Simon’s Cultural Tour of Lebanon, 2019
I learned a lot about Lebanon on Simon’s cultural tour, some things could easily be read on a Wiki page, but many things need to be seen to truly understand. The juxtaposition of a nation of people who have only been free for the span of a generation, how war and occupation changed the landscape and populace, and still manage to hold on to a rich cultural history, preserving custom and adapting to changing times. The Lebanese people are amazingly resilient, endlessly kind, and brilliantly creative.
Simon’s tour is very different from a commercial tour. He doesn’t take you to the ‘big ticket’ easy items, instead, he shows you the heart of his home country. We visited the northern mountains, a museum with artwork and poetry from a famed artist, and forests filled with cedar trees.
But first, perhaps I should explain how I ended up spending 9 amazing days in Lebanon.
In every workshop I’ve ever attended with Lebanese Simon, he does three things: Simon always starts with a warm-up that immediately introduces you to his signature style . He provides a few nuggets of dance history and the evolution of regional tribal dances that came together to form belly dance for the stage. And then he asks that we not only support the dancers now beside us, but that we also give back to the cultures that provided the foundations of this amazing art form.
A few highlights from Lebanon
If you were not already aware, Lebanon is famous for it’s cedar trees, it IS on the flag. Back home in Alabama there is even a Cedar Club, where Lebanese adults gather. These magnificent conifers were endangered due to deforestation, but thanks to government intervention, the forests of Mt. Lebanon are returning.
Simon brought in a host of top-notch Lebanese talent to give us a true taste of the Lebanese style of belly dance. Amani, of course, was a delight, and dark-horse Alexandre might be a new favorite of mine. But Basima was something quite special. We saw her perform in Beirut during dinner our second night.
Photoshoot with Toni
Simon really does think of everything a belly dancer might want on the trip. He even set us up with a talented photographer.