The Souk: A Middle Eastern Bazaar

A souk is an open-air marketplace found in Middle Eastern and North African cities. Souks were traditionally held outside, so that the merchants could easily unload their caravans and display their goods for sale. Over time, Souks became more than just a market to buy and sell goods; they also became venues for major festivals and became a popular meeting area for locals and travelers alike.

souk 5

souk 6

In any village or town in the Middle East, you can find souks or Middle Eastern bazaars selling some of the finest crafts made by Middle Eastern artisans in the area. Each souk is unique and can have anything from Middle Eastern spices, to Arabian lamps and lanterns, to belly dancing costumes. Some of the most popular items, however, are Moroccan carpets and Middle Eastern blankets.

carpet

In the countryside and in smaller towns, the people take turns as to which day of the week their souks should occur, which allows merchants to travel from town to town and reach more customers.

In larger cities, souks are held on a grander scale where entire blocks are set up for just one particular craft. The crowds at larger souks are vast, but with blocks organized by what they are selling, it is easy to find your way.

souk 2

souk 7

Middle Eastern Souks are unlike stores in American where everything has a fixed price. Bargaining the price of an item is accepted and in some souks, required. You can bargain for any item, even cobras! The price displayed on an item is a starting point for the bargaining and gives the buyer an idea of the item’s value, so they know where to begin and end the bargaining. Merchants expect buyers to offer a lower price and with time and patience, you can get the best possible price for your item.

snake

It is always best to explore a souk or bazaar as much as you can before bargaining for an item. If you have a particular item in mind before you go to a souk, it is best to research it to the fullest so that you get exactly what you want at the best possible price. To get a better idea about the quality you are looking for visit authentic craft museums in the city first. There you can find information on your item and see the difference between the real thing and a knock-off.

souk 4

brass ware

In the end, time and patience in the bargaining process as well as knowledge about the item you are bargaining for, will help you have an enjoyable time at any souk. Even if you don’t buy anything, walking around all the merchants and items is enough to make you feel completely in tune with the culture and daily life of the souk.

Visit  www.zoharproductions.com or contact us at 800-658-0258 info@zoharproductions.com.

We are located in New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Miami.

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Hookah Party Ideas

Hookah Resist…!

The practice of smoking hookah originated in ancient India. It was not only a custom, but also a matter of prestige. The rich and landed classes would gather around to smoke hookah and socialize. Centuries later, hookah has become quite popular in the United States and elsewhere as an exotic and popular focal point at parties. Pictured below are tented hookah lounges provided at parties produced by Zohar Productions.

Hookah Lounge

Hookah Pipes

Hookah or Shisha is a hookah pipe with a long, flexible tube that draws the smoke through water contained in a bowl.  A person sucks on the end of the pipe and smoke is carried through the tube to the person’s mouth.

Tented Hookah Lounge, lady smoking hookah in a tent

In India and Pakistan, the name most similar to the English  hookah is huqqa. Depending on locality, hookahs are referred to by many names, Narghilè is the name most commonly used in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Greece, and Turkey. Narghile derives from the Persian word nārgil (meaning coconut, and in turn from the Sanskrit nārikela suggesting that early hookahs were hewn from coconut shells. Shisha from the Persian word shīshe meaning glass, is the common term for the hookah in Egypt and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf (including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia), and in Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The origins of the hookah began nearly 10,000 years ago in the northwestern provinces of India along the border of Pakistan in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The first hookahs were simple and primitive in design and did not look like the hookahs that are seen today.

Persian, hookah

When the hookah made its way to Turkey almost 500 years ago, it entered the upper class and became popular among intellectuals. Here, the hookah grew in size and complexity, becoming more similar to designs that are seen today.

Hookah came into Western culture when Lewis Carroll first wrote about a hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. After the book was published, hookah lounges sprang up in England and America, where today it is still popular to imitate the caterpillar by blowing rings and bubbles with colorful smoke. Hookah tents at parties are also very popular and are a great way to guarantee a unique and exotic party.

Caterpillar smoking hookah

Sweet scented tobacco is smoked in the hookah and comes in a variety of flavors. Some of the flavors are based on flowers such as rose and jasmine. Others flavors are derived from fruits like apple, mango and strawberry. There are also flavors such as chocolate, coffee, licorice, and even cotton candy! It is important to be creative in combining flavors in order to create a rich and complex blend.

Even though many centuries have passed since the hookah was invented, its  popularity remains, and it still bringing people together to socialize and celebrate special moments.

Hookah lounges at parties are available by contacting Zohar Productions at 800-658-0258 or info@zoharproduction.com. We have locations in NYC, LA, Miami, and Phoenix. Visit  www.zoharproductions.com  for additional information.

Watch this video to learn how to set-up a hookah:

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June 21, 2013 · 6:56 pm

Henna Parties

Henna has been at the core of celebrations throughout history. It is an important tradition in many cultures, and is used in over 60 countries today.

Henna is a flowering plant that is found in the dry climates of the Middle East and parts of Africa. However, henna is more commonly known as the dye that is made from the plant and is used to create temporary tattoos. The dye can also be used to dye hair, fingernails, and fabrics. The dye stains the skins with colors ranging from pale brown to dark russet red.

