One day during our visit to Istanbul, as my husband and I headed toward the main city to do touristy things like exploiting the locals and gawk at the grandeur of the local attractions, my husband and I stopped by a stunning, centuries-old mosque just minutes away from our hotel to pray our afternoon prayers.
[bctt tweet=”I started to feel uneasy the minute we walked through the archaic stone archway.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I started to feel uneasy the minute we walked through the archaic stone archway into the mosque’s main courtyard. Going to unfamiliar mosques for a Muslim woman can be quite an unpleasant experience. The question of “how okay with female visibility is this mosque?” and a subset of other maddening thoughts enter our minds right on cue. Will I see signs with a giant, red X over a silhouette of a woman who is dressed like me? If I asked them where the bathroom is, would they consider that immodest? Forget it. I’ll just hold it. I hope I find the women’s entrance quickly. Will there be a mass panic at my accidental entering through the main entrance? Will the male worshippers try to frantically redirect me to the women’s entrance before the scent of my female pheromones taints the main entrance and their prayers become invalid for 3 straight days?*
I hope I find the women’s entrance quickly. Will there be a mass panic at my accidental entering through the main entrance? Will the male worshippers try to frantically redirect me to the women’s entrance before the scent of my female pheromones taints the main entrance and their prayers become invalid for 3 straight days?*
I gripped my husband’s hand as we entered the old mosque’s courtyard. Because I was with him, I knew I had a free pass to make a mistake. He was my ticket out of humiliation.
Although the mosque’s main entrance, adorned with gorgeous, gold Arabic calligraphy at the top and fantastic carved wooden doors, was left of the courtyard, I couldn’t simply walk in. That would be too…simple. Too convenient. Too humanizing. So we looked around for people we could ask for discreet directions to the women’s entrance.
[bctt tweet=”Going to unfamiliar mosques for a Muslim woman can be an unpleasant experience. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
We asked a few teenage boys playing soccer in the courtyard for the direction to the women’s entrance. They only spoke Turkish (how dare they!), so we delved into a game of charades.
My husband pointed at me. I pointed at my scarf. I yelled the word WO-MAN, as if that would help translate. Finally, I made a praying gesture and the man nodded knowingly.
He led us to the spectacular main entrance and pointed toward it.
That’s why those poor, practical-minded, fantastic guys were so confused. The main entrance was the women’s entrance.
For the first time in my life, I entered a mosque to pray through the same entrance as the men.
I wasn’t tucked away into a corner, behind a pillar to whisper my prayers and absorb my shame of being alive. Instead, I saw what they saw when they entered.
Stunning floral tiling lining the walls of the mosque that made me proud of my faith, too. Lanterns with intricate calligraphy displaying words and phrases from the Quran that I knew, too. Stained glass windows decorated with designs of symmetrical and geometric shapes that I could appreciate, too.
[bctt tweet=”The main entrance was the women’s entrance.” username=”wearethetempest”]
My husband and I prayed together and after the prayer, we sat on the mosque carpet and marveled together at the intricate beauty of the mosque that we could both see, touch, and belong in.