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I just wasted 4 hours of my life. Invited to a henna (mehndi) party. Got all dressed up thinking it would be ladies event. my bad. Next time I am going to pull on my abaya over my pjs.

The decor was lovely- that I was enjoying along with the yummy appetizers; until I got a preview of the belly dancers’ decolletage in the ladies room. Why do people invite people like me to these things anyway? Felt like such a prissy goody two shoes excusing myself with the lovely hostess because I felt ‘uncomfortable’. She was so sweet wanted us to stay for dinner- so I gathered my girls & a friend’s teenager and headed to the newest ice cream shop in town called SHAVE IT, promising her we will be back in time for dinner.

The whole ‘show’ was for the viewing pleasure of the few dozen white guests, to introduce them to the groom’s Egyptian and bride’s Pakistani heritage.  The groom’s family sat in a corner miffed, not exactly thrilled by the Diane of Belly Dancers Unlimited’s hijack of their culture.

Three or four Pakistani women were on the lit dance floor in an otherwise dark room, when I wandered in 45 minutes later, dancing as if to prove something, nothing joyous or spontaneous about their moves.  No men up there with them; they were busy staring hungrily from the sidelines.

The invitation said 6 o’clock so naturally most of the non-desis showed up at 6:00.  Dinner wasn’t served until 10:00. Feeding the non-desi guests on time would have served our culture better. Dinner before the dancing starts always; this way guests who do not want to be ‘entertained’ can leave without rejecting the hospitality of the host.

I really have to ponder what we are trying to prove about our culture after I examined the dancer’s brochure left on the entrance, next to the rose petals and the dripping ruby-red candles.  Clad in Hollywood inspired harem costumes with angel wings ‘veils’, a superstar dance troupe, not one of them Arab or South Asian.  The all male bhangra act also hired for the night were fully covered; why is it always the women who have to expose their bodies to entertain?

Was the henna ceremony itself not enough culture, the aroma of the mehndi and oil rubbed on to the bride’s hands. The mithai (sweets) in an antique silver bowl, placed lovingly or playfully in the bride’s mouth, depending on who is feeding her. The rose & jasmine jewellery and garlands fashioned by hand, the bangles placed by every dinner plate. Why do we HAVE to dilute our identities?  Give them an authentic Pakistani or Egyptian experience, it is enough. We have such an inferiority complex!

At my sis-in loves (inlaws) wedding, we had more than 200  non-desis attend. The beauty of our simple nikaah ceremony, the grand arrival of the barat, the greeting & feeding of the guests, the recitation of the quran, the poetry reading by my husband’s grandfather,  including Allah in the celebration of a new life left many of them marveling at the grace in our faith & culture.


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