Have A Hafla!
A Hafla is a Middle Eastern Dance party, and everyone enjoys a party right? So have a Hafla! It can be held in someone's living room, around a campfire in the woods or maybe a private room in a restaurant, as long as there is Middle Eastern Dance, Music and Food. You might have a theme, such as scenes along the banks of the Nile, a Desert Oasis, a Sultan's Harem, an ancient Temple or maybe a Nomad's camp. You can decorate the space simply, with veils, rugs and potted plants. Feel free to ask the guests to bring something to add to the ambiance. It's the enjoyment of the participants that should be the focus. Shared experience builds a sense of community, and it's the gathering together of people that creates shared experience.
The participants should supply the entertainment in terms of dance. Those that wish to, that is. No one should feel pressured into performing. It doesn't really matter what you choose to do so long as the Hafla ends with everyone having had the opportunity to express themselves. Respect each other's opinions and plan for differences. Like no alcohol or profanity if there are going to be people attending who may be offended. Remember certain religions proscribe the use of alcohol. Don't forget about vegetarians either. You might want to have an invitation only smokers or non-smokers party, or an adults only. Just plan ahead so that all the attendees are as comfortable as possible. This also applies to musicians. If it's "open mike night" make sure no one hogs the "stage". Ask if you may play with someone; don't just assume they want you to join in. There is a time and a place for group jam. Many melody instruments are over whelmed easily by big loud drums, especially the deep drums. So make sure you ask before joining in. It's just being polite. Also musicians have a tendency to get louder as they get happier. Make sure your enthusiasm doesn't cause you to flail away at your instrument. I have been driven from a room and sometimes right out of a house by drummers who are banging away so loudly you can't even think, much less hear your own instrument. There can be no nuance or finesse to full throttle banging.
You can have contests, or you can perform for each other. Either way I would recommend having the dancers sign up to perform as they arrive. It will really help to keep things moving along. Keep the competition friendly. A Hafla shouldn't be high stress; you want everyone to have a good time to be happy with and for each other. Even the most insecure dancer should feel appreciated. Remember to have respect for each other as dancers. Give your full attention and enthusiasm to whom ever is performing and don't hog in on someone else's time to shine.
You can have a dance contest with the usual categories:
Best Drum solo
Best Sword work etc. you get the idea
Or unusual categories:
Best able to chew gum, shimmy and play zils at the same time
Best use of some really ugly material
The most injured still dancing dancer
Best dancer insults.
Best use of a stupid prop (you'd be amazed at the things you can balance on your head!)
The Middle East should inspire prizes. They can be provided by the host of the Hafla or the host may ask each attendee to donate a few dollars towards the prizes. Remember to take guests financial status into consideration and keep the cost of the prizes appropriate. Or you can require each guest to bring a prize stating a limit on cost.
Some Prize ideas:
A new tape or CD of Belly Dance music
An inexpensive Belly Dance video
Some pretty, unusual or inexpensive material
Store bought or homemade beaded appliques
Incense, Incense burners
Candles and/or holders
Bead work like necklaces or belly drapes or hand-flowers or headpieces etc.
Zils Saroyan's Nefertitti is very nice & inexpensive
Beaded earrings or beaded fringe
A good book or manuscript you could even ask the author to inscribe it
Coins & jingles
Dance inspired stationary and/or accessories
Food like a pan of Baklava or other homemade Middle Eastern Treats
A certificate for dinner for two at a local Middle Eastern restaurant
A newsletter or magazine subscription
Or donated services:
Like a massage
Photographs or videotape of the winners next performance donated by someone with the skills and equipment
A gift certificate to a photo session with the winner in costume at some place like Wal-Mart or K-mart that offer cheap photo pkgs.
Or best of all free classes donated by a teacher, or free seamstress work
Other entertainment which is fun:
Have a fortuneteller, who works with cards or palmistry, or maybe who reads tealeaves or coffee grounds.
Do Menhdi on each other.
Share Poetry, like from the book of the Dead, or Rumi, or maybe something original
Tell or read stories, like Scherazade
Prepare a short entertaining lecture on any dance-related subject
Share new music
Share a special video
Sing a song or better yet teach a song the whole group can sing
Share and/or instruct in a new Social Custom.
