In which our intrepid hero discovers (vicariously, thankfully) one of the hidden downsides to fundamentalist Islam.

I draw your attention to an article from

The 26-year-old groom-to-be, Tamer Shehata, was notified by a female guest attending his wedding that his would-be wife was a man in women’s clothing.

When Mr Shehata confronted his fiancee, he broke down and revealed that he was actually an 18-year-old man called Ahmed Abo Zeid.

Mr Abo Zeid, whose face was obscured to Mr Shehata by a niqab or burka (face veil) said he had intended to tell after they were married, and had hoped to convince Mr Shehata to consummate the marriage.

You have to wonder exactly how the groom would handle something like this. You can imagine him in the bridal suite, peeling back layer upon layer of garments, eyes full of passion (let’s be at least a little romantic here), only to find out that his… ahem… wife is better hung than he is. I don’t think he’d be very happy.

On the other hand, what if the groom was the shy type, afraid of conflict with his parents; ten or twelve years down the track, mum and dad might still be wondering why there aren’t any grandchildren…

In any case, he’s going to get a bit of a ribbing from the locals; but how do you really tell in the full get-up?

Speaking of Islam, I’ve always wondered how Ahmad Ibn Fadlan (played by Antonio Banderas’ in The 13th Warrior, although based on a real-life Kurdish scholar) would deal with this time of year, fraternising with proto-Vikings in the far north. He couldn’t drink alcohol1 (which, truth be told, probably had less peat in it than the water), and the Vikings would all chow down on ham, freshly cut from their sacrifice to the fertility god, Freyr.

I doubt it’d be very a festive time for poor Ahmad. If Ramadan had fallen around then as well, I don’t think he’d be much happier. After starving himself all day, all he could come home to would be boggy water and root vegetables. After two weeks of nocturnal praise for Allah and his bountiful turnips, I think Ahmed would be sorely tempted to give up on the whole Viking diplomacy thing and wander back home to civilisation in Baghdad.

1: A conveniently literalist interpretation of hallal in the movie allowed him to partake of mead, but most Muslims (at least the ones I know) wouldn’t try to bend the rules in this respect.