Last night I went to a fabulous party. The friend of my friend was celebrating her 50th birthday. She’s French-Moroccan and lives with her French husband in a house in the Parisian suburbs. White canopy tents had been erected in the garden, torches were lit and long buffet tables groaned with platters of Moroccan food: tagines, couscous, pastilla, roast chicken and tabboulehs. For dessert we ate date cakes perfumed with orange-blossom syrup. All washed down with hot sweet mint tea. Towards midnight, fires were lit in metal drums and Bedouin carpets spread out on the grass. A professional dancer performed while musicians played and guests ululated; the atmosphere was electric. I got home at 4 am. This morning my clothes still smelled of wood smoke from the fires.
Belly dancing is called la danse orientale in France. This complex and highly stylized dance is not easy to learn. Years ago I took lessons, but was hopeless at it. One of the best belly dancers is Sadie Marquardt. You’ll never guess where she’s from: Wisconsin, USA!! If you’re not familiar with this dance, here’s Sadie here, the queen of danse orientale. The music and the dancer we watched last night were similar to these videos.
(Sitting here watching these videos, I’m thinking – Geez, what a paradox. On the one hand, muslims want to cover their women with burkas, niqabs and abayas, and on the other hand they’ll happily ogle a semi-clad woman dancing provocatively in public. The hypocrisy is stunning.)