Dancing by the fire
Arabia/Saudi Arabia
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Dancing by the fire

They tightened the skins of their hand drums in the heat of our wood fire. They sang and drummed, and waved their dancing swords beneath the stars, their words rushing upwards with the warmth from the flames.

This special troupe of traditional dancers sang and danced a traditional welcome song. But in this so young country that has changed so much and so fast since its founding, it appeared the roots of this tradition were shallow indeed, easily pulled up from the dry sand of the desert. When I asked which tribe or region the song came from, I was told that it wasn’t quite like that. It was traditional, but it was also new.

But then it was over, and it was time to eat. Tables groaned under a weight of food no party could do justice to. Whole sheep lay draped over rice, the meat so tender that it was lifted from the carcass with a spoon: no knives needed. The swords long put away.