I'm reading online Salah Saadalla's translation of the Kurdish classic Mem and Zin, and I've reached the part where the eponymous lovers, along with their respective siblings, meet each other at Nowruz (Newroz) festivities.

In chapter 13, Mem and Tajdin disguise themselves as girls for Newroz:

Except only Mem and Tajdin
Who were as girls disguising


The reason they were disguising
Was to avoid any formal undertaking

While there, in chapter 14, they meet Zin and Siti, who are disguised as boys, and the two pairs of young people fall in love.

What I don't understand is why were they disguised, the boys as girls and the girls as boys? Of course it makes for a more interesting and entertaining story, but what was the characters' in-story motivation for disguising themselves? I can't find any statement of the reason for Zin and Siti, in the chapters focusing more on them, and the explanation given for Mem and Tajdin is obscure to me: what does "to avoid any formal undertaking" mean in the quote above?

1 Answer 1


In The Kurdistan Tribune Dr Kamal Mirawdeli writes:

Mem and Tazhdin, two young friends from nobility, decide to disguise in women’s dresses to give themselves a better chance of enjoying the beauty of Botan women and possibly finding suitable fiancés. By coincidence or act of destiny, the Mîr’s two sisters, Zîn and Stê, use the same strategy. So here we have the first dramatic puzzle of the story: two beautiful young women appear in Newroz as two handsome men, and two handsome young men appear as two young women. They meet by the perceived factors of possibility and perhaps a deeper factor of divine necessity. Beauty and love are necessarily interconnected. The two pairs meet, talk, feel attracted to each other, and surprise themselves by falling in love, apparently, homosexually.

The effect of the sudden striking love thunder is devastating for all the four.

In EKurd Daily the same author also writes of the episode:

Both couples wish to obtain extra liberty to indulge in Newroz’s celebrated beauty and benefit from the traditional opportunity it provides for pinpointing a potential spouse.

From these, I would understand that the ‘formal undertakings’ the characters wish to avoid would be betrothals, engagement or expectations of such, arising from any meetings at the festival.

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