Lucky and I dined at Dar Beida last night, the Moroccan restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency Casablanca. It was billed (by the hotel) as the “most authentic Moroccan food in Casablanca” but we figured it was at least the most convenient Moroccan food in Casablanca.
As it turned out, the food was truly exceptional – every course was delicious and my apricot lamb main course was amazing. Service was also excellent and the restaurant had a wonderful atmosphere.
We arrived around 8:30p for dinner and were surprised to find the restaurant empty. At the time, we counted it as a pleasant surprise.
A musician was sitting on stage strumming a traditional oud.
Not long after, a six-man band showed up doing a mix of Berber and modern music. Okay…that was a bit awkward considering we were still alone in the room, but all part of the experience I suppose.
Then the belly dancer showed up. I had warned Lucky that there would be belly dancers if this was really an authentic Moroccan restaurant and indeed, the dancer showed up in traditional garb and began her act, which meant she pretty much just shook her ample assets (with thanks to the Daily Mail for that term) in different ways while wearing un soutien-gorge that was several sizes too small.
I had to savor the moment…a gay man and a married straight man alone in a restaurant with a belly dancer. Meanwhile members of the band were snickering among themselves.
One song, two songs…were we done? Nope. Must we keep our eyes fixed upon her? Must we clap? Would it be rude to ignore her?
Suddenly she darted over to our table and began dancing just a few feet away, leaving little to the imagination as she glared at us with a seductive mystique (probably cursing under her breath for having to perform for what may have appeared to be two gay men). We could smell her perfume and we could see the small beads of sweat forming on her body after several minutes of continuous dancing. Were we supposed to tip her? Lock eyes with her?
Finally, it was over and she quickly darted out of the room, perhaps more embarrassed than we were.
I know what some of you are thinking – oh you poor brats cannot even appreciate a morsel of Moroccan culture and like most Americans are unable to handle a little skin.
Let me just tell you this wasn’t a “little skin” and the entire act seemed to be so sexualized that it felt like I had finally visited a strip club.
I have an honest question on Islamic culture. Morocco is certainly more liberal than many Muslim-majority countries in the Arab region, but this sort of belly dancing seems wholly at odds with the female modesty that I assumed was fundamental to Islamic culture. Do mainstream Islamic faiths condemn this sort of liberty or is belly dancing an accepted cultural practice?
We’ll look back with fond memories of the evening (at least I will, Lucky may have been scarred deeper) and I highly recommend Dar Beida if you are in Casablanca, but be aware of what to expect and plan to arrive closer to 11pm if you do not want to be the only one in the restaurant. When we finally left, the restaurant was suddenly beginning to fill up, perhaps in anticipation of an encore performance from our valiant dancer.