Calat Alhambra

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I cannot even begin to describe how breathtaking that Alhambra was. Many times throughout the tour I was so overwhelmed with awe and emotion that I had tears going down my face. Let me bring you into one of the many rooms in the palace, where there was detailed carvings and stucco work on the walls. In the corner, where Allah was engraved on the wall hundreds of times, were two Islamic men staring at the name and taking pictures. How defining of a moment it must be to see a 750 year old form of worship and to know that your very own brethren stood in that same spot, worshipping the same God hundreds of years ago. That thought alone is so powerful. The details in every aspect of every inch in the castle were awe-inspiring. Not one piece of wall or ceiling was left out or forgotten. How could one not be blown away by this scene. Walking through the palace and knowing that each piece of marble, every inch of the wall, was a form of worship is one experience that you will never forget.

And then we walked into the harem. This walk was different. There was a dark shift in the mood as soon as one realized that this was the place where women were at the mercy of their sexualities. How ironic the juxtaposition! How could one walk around such a place of beauty and yet feel so suffocated? Were there ever any women who enjoyed living in the harem? The details were no less amazing than other parts of the castle, but the knowledge that this was a room of oppression once darkened that experience for me. This brings us back to the ideas Mernissi talks about in Scheherazade Goes West. The West has a tendency to sexualize the harem and perceive it as a sexual playground. In the East though, the harem is not treated so lightly. People know what happened there and almost seem to sweep that part of their culture under the rug. It was quite an experience to be in the presence of such beauty and know that the floors and walls were haunted with women’s sexual exploitation.

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