Here’s a final piece from Charles Glass’s ‘Tribes with Flags’, here on female modesty in public.
“We had stayed at the worst hotel in Lebanon, the only beach-front hotel in the world without a single window facing the sea. Much of the old laisser-faire ambience of Tyre, with its mixed Shiite, christian and Palestinian population, had faded after it became a mini-Islamic Republic. amal, bowing to Hizbollah pressure, had banned the sale of alcohol, and only a few restaurants dared to serve whiskey- and that in teacups. amal had also forbidden girls to wear swimsuits on the beach, lest they provoke impure thoughts in the men. the women, whether intentionally or not, had turned the tables on their men: their wet cotton dresses revealed more, sticking to their skin, than their bathing costumes ever had. I would go swimming in the afternoons and see them frolicking in the waves in their transparent clothes, sexy but nonetheless conforming to Tyre’s new religious code of modesty. Some months later, in the library of the Trvelers’ Club in London, I came across a similar instnce of the apparently wanton behaviour of the women of Tyre in the Abbe Mariti’s 1791 Travels through Cyprus, syria, and Palestine. The Italian abbot, who admitted he was not “insensible to female charms”, had arrived at a hill ner Tyre with a party of Europeans.
…we perceived at a small distance, a group of Arab women on the brink of a rivulet, in which some of them were washing their clothes, and others bathing; but they were all perfectly naked. This spectacle produced such a sudden effect on one of the French gentlemen as plainly shewed that he was of a very warm temperament. He wished immediatley to descend the hill, in order, as he said, to observe these people a little closer. Knowing better than my companion the disposition of the Orientals, I pointed out the dangers to which he was going to expose himself, either from the women themselves, or the Arabs that hem might meet; but all my remonstances were ineffectual; for he was determined to gratify his curiosity, even at the hazard of his life.
…Our companion was then no longer able to contain himself; he stamped the earth with his foot, cursed his bad fortune that he had not at least brought a spy-glass with him, and even reproached nature with having placed such a distance beween the hill and the rivulet.
…. In short, he burst from the cottage with so much velocity, that he had reached the borders of the rivulet before we well knew of his departure.
I was much surprised to see all the women come forth from the water, and, advancing toward him naked as they were, invite him to take a place amongst them. Our French friend then redoubled his compliments, and employed the most expressive signs to shew his gratitude. He was eagerly received, and almost immediately surrounded by a circle of these females; but their caresses were only a snare to enable them to punish his presumption. wome ae avery where treacherous. these Arabs attacked him all at once, some tearing his hair, whilst others mauled him with their fists; and I am persuaded that he would have fallen a victim to their fury, had not his courage delivered him from their hands. He afterwards avoided, as well he could, a shower of stones discharged after him; some of which, notwithstanding his activity, were not without effect.”