Discussing women’s swimwear at the world’s longest beach
The day’s third call for prayer was carrying over the treetops and the beach was full of holiday-makers when the young student put me on the spot. Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh may possess the longest beach in the world (75 miles or so), but the city beach itself does not attract so many foreign tourists because, I’d been informed by one man, foreign tourists all wanted to wear bikinis, which were frowned upon by locals. The lone foreigner, even glad in uncontroversial swimming garb, found himself pestered for good-natured conversation.
But I was not sure what to what to say when Fraqul, a student from Dhaka, who like me was enjoying a splash in the ocean, wanted to know about what Western women wore to the beach. ”Here in Bangladesh our women are clothed when they come to the beach,” he said, pointing to a couple of young women dressed in salwar kameez, their heads covered with scarves.
Fraqul was a friendly young man, studying for his masters in Islamic Studies at a college in the capital. He knew a thing or two about Europe, he said, because he had a nephew who lived in London. Tell me, he said, what about the women in your country – what do they wear at the beach.
I thought about launching into the issues of freedom of choice, of women’s rights and everything else. I ended up mumbling something about women in Britain wearing slightly less on the beach than those women here, hoping he would leave it there. But then he continued: “But what about Cyprus, I have heard lots of things about Cyprus.”
I was trying to formulate a response, stories of Ayia Napa decadence and excess running through my head, when I was saved. Not waiting for my answer, Fraqul suddenly remembered his friends, swimming nearby, and decided he had to leave. ”Very good meeting you,” he said with a smile. “You are welcome in my country.”
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