The International Writers Magazine: Amman
Dancing in Amman
The music sent waves of shock, thudding on and on, the songs kept coming, people dancing on the floor, hands in the air, shoes thumping to the beat. We were at an engagement party.
No it wasn't London, New York or Paris, it was in one of the suburbs of Amman. People were here to enjoy themselves, they had already lined their stomach with food, now it was time for the groove. There was no imperialist conspiracy this time!
I moved from where I was sitting in the garden coaches to inside, as near as possible of the dance floor, I wanted to see what was really going on, was it any different from the discos of Hastings, London, Halifax or Leeds which I've been to over the years.
A thought cross my mind, brushing through like a lathed knife. We are always being stereotyped, accused of fundamentalism, dogmatism, and all the other 'isms', clinging to what is seen as outdated ideas. I can promise there was none of that at the party, it was all frontal and exterior with the facades appetizing.
People, or many of them were there just to dance and swing as one of the guests told me. Oh, the wear did vary, there was for instance plenty of young women wearing the hijab, or stylishly covered their head, in elegantly worn yellow, red and pink colors. But there was much of, I think, brown skin, or it white. Under the flashing lights it was difficult to tell and I don't think any cared except for the fogies like me.
Unlike the views that Arab and Islamic women go around hooded, there was none of that at the party with plenty of short dresses and skirts, handsome legs—can you call women legs handsome, I am not sure, attractive yes—bear arms and opened toed sandals with plenty of red, you know, the one you would like to trip over and say you are sorry to the person you'd cringed under!
The music kept thudding and banging a lot of movement of the limbs. My youthful sons joined the other boys and tried to rub shoulders with the girls. They thudding kept on and on for the best hour, I would have needed to sit down each 10 minutes or so gasping for air even when I was in my prime.
The engagement party was for my niece. She and her fiancé were on the floor swinging, her father, who had paid for this little lot sat nursing his wounds through cigarettes that came in streams of puffs, having come especially from Dubai to attend and leave the next day.
It was a two-hour oblivion, you wouldn't think the Arab world was going through upheavals or popular protests or 2011 is a bad omen. Although, the Arabs are always guilty of being politically minded and aware, such terminologies were left at home that night, these people just wanted to dance, to rap music, Frank Sinatra, the blues and many Arab pop songs.
It reminded me how lost we are, maneuvering between disconnected identities were Islam is pampered over and maligned to suit our so-called modernity of looking good, having a good time and eating well. A women would cover her head only to show her bottom through tight jeans of course and that is no less embarrassing to anyone! Never mind fundamentalism, its modern Islam, change of the times and all the rest of it.
I thought how the American conservatives and the likes of George W Bush, et al, now Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really have got it all wrong about the Arab world. The fundamentalism and religiosity have been mixed with a western way of life, different foods, plenty of music, rapping thuds, minus the booze and the vertical snogging!
The people on the floor were certainly not non-believers, alright their Islam might be what we call in Arabic "sugar-free" but they are not atheist, and God is there, in front of them and in their prayers.
Their culture however, though still Arab, is slowly becoming different. There is less talk of traditional values and more talk of being in with the times, latest dresses, make-up, tie, brands, shoes, perfume and so on.
The conservative cronies in the United States, Britain and possibly Europe, ought to have realized a long time ago, Arab men and women are "normal" people, normal in the way they want them to be, slightly peripheral with little or no ideological baggage. Mind you I could be mistaken there because of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt which conspiracy theorist are already saying that a joke has been played on the Arab people.
Certainly the party contained yuppies, people with middle class jobs, and were in no way representative of what's happening in the Arab street, for indeed at the party, they were more interested on what's happening on the dance floor!
© Marwan Asmar August 2011
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