbours could be seen passing by having a leisurely stroll with the dog or walking the pushchair but these days only tumbleweed can be seen, billowing down the sandy tracks, hitting the grounds in spots, with only the toughest of roadrunners, brave enough to face the elements.
Happy to take the cue I took my efforts along with my ass-ics indoors, and ironically, I enrolled in a “Hot Yoga” class. True to past form, I arrived early on the first night. (Historically this roughly gets five minutes later each week, before grinding to a complete halt before the final lesson). Queuing up outside the community room which overlooked the swimming pools and sun-lounging area, I looked forward to the view as I took part in the Yoga class. Slowly the crowd began to gather outside the door of the hall, they came in twos and threes all Arab women in traditional Abaya and Hijab. I double-checked the schedule to make sure that I had the right night because standing there in my lime green tankini and matching figure hugging running leggings, I stood out like a sore thumb among the sea of black which surrounded me.
“O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, to cover themselves with a loose garment. They will thus be recognised and no harm will come to them” were the words from the Prophet Allah in the Qur’an that inspired the most modest dress of the devout Muslim women. The words I would have chosen to take metaphorically. The rationale behind the dress is for women to be seen as people not as sex objects to be lusted after. He also spoke, “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments”, looking down past my tanned ample bosoms at my new luminous asics running shoes, I resolved that if my future lay in Allah’s hands, I was well and truly doomed.
Suddenly the lady in charge of the hall emerged saying that there was a delay and that the hall would be ready in ten minutes. I noticed the roll of black refuse bags in one hand and the thick roll masking tape and scissors in the other. I didn’t know what kind of cult ceremony was going on but it certainly didn’t seem to be Yoga. The sight of the masking tape brought me back to my twenties and the roll of the black bags piqued my curiosity. Adventure overcame fear when I decided that I would, if I was permitted, go inside.
Inside I saw two breathless young Thai girls finishing their work of taping the black refuse bags to the windows. I inquired as to what was happening and heard the thunk of my disappointment as it fell to the floor, when she replied, “We cover all windows for ladies, in case a man from pool area can see inside”. This was going to be workout without the distraction. Door firmly shut behind us, the Abaya clad women, dropped their garments and each one wearing a more figure hugging, colourful, gym rig-out than the next. Not party to the fairer sex but always appreciative of beauty, these sheltered flowers sported a mean downward dog and weren’t backward about coming forward when it came to some of the provocative stretches. When the sign said “Hot Yoga” I didn’t think they meant this! Then it came to me, maybe they were just doing Yoga. Is the exploitative conditioning apparent in the western world today making us pre-occupied with sexuality? Maybe more of us could do with a spell in the Abaya.