I dream of “burquini”

An Australian woman in a burquini - hijab/modest dress for swimming

I’m up in the night again, a month into the visit, no way to blame the jetlag for this sleeplessness. I am thinking about the swim parade the next day, of course. M.’s brother has convinced/conned us to join them on the cement beach for the morning. I am not sure why he wants us there, but I know that these brothers share a deep bond, despite living vastly different lives and making vastly different life choices. I have grown used to the sibling rivalry exuding from big brother to second brother (M.) – these last few days, it has been in English, for my benefit, I presume.

Madras swimming trunks that are in a lot better shape than M.'s

As I twist and turn, trying to get myself back to sleep amidst the too-tangle-prone sheets, I go over yesterday’s cement beach scene in my mind. I am trying to figure out the English-language hazing of M. by his brother. It usually involves the requisite teasing about threadbare, but favorite, madras cotton swim trunks worn year after year. I am guessing that this should be an indicator that it is my duty to “retire” the madras trunks in favor of something else. “It’s too early, I think,” I say, attempting to join the fun, “for me to be retiring his swim trunks.” Kenne pops up out of nowhere, and relays this dictate “if you are meeting the family, it is not too early, in my humble opinion!”

Ladies enjoying the water in burquinis a.k.a. islamic bathing suits (from Der Spiegel)

It is only then that I realize that Kenne is now ensconced in her Islamic bathing suit, keen to leave her early Ottoman Empire attire for something more modern, something I learn to refer to as the “burquini.” After engaging in a few twirls, the plasticated fabric covering her in grey-ish lavender glory, she bids me adieu, and jumps off the tanning chair, jaunts across the cement platform and for once, screams at the top of her lungs like a Japanese fighter pilot crashing into a U.S. ship in the middle of the Pacific on a suicide mission…and she’s over, swimming in the Ege Deniz, or Aegean Sea, to her heart’s delight. “OK, I think,” I guess I am on my own now.” Hacivad clears his throat, reminding me of his presence. “Remember, dear girl, this action of Kenne’s may be the lesson – as the common people say, ‘let’s blow this popsicle stand’ and get in the water, whatever a popsicle is, I don’t know!” Hacivad stores his paper under his chartreuse parasol, strips to his pants, and heads for the water.

If the matter of the threadbare madras bathing suit is a parallel to the torture of the swim parade, I think, M. sure has elephant skin and an ego made of steel. “Perhaps,” Karagöz says from his sleepy place next to me on the air-conditioned-cool of the pillow, “perhaps you just need to buy a BURQUINI!” He jumps up at full riot stance at the mention of the Islamic bathing suit, as if he was faking sleeping. “A burquini – now that would really shock them, that would be WAY more shocking than your out-of-style bikini, second-rate pedicure and cancerous growth in your tummy story.” Giggling, I relax as fantasy images of me in a burquini on the swim parade. Slowly, the relaxed muscles around my smile assist their cousin muscles around my body to relax and ease back into sleep as Karagöz whispers: ‘ If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, on your own terms”

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11 Responses to I dream of “burquini”

  1. Alan says:

    a sneeky plot is hatching, methinks!

  2. pisisultan says:

    Hi,nice blog,in Turkey we call this outfit as hashema or odema.

  3. Liz Cameron says:


    Thank you so much for your comment! I am interested to hear these terms! I wonder if there is some regional variation in how people refer to this clothing. I have only seen”burquini” listed on street signs and only heard this clothing item referred to as a burquini when in markets, etc. I always thought it was a problematic term as it does not at all resemble the western-inhanced image of a burqua in, say, Afghanistan, etc. and has nothing to do as far as I can see with the carsaf-style of veiling in Turkey. As someone interested in Islamic feminism, I am curious to hear Fatima Mernissi’s views, for example, on this odema, hashema or burquini!

    In any case, I look forward to your future thoughts on the blog!

    Many thanks!


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  5. pisisultan says:

    Hello again.Odema or hashema words are abbreviations.The longer versions are for odema Osmanli denizci mayosu(Ottoman sailor bathing suit) for hashema hakiki sheriat mayosu(The real Sharia or Islamic bathing suit).

  6. Liz Cameron says:

    Thanks so much for the clarifications! Interesting. I am now sure that the shopkeepers were going for a short, “sexy” term to sell their hashema hakiki sheriat mayosu! I look forward to more of your comments – we will be off of the burqini topic soon!

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