Create a quiz of Middle Eastern trivia with a prize for the winner.
You can have a seek and find game with a puzzle to be solved written in Egyptian Hieroglyphics with clues explaining the Hieroglyphics hidden about.
You can show snippets of videos (or photos or even written descriptions or quotes) of well-known dancers, or historical figures and see who can name them first.
Cut out cardboard outlines of the Hand of Fatima and have everyone color in their own after supplying some examples of Mendi patterns with some basic examples in the patterns used. Use magic markers which the host supplies or asks the guests to bring. They can be kept or exchanged with other dancers during the night, or may be each one contains a clue on the back to one of the games. Another variation on this is to supply crayon shavings in a rainbow of colors in separate containers. Draw the outline and Mendhi decoration of the Hand of Fatima on two pieces of wax paper with a black permanent magic marker, remember the marker may bleed through so it is a good idea to use a large piece of cardboard to protect the work surface. Lay one sheet of the prepared wax hand, wax side up. Sprinkle different colors of the shaved crayon within the outlines, don't use too much a little goes a long way. Once you're satisfied lay the second sheet of prepared wax hand (Make sure the patterns on both are identical) wax side down on top of the colored hand. Be careful and go slowly making sure the outlines match up. Using a pre-heated iron set on dry low heat, gently run the iron over the hand until all the wax is melted. Once cooled both sides should stick together. Run a piece of tape along both sides of the wrist end on the hand or poke a hole through for some thread then hang in a window and enjoy.
Hire a band, or ask a band to donate it's time in return for dinner
Use recorded music
Have participants supply or make the music
Or any combination of the above
Burn Incense but be careful what you use and how much. Many people have allergies and have difficulty breathing or get headaches if the incense is too pungent or heavy. Also remember that incense is a fire hazard so be aware and keep it away from veils and skirts, or precarious positions.
Use oil lamps or candles; remember they are a source of fire hazard and heat, not to mention what hot wax can do to silky veils and other expensive and delicate material
Use small tables or large trays on stands for dinning on.
Place Oriental rugs and potted plants around the room.
Pillows or cushions for lounging
If you've got a small space or if your expecting a crowd keep the room on the cool side
Have music playing quietly when people arrive and between performances you may want to assign someone specifically to take care of the music all night long. Make sure it's never too loud, you don't want people to have trouble hearing conversations.
This can be in a restaurant were guests can order from a set menu or ala Carte
The meal can be supplied in part or in whole by the host
This can be a covered dish affair with each guest supplying a dish
If so it can be served buffet style
If not a buffet there should be servers
Don't forget vegetarians
Before serving have some volunteers traverse the room with an ewer of warm Rose water which is poured over the guests hands which are held out over a bowl to catch the water and a clean towel is offered. Once the host has decided that the guests have finished dining then the warm water (this time make it lemon water which removes grease) bowl and fresh towels make the rounds again. This is such a nice ritual. Remember that it's fine to eat with your fingers but try not to use your left hand, which in many countries is considered very rude and unsanitary because of their long held hygiene beliefs.
(For more recipes see http://www.recipesource.com/)
Black Olives with Feta and Olive Oil
1 can of large or extra large pitted Black Olives, drained
1 pkg. of Feta cheese with Tomato and Basil, drained
About one tablespoon of a good quality of Olive oil.
Place about two thirds of the Feta on a plate pour the Olive Oil over it. Using a fork, work the Olive Oil into the Feta. Once it's well mixed use your fingers to stuff it into the holes in the olives left by the pit. Be careful not to over stuff the olives, as they will burst. Even people who don't like black olives love this recipe. Stand back and watch these get gobbled up!
Moroccan Spiced Olives
1-Teaspoon Cumin seeds
1-Teaspoon Fennel seeds
1-Teaspoon Coriander seeds
1/4 Teaspoon Cardamom -- ground
1 Pinch Crushed red pepper flakes
1 Pinch Nutmeg -- ground
1 Pinch Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 1/2 cups Green olives -- brought to
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Orange juice
3 Garlic cloves -- minced
Heat first 8 ingredients in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat & add olives & toss to coat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 4 hours or up to 3 weeks. The longer they marinate, the better they taste. Drain & serve at room temperature.
