Many people here would like to walk for exercise but, the lack of sidewalks can make this unpleasant. Some neighborhoods also lack sewers and there is sewage leaking from overflowing septic tanks into the sidewalk-less streets. Also, walking on the road can turn you into a moving target for this country’s unskilled drivers. Only recently has the city begun to create actual sidewalks on some main drags.
The first place to get a nice new brick sidewalk was the city hall building (Al-Baladiyya). It is very wide and completely encircles city hall and its surrounding greenery. There isn’t any houses close by, only the maternity hospital and a big post office building. People began to flock to the new sidewalk, which resembles a track, to get their daily exercise. It’s popular because of its nice wide circular shape, nice green scenery, its central location, it provides a measurable distance for the walkers, and it’s just become a “thing” to do.
Pregnant women, fresh from seeing a doctor at the maternity hospital, would go walking/waddling there to bring on or progress labor. Other women, who work at some of the neighboring hospitals, also started going there and would walk while chatting with their friends after their shifts. Some men, in full jogging gear, also began going there, weaving around the slowly walking abaya-clad women. More and more people came to walk and it wasn’t long before the young men of the town caught wind of this new place to go and potentially meet women on the move.
Recognizing the “danger” posed by all this gender mixing, the people inside city hall came up with a rule to help curb potential flirting. The rule was; anyone walking around city hall has to walk in a clockwise direction. This would help to keep men from “bumping” into oncoming women or vice versa. It would also curb any flirty looks at oncoming walkers. So, the walking continued, in a more orderly fashion.
One can come any day after ‘Asr prayer and see the clockwise walking continue right into the night. There’s usually a girl/boy order to the walking: a gaggle of girls immediately preceeding a flock of flirters in freshly ironed thobes and starched ghutras…yeah, they’re there to exercise...sure.
One determined young man decided to use his education to convince the government officials of their folly in deciding to keep everyone moving in a clockwise direction. He took an appointment with the highest minister in city hall and proceeded to argue logic.
He quoted from his science books:
“Sir, it’s scientifically proven that if a human being continues to move in a clockwise direction, his heart will explode! The rule that everyone has to walk in a clockwise direction will harm our health and should be revoked immediately.”
The minister sat, and let the earnest young man complete his spiel without objecting or saying a word. Little did the young man know but this particular minister was a science major himself. After he was done the minister showed the young man out. He informed him it was doubtful any of the walkers could attain such a speed, only attainable in a centrifuge-like device, so as to cause their heart to explode and thanked him for his concern.
I guess he’ll have to find another way to meet women.