Okay, so I’m back home, safe and sound, basking in the glow of an amazing adventure and that little refrain keeps running through my mind because it was the translation of a song one of the international storytellers sang at the end of her performance.

Ana Sofia Paiva is a petite and delicate Portuguese actress turned storyteller who I got to know at the festival.

It was so funny. Many of the people I spoke to thought she and her Malaysian counterpart Hasniah Binti Hussain, would not be very good storytellers because they were so ‘quiet’.

I warned them not to let looks deceive.

Let it be known that you can never tell what a storyteller will sound like on stage, by the way they carry themselves in regular everyday life.

I’m certainly not gregarious in ordinary life! I think it would be absolutely obnoxious to walk around and carry myself the way I do on stage!

My norm is low key. And that’s how it should be, in my opinion.

And both Ana Sofia and Hasniah were both low key in person. They just ramped it up when they got on stage…as it should be!

It’s funny how all the international storytellers came to me to ask what proper etiquette and behaviour would be. Even Hasniah, who comes from a Muslim country, asked me of she could sing a song during her performance.

Thing is there actually are some Muslim scholars who believe that a woman’s voice is ‘aura’. To be concealed. The idea of ‘aura’ has to do with what you conceal out of decency.

Islam recognizes that women are so alluring to men that certain aspects of them should be concealed. That’s why we are ordained in the Quran to cover everything but our hands and faces in loose, non-revealing/transparent clothing.

Personally I’ve always had a hard time understanding this. I really don’t think that me and many other women are at all alluring! But having spoken to my son, who’s in the throes of adolescent hormones, it apparently really is true! Women really are that alluring to men! (Frankly he thinks yoga pants should be banned because they reveal too much. And he has told me it’s incredibly hard to stay chaste in light of all the visual provocations in this society.)

And yes, sometimes a woman’s voice can be so appealing that it can create these kinds of feelings in male listeners as well.

So while I don’t agree that a woman’s voice is ‘aura’ to be concealed, I do believe there are occasions where it crosses the line, especially if she softens it, and sounds flirtatious and seductive. Then yes, it can be too tempting.

That’s one reason why during all of my dealings in public I make sure I keep my voice in a matter of fact tone, not seductive at all.

So basically all the international storytellers were coming up to me and asking me if this was appropriate, or that was appropriate.

It was very touching. None of them wanted to convey any sort of offense to our Iranian hosts. All of them were keenly conscious of insulting their sensibilities.

So much so that I actually brought up this topic during one of the meetings with Mr. Rezzaie. I told him that the organization should compile a set of etiquette guidelines for their international guests kind of like the articles on Islamic etiquette and hosting Muslims that I’d prepared for my website because all of the guests were so worried about offending! (In fact the Russian gentleman Alexander Kaymanakov, later told me a hearty thanks for saying that through his translator.)

So anyway, Ana Sofia came up to me and asked me if it was appropriate for her to sing her song at the end of her story and she said she was worried that the phrase ‘Blackberry, Blackberry, who has ripened you?’ could have a double entendre and what if it offended them?

I just looked at her blankly for a moment, and then slowly it dawned on me that ‘who has ripened you’ could indeed have a sexual meaning, and I laughed. I told her no, I didn’t think such double entendre would occur to any of the audience. It hadn’t occurred to me. The song really was about a blackberry being asked what had ripened it, and the answer was the sun and the morning dew, etc.

And I told her, “Look, these guys have invited you knowing full well that you’re not Muslim and the kind of stories that you tell. You go ahead and tell your story your way. They really shouldn’t complain.”

So she did.

But I have to admit when she sang the song at the end, it was a bit too beautiful, too melodious. And I wasn’t surprised that even though her performance was excellent, one of the best of the entire festival, they did not ask her to perform at the closing ceremony.

I wondered why they didn’t just ask her not to sing the song, but for whatever reason, the other four judges (two Iranian men and two Iranian women) chose someone else.

But at least the other judges could recognize the power of Ana Sofia’s performance. She sat completely still, and her voice resonated through the auditorium, riveting the entire audience. A truly proficient performance! I’m so glad she was one of the winners!

Along with Hasniah Binti Hussain. Her performance was completely different! And just as excellent! And they both took top honours!

And deservedly so!