2-3 Cloves of Garlic
2-3 Tablespoons of Tahini
2 Cans of cooked Chick Peas, (also called Garbanzo Beans) drained, retaining the liquid
4 Tablespoons of the chick peas liquid
1-2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, bottled may be substituted
2-4 tablespoons of a good quality Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon salt
One large spoonful of Sour Cream - optional
Seasoning for Lemon Humus:
Make a Basic Humus recipe and add the juice of one whole Lemon and mix well.
Seasoning for Dill Humus:
Make a Basic Humus recipe and add 2 Tablespoons or more of Dill Weed and mix well.
Seasoning for Spicy Humus:
1 Teaspoon Cumin
¼ Teaspoon Hot Paprika
¼ Teaspoon Sweet Paprika
1 Teaspoon Chili powder
1/8 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2-4 Extra Garlic
Start food processor and add garlic. As soon as garlic is minced, add drained chickpeas, lemon juice, salt, tahini, and Chick Pea liquid and spices, which you should adjust to suit your own tastes. Blend until very smooth. Add a bit more liquid to thin if desired. Empty contents of food processor into a shallow wide bowl. Smooth top with knife. Sprinkle with paprika and then dribble with Olive Oil. Serve with fresh warm pitas for dipping.
Mrs. Arazie's Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas)
2 Pounds of lean ground Beef
1-1/2 Cup Raw Rice
Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Ground Allspice
2 Tablespoons Garlic Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
3-1/2 Cups Warm Water
2-3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 cup Lemon Juice
1 Cup Sugar
Mix together ground beef, rice, cinnamon, allspice, garlic salt, pepper, 1/2-cup water and 3/4 tsp. salt.
Roll in grape leaves.
Mix together 3 cups water, lemon juice, sugar, and 2-tsp. salt. Pour over stuffed grape leaves and top with apricots.
Bake covered at 350 for 1-1/2 hours or until rice is done.
To roll Grape Leaves:
You can buy grape leaves in jars of brine at large grocery stores in most big cities. Drain the brine and rinse the leaves well. Place a leaf on a flat surface in front of you with the stem pointing towards you and the leaf tip pointing directly away from you. Pinch the stem off where it joins the leaf and discard. Place a spoonful of the filling a few inches up from where you pinched the stem, leaving enough leaf to roll over the spoonful, (rolling away from you). Now fold the right side of the leaf over, then the left side over. Now you have a long strip, which you roll right up into a small log. If you want to get fancy, I've seen the stem used as a piece of string tied around the Dolma like a package.
Corun's Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Ground Beef or Lamb
Red Current Raisins
Pickled Grape Leaves
Sauté ground meat with salt, pepper, garlic, and cinnamon.
Sauté pine nuts in butter.
Soak raisins in water (use less raisins than pine nuts) and drain.
Mix ingredients and roll in grape leaves.
1-3 good sized Zucchini
1-3 good sized summer Squash
1 Can French cut Green Beans - Drained
1 cup frozen or fresh Peas
1 Cup frozen or fresh Lima Beans
1 vegetable broth/seasoning cube
Several strands of Saffron
3-4 Cloves of Garlic
2-3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Box of Couscous
After washing fresh vegetables, cut up and place in large pot with canned vegetables. (Don't cut too small, you don't want them to cook away.)
Add olive oil and vegetable broth cube.
Cover pot and place on medium heat. (Do not add water.)
Cook vegetables until tender.
Drain vegetables retaining liquid.
Cook couscous according to directions, using liquid from vegetables instead of water and placing crushed garlic and saffron in liquid to come to a boil and cook with couscous.
Once couscous is ready, mix it in with vegetables in large pot.
Let sit covered for a few minutes giving couscous time to absorb flavor of the vegetables.
Feel free to experiment using different vegetables and seasonings.
1 10oz pkg. frozen spinach
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purp flour
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon; crushed
1 cup milk
2 eggs; beaten
1 cup cream-style cottage cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese; crumbled
10 sheets phyllo dough; thawed
1/2 cup butter; melted
For filling, cook spinach according to package directions; drain well, pressing out excess liquid. In a medium saucepan, cook onion in the 3 tablespoons hot butter till tender. Stir in flour, tarragon, and pepper. Add milk. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Stir about half of the mixture into eggs; return all to saucepan. Stir in spinach and cheeses. Set aside.
