One of my last nights in Cairo, I had a redeeming experience that has endeared a small corner of Cairo into my heart forever.
My friend, Ali invited me to his cousin’s engagement party, which turned out to be more block party than anything else. A cul-de-sac was emptied of cars and replaced with chairs and giant loudspeakers. By the time we arrived, the DJ was already blaring Arabic music into the night and into the neighbor’s bedrooms.
Ali’s family was very nice, but I spent the first 20 minutes sitting and hiding in a corner behind the speakers, trying to avoid the subtle stares and curious faces. I watched a few people dance and sing along to the songs before one of Ali’s sisters managed to get me to dance with her.
I think I kind of shocked everyone with my belly dancing skills. I was really intimidated by the hip shaking skills that Ali’s family was displaying but I’m happy to say that I (somewhat) held my own and before I knew it, everyone was dancing with me! Grandmothers in burqas held tight to my hands, Ali’s stepmother was shoulder shimmying with me and even the kids were showing me their moves. It was really fun and I couldn’t stop laughing. When we tried to say goodbye, everyone kept making me dance with them so that I wouldn’t leave. I received breath-constricting hugs, dozens of kisses and it ended up taking an hour before I literally snuck out of the party.
I’m really glad that I threw my inhibitions aside and just had a good time dancing with everyone. It was so liberating and fun to NOT think about what people where thinking because everyone had a good time watching the strange little Chinese girl belly dance, including myself.
© Connie Hum 2009