Konya, Turkey. One of the most conservative cities in the country. But for me, one of the most fascinating. In a high plain where I can imagine winter winds sweep cold and unimpeded, the place is a pilgrimage spot for the faithful. I forget who is buried in the tombs in the huge mosque complex, but he is revered today by more than just the Muslims. Again I forget the ancient draw to him and this place.
What I do remember is a pair of young women sitting in the vast plaza in front of the complex. A mosque to one side, the tombs on the other. On the other two sides, Konya’s shiny new turquoise and yellow trams pass silently and continuously. The pair, sitting close, one with her head covered, the other with long hair free to blow in the wind. They are bent slightly toward each other, slightly slumped in a natural posture of relaxation. Men pass, mostly men, but the women’s quiet conversation continues. Two kids, four or five years old, ride around them on pink bikes, shrieking with laughter while their mother head-to-toe in black watches.
And the young women continue to talk. What do they say to each other. What are their dreams. I had eaten dinner the night before in a restaurant where the banquet area held a long table of all women, at least twenty. Again, many with covered hair, all wearing business attire. But two who stood out dressed as if they’d stepped off a plane from Milan. They looked uncomfortable but the more conservative in the group seemed to ignore their rather extreme choices for the evening. But as the meal came to an end and the table fell into natural groups of 2 or 3, the high fashion women were left to talk among themselves.
Who were these women? Konya is a prosperous city. A dry city. I’d never been to a place where restaurants served no alcohol. And where most of the women covered themselves completely or nearly.
But what about the few who didn’t. No one stared at me, dressed in pants and long sleeves. What do they think of their own who choose another way? I have no idea. I watch and wonder and wish someone could tell me. That’s what makes me want to go to the odd places of the world.