Middle-Eastern 'lion dance' to celebrate 8 years for eatery

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2008, 12:00am

It's been eight years since Egyptian restaurant Habibi opened its doors on Wellington Street. In that time, it has certainly helped popularise Middle Eastern cuisine in this town, not to mention an appreciation for belly dancing, which occurs every weekend on their premises.

Last Thursday night, proprietors Jennifer Migliorelli and Hosni Emam celebrated their success with an anniversary party that was as spectacular as something King Tut would have staged. Besides an endless parade of well-wishers from the Arabic community, including the consuls general of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, even the owner of rival Middle Eastern diner Bazaar, dropped by for a salaam greeting and a drink.

However, the best part of the night had to be the entertainment. In between guests indulging in the array of Middle East mezzes and main fare - most of which will be featured in a new Saturday lunch buffet called Pharaoh's Feast - periodically everyone was asked to part like the Red Sea for dancers.

They included an almost dervish-like Turkish spinning routine featuring a guy with a technicolour cape (above), several enticing female belly dancers, and one very unusual act with two people donning what looked like a horse costume. According to Emam, it's the Egyptian equivalent of a lion dance.

'I brought [the costume] from Cairo,' Emam said. 'It's a folk dance performed at weddings, events and parties. You know, every culture has this kind of thing.' I've never seen lion dancers roll on the floor like this break dancing equine, but it was fun.