Monday, 7 February 2011

Dancing with the devil

Johann Hari (yep, I'm a fan) wrote this piece a couple of years ago for The Independent and it stayed with me.

This was written before, you understand, the Saudi royal family threw open its doors to ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. If anyone can explain to me what it is that the Saudi Arabian ruling elite get out of being so hospitable to the likes of Idi Amin Dada (The Butcher of Uganda) and Nawaz Sharif please do so. Apparently these welcomes are extended in spite of opposition from a significant number of Saudis:

Although there must be a lot of professional dancers who bust their butts working for well-paid residencies at big hotels in places like Dubai, surely no-one could voluntarily move to such a corrupt state without some pang of conscience?

Most dancers in Dubai are not local, as this piece in Australia's The Age makes clear (I've just quoted the bit about the dancer here):

The belly dancer's stomach is writhing about as though she's swallowed a bunch of snakes. She's an exotic apparition in a sequin-studded brassiere and diaphanous harem pants.
She not only seems exotic, she turns out to be Egyptian - and no more a Dubai native than I am.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that belly dancing is not indigenous to Dubai. One is lucky to see an ankle belonging to a local woman, let alone an exposed navel.
Our Arabian Adventures guide Ahmed, a pock-marked Bangladesh-born wide-boy, explains belly-dancers "make tourists happy" - that is, they pander to Westerners' romantic vision of the Middle East.
"But this one, she is not so young," he says with a dismissive gesture toward the somewhat matronly dancer. She has managed to lure on stage one hapless male whose game attempts to mimic her pelvic thrusts are slightly impeded by his fluorescent bumbag and complete lack of coordination.
"At another camp I saw a young belly dancer, maybe 19 years old, very beautiful," the guide reminisces, his beringed hands describing voluptuous curves.
"I felt bad because why would a beautiful girl dance like that in front of men she doesn't know when she could have a rich husband?"
"Maybe she doesn't want to get married," an American fellow traveller suggests, at which Ahmed laughs and slaps his thigh as if it's the best joke ever.
As well as belly dancing, our Desert Safari includes such authentic cultural experiences as a spine-jolting four-wheel-drive expedition over dunes, a 10-metre camel ride to pose for photographs, traditional henna painting for the women (by an elderly Indian woman) and a sit-down banquet under the stars at the "desert camp".
Like our "desert experience", much of Dubai is essentially fake.
May I just splutter: "pock-marked Bangladesh-born wide-boy"? And "belly dancing is not indigenous to Dubai"? FFS! (As the kids say.)
Dubai Travel Guides

But, y'know, moralising aside, this is a belly dance blog after all:

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