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Cairo Caravan 2009
The Queen Mary, Long Beach, Calif. All aboard! The Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association (MECDA) had its yearly celebration on June 13–14, 2009 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif. The historic ship is now the new home for Cairo Caravan (previously Cairo Carnivale), the longest-running belly dance event in the world! This highly anticipated event offered three floors of 60 vendors to nearly 4,000 visitors over the two-day weekend. Guests were delighted by the Queen Mary’s beautiful art-deco decor and nonstop dance performances on two large stages. There was also an exciting drum circle in an outdoor tent where an estimated 100 musicians took turns playing for dancers throughout the weekend. Four workshops were taught by instructors Rachel Brice, Fahtiem, Sherri Wheatley and Bahaia (from Texas) on Saturday and Sunday. Cairo Caravan attendees were offered a discounted room rate aboard the Queen Mary’s historic hotel at $109 per night (with a four person maximum per room). Cairo Caravan also offered an open bar and small lunch items. Other food options were available, such as a full lunch or dinner at one of the ship’s four award-winning restaurants (Sir Winston’s, The Promenade Café, Tibbies or the Chelsea Restaurant) . I took a small break from the event and had an early
Outside ship photo courtesy of The Queen Mary. Indoors - 3 floors of vendors! photo by Belly Dance Magazine. 18
dinner at the Chelsea restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was reasonably priced and very relaxing. Other highlights that the Queen Mary offers include historic tours, ghost tours and free tram rides to the Pyke, which offers carnival rides and many other restaurants. The event only had a few minor flaws. The ship’s escalators were inoperable and used as stairs, but there was a large elevator available to make things a bit easier. Also, the lower stage had a low ceiling and lighting fixtures that obstructed the use of props such as canes –– it was nearly impossible for some performers to use their props to their fullest. MECDA representative Blume Bauer explained that the Queen Mary is a historical landmark and event organizers are under obligation to preserve the state of the ship. Next year’s performers will be advised about the low ceiling on the Valley of the Kings stage, and those needing a higher ceiling for next year will be told to sign up for the Luxor stage, which is on an upper deck. Overall, the Queen Mary is a great location for Cairo Caravan and I will surely return next year. See you there! MECDA welcomes suggestions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or their website at www.mecda.org.