Unfold phyllo dough; remove one sheet. Cover remaining phyllo dough with a damp towel while working. Brush the one phyllo dough sheet lightly with some of the 1/2 cup butter. Fold in thirds lengthwise; brush top with butter. Place one end of the folded sheet in the center of a 12- or 14-inch pizza pan, extending the other end over the side of the pan.
Repeat brushing and folding with remaining butter and phyllo dough; arrange strips in spoke fashion evenly around the pan. (The inner ends of each sheet should overlap in the center and be about 3 inches apart at the outer ends.)
Spread the filling in an 8-inch circle in the center of the phyllo dough. Starting with the last phyllo dough strip placed in the pan, lift the end of the strip that is extending over the pan and, holding it with both hands, twist the end several times.
Fold the twisted phyllo dough strip in half toward the filling. Coil and tuck the end under to form a rosette. Lightly press the rosette in the filling, leaving a 3-inch circle in the center so the filling is visible.
Repeat with the remaining phyllo dough strips in the reverse order that you placed them on the pan. Drizzle with any remaining butter.
Bake in a 375 degree over for 35-40 minutes or till top is golden brown. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut into wedges. Serve the wedges warm or cool. Makes 8 side-dish servings.
Adjust portions to suit individual tastes
2 Pkgs. ready made Fillo Dough
1/2-3/4 Cup of Melted Butter
15x10x2 OR 2 8x8x2 PANS
No more than 2 Pounds of nuts (Pistachios, Pecans, Walnuts etc.)
½ cup of Sugar
1 Tablespoon of ground Cloves (to taste)
3 Tablespoons of ground Cinnamon (to taste)
1 to 2 Tablespoon fresh ground Nutmeg (to taste)
2 1/2 cups of Sugar or 1 cup of Sugar and 1 ½ cups of Honey
1 cup of Water
½ of a fresh Lemon
½ Teaspoon Lemon and/or Orange peel
1 Tablespoon Rose or Orange water
Pre-heat oven to 300.
Simmer sugar, honey, water, lemon and lemon/orange peel until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat.
Squeeze lemon and remove.
Strain syrup to remove peel, pulp from lemon, and possible seeds.
Stir in orange or rose water.
Grind ingredients for NUT MIXTURE in food processor. Don't over-grind or it will turn to paste.
Cut prepared fillo dough to fit pan. (Keep fillo dough covered with a damp cloth to keep from drying out.)
Brush bottom of pan with melted butter.
Carefully peel off a layer of fillo dough and place in pan. Brush lightly with melted butter.
Repeat until you have 8 layers.
Take a couple of fistfuls of nut mixture and spread over buttered layers of fillo dough.
Repeat layering and buttering, always using 8 layers of fillo dough, until all dough and nut mixture has been used, ending with a layer of fillo dough.
Cut diagonal slashes from one corner of pan to other corner, rotate pan and repeat so little diamonds are formed. Do not cut all the way through to bottom of pan.
Stick a whole clove in center of each diamond.
Place pan in oven and bake for 1-1/2 hours or until golden red.
When you think it's brown enough; remove from oven and poor chilled syrup all over it.
Allow to cool completely, then finish cutting.
Instant Russian Tea
My mother made this every winter and it is now a solid family tradition. I don't know where she originally got the recipe, but I bet most American Baby-Boomers have had some version of this. I'm adding this here because the spices are all favorites in the Middle East and I think everyone will enjoy this nice hot tea.
1-1/2 cups of Sugar
2 cups of Tang (yes the breakfast drink)
¾ cups of any good instant Tea
1 Teaspoon grated, dried Lemon Peel
1 Teaspoon grated Orange Peel
½ Teaspoon of Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon ground Cloves
Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
Directions for use:
1 rounded spoonful in a cup of hot water
2 spoonfuls for a regular glass of Iced Tea
3 spoonfuls for a large glass of Iced Tea
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This page last modified: December 22, 2005