During her stay at Siwa in Egypt, the author learns that homosexual marriages existed in the Siwa oasis till King Fouad banned them in 1928. This was because before marriage, Siwan women were totally off limits, so historically man turned to each other for sex, ?switching to women after marriage?.
The author meets Ali Wazir who tells her that he used to be a ?magician? casting magic spells. He reveals that relatives have to sleep in graveyards for at least three days after a person dies to make sure that ?practitioners of ?bad magic? (usually women) do not rob the graves of body parts.?
On a tour of Malindi, the author reaches an old mansion called Jumba la Buri or free house which was once owned by a wealthy Indian family. Now it lies in ruins. A woman is seen bathing her toddler in a large plastic bowl, perilously close to the orifice. Behind her stands an unusual-looking bed made of woven ropes and propped up against a wall. The author learns that the bed is meant for washing bodies and on being asked why it was kept in the house, the nonchalant reply is, ?With so many living in one place, people are bound to die every so often.?
This book is like undertaking a journey into an unknown world?a world which despite the communication revolution is vastly hidden from our vision. Without an agenda or any expectations the author, Tamalyn Dallal sets out to experience the fine Islamic culture for 40 days each and has an adventurous life which gives her a new perspective on a wide expanse of land of which we have heard much but know very little about.
(Jaico Books, 121 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai-400 001.)