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 suburbs of Paris. White canopy tents had been erected in the garden, torches had been lit and long buffet tables groaned with platters of Moroccan food: tagines, couscous, pastilla, chicken and salads. For dessert we ate syrupy little cakes perfumed with orange flower water. Stuffed dates and orange and almond cakes followed. 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 Moroccan 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, Muslim Arabs 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.)