Saturday night was a big learning experience for me. I got dressed up, hair fancier than usual, evening makeup, dress and heels. Paraded around for the thumbs up from the family and then slipped my holiday abaya over the top. I arrived 15 minutes after the invitation said the party was set to begin, and I was the first guest in attendance. Five minutes later, another non-Muslim (caucasian) arrived, then a Muslim convert (caucasian) arrived. (Not trying to be racist at all, but making a point here…stay with me.) An Hour after the set invitation time, the rest of the guests (either from Middle East descent or ppl who immigrated) began to arrive. Two and a half hours after the invitation time, most of the guests had arrived and dinner was served.
THIS IS THE REASON WE JOKE ABOUT Arab Standard Time!
I usually ask people when we are doing stuff, is this thing going to start on time or are we on AST? I should have known, but I was nervous and really wanted to make a good impression.
So, about two hours after I got there, I realized that it was okay for me to take off my abaya. Most of the ladies had removed their abaya and hijabs. If you’ve never been to one of these ladies only events, it is a true experience.
It is difficult to get a sense of a person’s personal style when you always see them wearing abaya and hijab. You don’t see their taste in clothes, and you don’t see how they wear their hair. Getting an invitation to an event where you see clothing and hair feels like you have crossed over into a more trusted status. I don’t look at the ladies any differently now that I’ve seen their party outfits and stylishly coiffed hair, but I feel like maybe they see me differently. I don’t know, I guess only time will tell.
The biggest thing I learned aside from the ever-present clothing issue, is that I am sorely deficient in my Egyptian Culture. Particularly in how to dance. I don’t listen to Arabic music often, when I do, it’s whatever the ladies have introduced me to, and it is mostly religious in nature. It is not shake-your-booty music.
Me: “I don’t know how to dance like that.” (See this Shakira Video for reference.)
EL: “But you are married to an Egyptian!” (As if this automatically came with the handbook I never got.)
Me: “His family doesn’t dance. I never learned.”
Then she runs off into the crowed and told everyone that I was married to an Egyptian guy and I didn’t know how to dance and they needed to teach me. (Let me point out here, that it was close to 9:00 at this point and most everyone who was left was Egyptian, as the hostess’ of the party were all from an Egyptian family.)
So, I went to the dance floor and tried really hard to get my hips to move in the right way and to catch the beat of the music that was really so unfamiliar. I watched E.L. move her hands, and tried to mimic the dance of the woman who was teaching me. At the end of the song, the panel of Naenas applauded my efforts, but it was clear to me that I needed some formal training if I was going to teach this to Kate and Pea.
A few songs later, more guests had gone and the radio came on with a dance party radio station. We danced to Adele, Train and a few other songs I can’t remember. There was also a Michael Jackson CD that was played for a while and we danced with the youngest ladies of the family.
I stayed long enough to help clean up most of the remnants, and I was home by 10:30.
Khaled asked me how the party went, and after I told him all the bits and pieces, I said, “I think it went well. I feel like I did a good job, and we’ll be invited back.”