Kidnapped by Belly Dancers–Under the Eclipse!
By caitieskirt, Friday, August 20, 2010
It was early one evening in 2007. I had finished a set of Egyptian dance workshops in a dance studio somewhere near Waterloo Station in London with Sara Farouk Ahmed, who later became one of the research participants for my PhD. I’d been put in touch with her by my supervisor, who knew Sara when they were both students at the School of Oriental and African Studies, before Sara moved to Egypt permanently.
We hadn’t had much of a chance to chat during the workshops. So she and the workshop organisers kidnapped me and took me to Hackney.
I say kidnapped…what I actually mean is that they quite kindly invited me round to one of their houses for a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and a chat about my MA, at the time, and my PhD, which was still to come. We sat and talked for a few hours–about life in London, about Cairo, about being a student at SOAS way back when. The women all knew each other well, so often I was simply watching a conversation between old friends. I remember a warm, bright little kitchen full of food as the women prepared for dinner, about six or so of us crammed around a small cafe table. I remember a lot of laughter, and Sara smoking, and mixing her English with Arabic in a way that became familiar when I came to know her more later in Cairo.
They most kindly invited me to stay for dinner, but I couldn’t–I’d already promised to be back to meet my friends. You see, we had to climb up to the roof of the science building at Queen Mary University to watch the eclipse. The belly dancers all piled out the front door to wish me off as I found my way to the right bus stop in Hackney, full of color and life and the merriment of being amongst friends. I was sorry to go, but I knew I’d be getting much the same reception on the other end.
It was very cold on that roof. There was nobody up there but us, a merry band of students watching the lunar eclipse rise over Canary Wharf. I’d snuggled into a Smith College sweatshirt borrowed from my best friend; it’s amazing to think how many life events we’ve shared since our six-year-old selves shared a locker in elementary school. Who could have known, then, that some seventeen years later we’d be watching the moon glow orange over the London skyline?
I still wonder that other groups of people didn’t get the same idea–having the means, who WOULDN’T choose to watch an eclipse from the roof of the science building at Queen Mary? It amazes me that some people do not find the world an astounding place. I was glad, that evening, to be among a group of people who did.
(Kudos to Abby for reminding me to write this story, and Anu for the photos.)