When I was 5 years old I wanted to grow up and marry a bellydancer! Not BE a bellydancer, but marry one!
My family was living in Morocco and we were on a routine trip to a souk - Morocco’s medieval version of a farmer’s market. This souk was filled with twisting walkways with unique offerings, like the "dentist”, who sat behind a table full of teeth and would exuberantly pull your tooth for you right there on the spot, or the baskets filled with oddly shaped vegetables. Everywhere people haggled over prices while drinking cup after cup of mint tea. In all this chaos, I saw her - jingling like Santa Claus’s reindeer. I was mesmerized. My family continued to navigate the souk without noticing that I was missing. Finally, they panicked and after a long and harried search, they found me – shaking it with the bellydancer!
She was a Berber - not the typical bellydancer you see in restaurants. Even the popular "Tribal" style bellydance is a wholly American creation and is not related to any Arabic or Middle Eastern tribe whatsoever. However, Berbers have an ancient history and tradition. They lived in north Africa long before the arrival of the Arabs, and their culture probably dates back more than 4,000 years.
Today, there are substantial Berber populations in Morocco and Algeria, plus smaller numbers in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In Morocco, about 40% acknowledge a Berber identity, though many more have Berber ancestry. Berbers are identified primarily by language but also by traditional customs and culture – such as the distinctive music and dances.
Berbers hold a special place in my heart. My first impression of any form of dance was by a Berber woman. For half a day, my parents were wracked with worry that I had been captured. Essentially I was – Berber, Native Moroccan, Gypsy, bellydance had captured my heart forever.
Posted on Wed, July 20, 2016
by Ms. Dolphina