Michael Divine

Now, as we munched on tasty delicacies from the buffet, the musicians took the stage – a troupe of traditional Sufi whirling dervishes – dancers and musicians – whisked us through a sound and movement – spinning their long cloaks high up into the air, their bright colors whirling and whirling and movements moving with the high sounds of pipes and flutes and drums staccato tapping hitting out a rhythm intricate and ancient and a song that is sung that soars high over it all and I hear in it the eventual musicians who came after like Fela Kuti or Miles Davis and the roots of their music – they go back to the tribal call and this – this arabesque patterned music takes me back to my early 20s spinning and dancing – there is great magic in spinning and spinning and eventually you’ve reached all the lengths of your arms and the tips of your toes and the entire sphere your body can reach (it’s not very far actually, the scope of our reach) and then something happens and there’s this god thing and it’s all divine and one great moving dance trance and sweet line and the dervish removed gown, exposing a new robe and they moved into the crowd, dancing around tables, over our heads and into our eyes and back to the center and then with a great flourish it was done.

I moved outside for a breath of air. There was so much stimulus – the entire sensory buffet – and I wanted to taste all of it. There were tables outside with people smoking shisha pipes. There were security guards looking swarthy and suspicious of western ideas and these wild western smiles. There were camels all lined up waiting for a ride. There were the Pyramids. The Pyramids. The Pyramids all lit up and glowing. Not moving. Doing nothing. Just being. No rays of light. No ghosts or ‘ascended masters’ or anything mystical other than the stories we ascribe to them. These great testaments to power and imagination.

The music changed and my friends Treavor and Amani came on – Desert Dwellers. I had a drink. I milled about. Taking in all the beauty and magic. I talked with a friend who invited me for a camel ride. We didn’t go far. She’d not ridden one ever before and me, well, I’d been on one just earlier that day. Two camel rides in one day! We didn’t go far and when we stepped off there was the instant demand for baksheesh, tip. She, happy and alive, handed him a hundred pound note, not doing the math properly and said fine. He, never content, they are never content, asked for more. That was probably his biggest tip all day! It cost 4 of us 120 pounds for an hour of camel wandering. That’s what kind of began to get to me about the tipping syndrome. People beg and beg and demand and give you looks of disdain waiting for you to reach into your pocket and give you more more more – because we, being from elsewhere and making it all the way to Egypt were obviously made of money.

I went and danced and wandered and ran into friends and laughed and talked.

Then Random Rab came on. He plays some quieter music sometimes. He said into the mic, ‘So I recorded this om in the King’s Chamber [of the Great Pyramid]… ’ (or something like that) and he played his recording of the long slow chant – which was 50 people all Oming in the King’s Chamber two nights before. Om – it’s considered by many to be the oldest and most basic sound of all language, the root, the seed syllable, the Word, the Om. And the Muslim security, the Muslim government that was allowing us to have this gathering here (in exchange for the oodles of money they’d been paid) suddenly got unnerved.

What is this spirituality? What is this… religion stuff? The slowed down stuff was obviously spiritual. They started removing the large hollow Anubis statues from around the stage. They removed the sphinx like statue of Khnum, the ram god of the ancient Egyptians. They sort of freaked out. And from there onwards, we could feel a more watchful eye… We’re just people, living life, having fun, who, as a whole, have learned live a life that works on following certain tenets of respect and, though the manifestations may change, the basics are of love, respect, honor – of gender and race, of life and love, of each other and others, of all religions and peoples and places, of self-governance and the Golden Rule. Belief systems like that, I suppose, can be threats to belief systems that support hierarchy and control and whether it’s the more fundamentalist Muslim or the Corporatocracy of Globalization, or the Christian Right, it always feels threatened by the open-handed love.

I watched as more guys in trench coats showed up. There was one in particular – with his long over-sized shoulder-padded trench coat, his too big tie, his square hair and thin mustache and block headed face and one eye squinting – he looked like Dick Tracy in a black suit. He was trying very hard to look exactly as he heard he was supposed to look and that was unfortunate because he looked like every bad caricature of every bad CIA agent ever. And he made me laugh and I had to turn away because I didn’t want him to see me laughing at him. That doesn’t make for good relations.

I wandered back into the tent. Over the previous two hours, the elegant dinner party had transformed into some kind of world beat dance party and it was beautiful. Sort of West Coast festival meets Egypt and for me, for us, it looked all the same but better. To them… to security wondering what was up with our crazy possibly spiritual event – it looked like a bunch of crazy Westerners. Now they’re sleeping, now they’re up, now they’re crying, now they’re on their knees, now they’re laughing and flailing and dancing, but not with each other but sort of with each other, Now…. Now… now…

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