Ali was a man, proud of his full beard, which stood proudly before him as if he were a devout Muslim. He was never seen without a prayer chain, whose round pearls constantly slipped from side to side under his fingers. During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, he never missed to strictly observe all the traditional customs. He only knew the foreign women and girls in deep veils, as befits a believing Muslim, and every time he met one of Allah’s flowery creatures, he lowered his eyes.

His sister Soghra with the moon-coloured complexion was the only young girl he was allowed to see without a veil. Her black-blue hair surrounded the delicate figure, and her budding lips were the most beautiful in the world for Ali.

His moon-beautiful sister had only one flaw: she was godless as sin, at least according to the opinion of her pious brother Ali. “You will fast and pray to death,” she said, “if you do not eat in secret.” But Ali’s faith could not be shaken by anything. Nor by his charming sister, who mocked him,

When Lent was over, the grandmother rewarded the devout Ali, who had always prayed for her, with a rest trip to the mountain village of Shemiran. Also his fun-loving sister and her cousins, who in Ali’s opinion deserved more punishment, were allowed to ride to the most beautiful areas on the edge of the Tehran plateau.

Regardless of old family tradition, sister, cousins and brother did not ride together on their donkeys with the colourful saddlebags into the mountains. The pious Ali kept himself away from the fun-loving girls, whose company would have been the envy of every young man growing up in Persia.

Persian miniature: Bathing women

While the girls rode giggling to the source of the mountain river, Ali strove towards the mountain tops in prayer to be closer to Allah. Secretly, he kept chasing away the desire to see the girls a little more exposed. Maybe just an upper arm or at least the swan-white neck of cousin Anusha. Why was he not as young as his six-year-old brother Ahmad, who was even allowed to watch the girls while they bathed naked? He was allowed to hand them the fruit and look at them up close, although he certainly had none of it.

While Ali praying again and again drove the sinful wishes out of his head, the girls at the waterfall prepared the bathing ceremony, which has remained the same for centuries and is still practiced today, although everything is Europeanized.

How it came about that the pious, eagerly praying Ali, walking along the lonely mountain path, suddenly saw the undressed girls above the high-stretched bathing veils – that will probably never be fully explained. Was it the black servant who made Ali feel good and brought the paths together? Or was it even the funny girls who tried to bring worldly pleasures closer to the pious and shy Ali?

However, in order not to commit the worst of all sins before Allah, the lie, it must be added that from that day on, Ali never again tried to drive out the Devil Sheikh with prayers. Still on the day of the meeting he chose the beautiful cousin Anusha as his wife, and before the sun sank behind the mountains, the “sinful” sister Soghra rode to Tehran for her brother’s sake, in order to initiate the marriage arrangement as quickly as possible. Her efforts fell on such fertile ground that Ali and Anusha became a happy couple before the moon began to change.

Text and pictures: Akefeh Monchi-Zadeh

This fairy tale appeared in 1956 in the GDR cultural magazine “Das Magazin”

Details zu dem Bilde “Badende Frauen” von Akefeh von Koerber