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Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Night with a Whirling Dervish

Whirling Dervish
Friday night saw us at the Ramadan tent in The Marriott Hotel. Ramadan tents traditionally provide free food for the poor, but have been adopted by the big hotels to, er, make money. Some tents start at Iftar, at sunset, but The Marriott’s tent starts at nine o’ clock.

The tent Actually, to my disappointment, it wasn’t a tent, but a room done up like a tent. The decor is very traditional and luxurious, with moons and stars hanging down from the ceiling. You can sit at a table, or lounge on a sofa with a shisha, as waiters walk round swinging coals to keep them hot. It actually feels very decadent, which is strange, since this is Ramadan, the month of fasting and abstention.

BuffetFood The food took the form of a buffet, with traditional Arabic and Turkish foods. There were almost no meat dishes: the second evening meal in Ramadan is normally a light one. I started with a shorbet gaza, or carrot soup, followed by Arabic bread, fattoush and tabouli ( Lebanese salads), humus and mohamarra: a dip made from red pepper, garlic, pomegranates and walnuts. I finished off with a delicious basbousa umm ali, an old Egyptian recipe which can perhaps best be described as a cross between rice and bread pudding.

Drink The buffet includes a range of sweet juices to accompany the meal, none of which I’d ever heard of, topped with roasted pine nuts. They included orkusus, a dark juice made from a type of grass and karkade which is made from hibiscus flowers. After the meal we finished off with strong Turkish coffee.

Shisha Shisha refers to the smoking of tobacco with a hookah. There were three types of tobacco to choose from: apple, grape and strawberry. The smoke is smooth, not at all like cigarettes, and very relaxing.

WaitressThe Entertainment Through most of the evening there was traditional Arabic music, pleasant but over-loud. However, the highlight of the evening was the whirling dervish. Whirling dervishes were originally mystic dancers, and the dance involves spinning around, often very fast, for 20 minutes or so. As the dervish does this, his huge costume rises and falls making incredible shapes, at times obscuring his body so that only the blur of his feet are visible. And he doesn’t fall over when he finishes!

Whirling DervishService The service was excellent from start to finish, and when we admired the friendly waitress’s traditional clothing she was happy to pose for a picture.

Price The buffet cost 75 riyals + 17½ percent tax and service. Shisha was 25 riyals, a Turkish coffee 17 Riyals. For seven of us the total bill came to 819 Riyals: incredible value, considering the entertainment, and we couldn’t help comparing it to what we could have paid in England!

Location The Marriot hotel is located on Ras Abu Abboud Street next to the Sailing Club and close to the Dhow Workshop and Oasis hotel. Drive along the Corniche, past the harbour, and take the third exit off the roundabout by the Doha Club.

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