Friday, September 15, 2006

California Dreamin’

I went dancing last night. Yes, Syrians dance, too.

We arrived at around one o’clock at one of a handful of western-style dance clubs in Damascus. The parking lot was full of luxury cars, several with Saudi Arabian plates. (Damascus, as other Arab capitals, is a popular summer vacation spot for wealthy Gulf Arabs escaping the heat and strict social codes of Arabia.)

The club was packed with young Syrians, Saudis and a few Americans, including a couple male U.S. embassy staffers. Women, drinking and smoking, their hair highlighted in blonde, were wearing what they wouldn’t dare on the streets: tube tops, strapless dresses. The scene was Damascus' best interpretation of Beirut nightlife, renowned in the region.

The music was loud -- too loud to talk, to think -- a requisite for any dance club anywhere worth its salt. It was a mix of American, European and Arabic beats. Then, at about three o'clock, came a remix of “California Dreamin',” the 1960’s hit by the Mamas and the Papas.

All the leaves are brown and the skies are gray.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin', on such a winter's day.

I sang along on the dance floor with an American friend. The Syrians did, too.


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