qissim

 


They say the earth's primary magnetic poles are in the Arctic and Antarctica, but there are many other centres of magnetism on earth. There is a famous one in Kuwait, and it's called The Avenues. 

When I feel the car's steel hubcaps being dragged towards this particular shopping mall, I enter a world that is familiar yet different from the Western malls of my childhood. One of my biggest culture shocks to date was wandering through the lingerie qissim of certain clothing stores there. In one, I witnessed women covered from head-to-toe in black shopping for hot-pink diamante-studded sirwaal. And though there were no signs to say so, men were definitely unwelcome to walk through that particular qissim.

Though the general idea of segregation gives me the shivers, the silent segregation of al-qissim in that clothing store was thrilling. Whoever had decided that it should be like this, I could empathise wiyaa-hum. In the West where, in general, life harbours very few surprises between men and women, it was pleasing to see that a slight sense of restriction and privacy between the sexes would perhaps keep life between them, well, that bit more exciting.


Arabic
Pronounced?
English

قسم
qissim
a department
القسم
al-qissim
the department
سروال
sirwaal
underwear
سروالي
sirwaalii
my underwear
وياه
wiyaa-h
with him
وياها
wiyaa-haa
with her
وياحم
wiyaa-hum
with them