The Dabke, Dancing for exercise and fun

Choose a dance you love, like Zumba or hip hop and just do it. Leave the radio on and dance to it all day long. Belly dancing is great for the waist. I love folk dancing. Alas, I didn’t dance the dabke at my wedding. Before my wonderful wedding a great tragedy occurred. It changed the course of my life. I was just seeing Lebanon for the first time. I’m an Irish girl with a little French Canadian. But I would go on to live in Lebanon, learn the language and learn to prepare delicious Middle Eastern meals. I already knew the dabke, because we danced it in Boston. Rifaat, my husband to be, had eight beautiful sisters and one extraordinary brother. His mother actually studied English just for me. I loved the family in Lebanon, their faith, their language, their cuisine and most of all their dance. I stayed in the Hotel Riviera in Beirut but traveled with Rifaat to most of the corners of the tiny country of Lebanon. It’s the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island. The sweet aroma of jasmine wafted through the air in July and the people were so caring . The food was extraordinary and it seemed that Lebanon was a country full of great cooks. I loved the breakfasts of eggs and tomatoes, Bayd bi banadura or knaife, a shredded wheat and cheese pastry.  Sometimes za’atar bread was the offering, fresh from the oven. That’s an occasion. Za’ater is a fragrant loaf of fresh baked pita bread coated with olive oil and a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and thyme. The tradition is to make the dough at home and take it to the furn to be baked. Street vendors sell kaak, an almost bagel, studded with sesame seeds.

Days were spent dancing in open air restaurants. In Boston I had already learned the dabke, the national dance with Rifaat as my teacher. He loved folk dancing and I did too. My favorite gym teacher, Miss Constantinidis, also taught us dance and she introduced her Emmanuel students to the Greek folk dance, the Miserlu. Later in life, who knew (?), Greek dancing is an art I was able to enjoy when I lived in Greece.

In Lebanon music was always playing in open air restaurants; Rifaat and I always took advantage of the lilting rhythm and danced. We two danced through life. The music of famous Fayrouz, and the Rahibanis, still  beautifully welcomly haunts me to this day.

We planned a wedding  in two weeks time and we sent for my parents, my mother, Agnes O’Connor Lyons, my sister Kathleen Cochrane and grandmother, Anna Gertrude (Reardon) Lyons in preparation for the wedding. My father was just completing another degree, this time in Physics and couldn’t make it to Lebanon at that time. When my family arrived we dined on mezza which is a table full of appetizers followed by a lovely dinner of roasted chicken or shish-kabob. We stayed right on the Mediterranean at the Hotel Riviera, situated on the seashore..

Happy memories of this dance

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