A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Halloween, Egyptian-style

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 1, 2008

Last night we met our friends K & J for dinner in the city. We thought about doing various Halloween’y things – making sugar skull crafts at the Day of the Dead Celebration at St. Mark’s Church, attending the concert at the New Museum – but in the end, we settled for a low-key, its-been-a-long-week get together.

Except, of course, that it was a low-key get-together in Greenwich Village, which is also the home of the city’s Halloween parade. So our dinner locale, which also had a sizable bar, became a revolving door spectacle of costumed celebrants dressed as everything from Frieda Kahlo to a mouse and cat pair.

After dinner, H suggested going for a drink, so we could enjoy a little more people-watching. The nearest bar with not-too-loud music and ample seating (not only were we not hip enough to be in costume, but we compounded our un-hipness by wanting quiet and rest) turned out to be an Egyptian hookah bar. The bouncer was thrilled by H’s Arabic, and H in turn was thrilled by the music, which ranged from hip-hop to merengue.

But the musical highlight of the evening came when the DJ played the Village People’s “YMCA”. This song is a huge, huge hit all around the Levant – not least, I imagine, because the people who love it there are blissfully aware of the gay-pride reputation of the Village People. (At least, I’ve never known anyone there to wonder about a song that suggests that a “young man” look for a place where he can “hang out with all the boys” :).)

Anyway. The song is a perennial dance club favorite, along with “Its Raining Men” and the dance remix of “I Will Survive”. But many people in Lebanon and Syria dance to “YMCA” no differently than they do to any other song.

In other words, they miss out on this:

(Image courtesy of the Fairview Lakes YMCA)

American-raised or-educated Lebanese are more likely to do the arm gestures, so its less strange to do them in Beirut. But I have memories of a moment of acute embarrassment from a night out in Damascus several years ago, when my British-raised friend S and I were the only ones YMCA’ing.

No one else in the club thought our gestures were hip – or even cute in a goofy-foreigner way. What are you doing? one friend hissed at me. Are you okay? asked another.

Okay, yes. But deeply mortified. So it was nice to see “YMCA” being celebrated with traditional no-holds-barred gesturing last night 🙂 .


One Response to “Halloween, Egyptian-style”

  1. intlxpatr said


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