Arabic girls' nights
Yesterday I spent an evening with my new Syrian girlfriend, I have had a rough few days and there is nothing like a girl’s night to cure an aching heart, right? I rang the bell and an elderly woman with a hijab(*) opened the door. She greeted me with a smile, but could not say much. My lovely friend Mimi, short for Maryam, came running down the stairs to greet me. I gave her a box of chocolates and a bottle of Martini Brut, because there is no better greeting between girlfriends, Arabic or not.
She pulled me to the kitchen where her aunt was cooking and she forced me to sit down. Really there is nothing like Arabic hospitality. I mean it. Her beautiful daughter sat beside me and we started conversing in simple Dutch (She is 6 and has been going to school here for a few months). After 5 minutes we all sat down to a full table, with nothing to stop us. So we started by devouring a plate of mjeddarah(*) with yoghurt, lamb and radishes, with my plate always refilling itself magically.
In the meanwhile Mimi’s daughter was already switching back and forth between Dutch and Arabic, translating for me if I could not understand. Children really are little miracles. We are mixing Dutch, English and Arabic, which I have picked up a little, and it all flows together.
After our dinner, we go in the living room and open our bottle of champagne. We are joined by another girl and her daughter and a bright red Shisha. Mimi paints my nails and draws henna on my hand, and I am ashamed with the condition of my nails. Of all my Arabic friends I am the only one without painted toenails or make-up. I can only imagine what kind of lingerie they are wearing. After one hour if find myself smoking shisha to Egyptian music and learning to belly dance, where the elderly aunt shames us all by her sensual hips. They try to teach me their hand gestures and laugh whole-heartedly at my wannabe moves. Headscarves become shawls they bind around their hips to accentuate their sexy moves. We clap loudly to whoever is dancing and whistle loudly whenever there are particularly sexy moves.
The aunt explains to my friend I should cut my hair to include bangs to hide my big forehead and sends a picture of my henna to all her friends. These women are amazing. They are a club, a team, a sensual belly dancing club. They are each other’s hairdressers, personal stylists and share stories of the men who have done them wrong. What could a girl possibly want more?
*A dish both simple and elemental, the lentils and rice cook together, taking on flavor and qualities greater than themselves. The rice and lentils soak separately before cooking, which brings the tenderness out in the rice and encourages the lentils, which normally require no presoaking, to keep their shape.