I found myself somewhere new today. It was in Cairo I think, since everyone there still spoke Arabic and no one was wearing shorts or kissing in the street. I also saw some young men holding hands, another indication I was in the Middle East.
We entered what someone said was an old house but I think it was actually a castle since it was big and musty and had a windy staircase with uneven steps. There were a lot of locked doors too, as well as nooks and crannies, so it was definitely a castle.
The big feasting hall/courtyard was filled with chairs and dim light, and at the front was a kind of wooden plateau that was smaller than natural plateaus. There weren’t any chairs on the wooden plateau, probably because it is well known that wood does not go well with wood.
I gathered we were supposed to sit down, but it was hard to find a place because of all the chairs. Someone then thought it would be a good idea to sit on the chairs themselves so that’s what we did. I had a bad feeling about this idea, and was especially nervous since the guy in front of us kept peering behind him out of the corner of his eye. Every single time he saw us, he was surprised that there were people sitting on the chairs, despite his own chair sitting hypocrisy. I suggested that we move somewhere out of the way of the chairs but no one listened to me.
All of the sudden, the lights in the courtyard dimmed and music began from the front of the room, where the plateau was still lit up. Something had definitely gone wrong…how were we supposed to be able to see and talk to each other through the darkness over the music? Were we in a no-holds-barred modern protestant church service? But then musicians wearing white and carrying drums took the plateau (possibly the ghosts of the castle musicians) and I lost all consciousness of time and space.
The next thing I knew, I was smiling as we were exiting the building, the faint din of clapping still ringing in my ear. To my great surprise, I found I was carrying my camera and that the button on it was still warm. I turned it on to gather clues as to what had transpired and found I had taken tons of horrible pictures and videos of what may have been beautiful things. The ghosts on the stage had twirled and played the drums, floating and rocking back and forth, and then others took the stage that wore fantastic costumes of all colors, the most important part of it being a Christmas tree skirt that flew straight out from the dancers’ waists. And the dancers became a swirling mass of colors that was always striving upwards with their hands and with their bodies. It’s not clear why…maybe they were trying to communicate with a higher being, and that being was someone who lived upstairs that loved jazzercise in the mornings and they were politely pleading with them to stop.
If the quality of the video had been just a little better, maybe I would be able to remember what I felt when I was watching the dancers twirl and twirl and twirl, their faces bordering on rapture but still conscious of the audience, the movement of their skirts mesmerizing every eye. But I can’t, so from what I can gather, blobs took the plateau and bounced across it in a rhythmic but imprecise manner. Though it sounds unlikely, apparently this was what we expected since everyone was happy afterwards.
I was getting into a taxi when I remembered something and shut the door instead. I stepped away and started spinning around gradually faster until I slowly became airborne, the exhaust fumes from the traffic on the highway pushing me higher and higher. I called down, “Smell you later!” as the polluted air pushed me home. It had only the faintest traces of teargas.
By the way, this was at a Tanoura performance, the Egyptian version of a dervish dance/ritual that is closely associated with Sufism, or mystical Islam. Sufism focuses on seeing the face of God or achieving unity with God.