There are many ways to mix and prepare henna, and each family has a unique recipe that has been handed down through generations, along with secret henna styles and henna designs that have been in the family for hundreds of years.

The history of henna began thousands of years ago and is still growing today. The art of Henna has been practiced for over seven thousand years in both the Middle East and Africa and in recent years has gained popularity in Europe and  North America.

Indian henna

People receive henna tattoos at henna parties, which celebrate a magnitude of events. Henna party ideas include weddings, birthdays, baby showers, and bar mitzvahs.

henna application on hand

In India, brides have henna designs painted on their hands and feet on the day before their weddings with beautiful, intricate designs. Henna designs, also known as Menhdi, can include paisley and geometric designs with elaborate flowers that cover a large amount of the hands and feet.

Middle Eastern henna is used for more than just weddings. For instance, pregnant women have designs painted on their ankles and bellies to protect them throughout childbirth.

Pregnant henna

henna on foot and hand

Moroccan henna  designs tend to be more geometric in their design than the flowery style of Indian henna.

Moroccan henna

Jewish Moroccans have their own henna designs for weddings. During the traditional henna party the day before the wedding, a member of the family smudges henna into the palm of the bride and groom or places henna balls covered in glitter on their fingertips to symbolically bestow the new couple with good health, fertility, wisdom, and security. Frequently, a ribbon is tied around the smudged ball of henna on the palm in order to darken the color so the henna lasts longer.

henna balls

henna ribbon

henna blob

Henna designs continue to be used for various party occasions in many diverse cultures. These intricate designs are representative of each of these cultures and also serve as a popular source of party entertainment.

Henna parties are available by contacting Zohar Productions at
800-658-0258 or info@zoharproduction.com We have locations in NYC, LA, Miami, and Phoenix.

Visit  www.zoharproductions.com  for additional information.

Watch this video to learn more about henna!

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June 14, 2013 · 9:03 pm

Traditional Moroccan Tents

Tents have long been woven into the history and culture of the Morocco. Some tents were designed to withstand the Moroccan desert and decorative tents reserved for royalty.

The Bedouin tent has been a refuge for desert dwellers for centuries and is known as a “beit al-sha’r,” or “house of hair.” These tents were woven by soldiers or herders who ventured across the desert for long periods of time. They wove the tents from the hair of their sheep and goats into strips of coarse cloth known as “fala’if,” which were then sewn together. The colors of the tents were darkly hued, mainly due to the dark goat’s hair, which was occasionally streaked with sheep’s wool, giving it a striped appearance. The Bedouin tent’s only purpose was to act as a form of shelter from the desert.

Bedouin Tent

Beduoin tent painting

The tent was low with a somewhat flat roof to ensure it would not blow over by the desert wind. The tent’s cloth was woven loosely to allow heat dispersal, and the black color of the tent absorbed the heat, making the interior of the tent between 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the outside. The tent provided shade from the hot sun as well as insulation on cold desert nights.

The Caidal tents were reserved for royalty and were a source of entertainment rather than shelter. Caidal tents fulfilled any whim the royals might have, such as welcoming kings and sultans as they arrived in the kingdom. The tents were also set-up to entertain guests with sumptuous feasts, music, dancing, and entertainment exhibitions.  Caidal tents are still used today by the Moroccan royalty, but Caidal tents have also gained popularity among event and theme party planners worldwide.

 Moroccan cadial Tent

Moroccan tent drawing

Modern Cadial Tent by pool

Caidal Tent

The Caidal tents were typically hand-made by a group of forty artisans who lived and worked together for a month. The artisans weaved with their bare hands, showing the history and unique tradition of the Moroccan people: past and present. The lush qualities of the tent reflected the labor of each artisan. The tent’s authentic character allowed them to become the home of extraordinary celebrations.

Although these tents are now used for many different occasions, their appearance has remained relatively the same.  The tent interior and exterior decorations symbolize authority, spirituality, and beauty.

Inside Moroccan Tent

top of cadial tent

The most common combination of colors for the interior of the tents are the national colors of Morocco: red (symbol of power), green (symbol of the sacred), and gold (symbol of wealth). The exterior of the tent is white with a covering of black pineapple-shaped designs, which symbolize fertility.

The Moroccan culture is reflected in every aspect of its tents. When you step inside a Moroccan tent, you are stepping into more than a form of shelter; you are stepping into a part of Moroccan history and tradition.

Moroccan tent rentals are available by contacting Zohar Productions at 800-658-0258 or info@zoharproduction.com

Visit  www.zoharproductions.com  for additional information.

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Men’s Dances of the Middle East

When picturing a Middle Eastern dancer, most of us have some image of an enchanting, bare midriff woman shimmying with a coin scarf around her hips.  While this stereotype may be true of many of today’s belly dancers, men have been publicly performing a variety of folkloric dance styles for centuries. Some of the most popular folkloric styles of dance are Raqs Sharqi, Whirling Dervish, Debke, and the Cane or Stick Dance.

Belly dancing, also known as Oriental Dance or Raqs Sharqi is a theatrical adaptation of traditional Arabic folk dances performed by both men and women. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that it became an exclusively female dance for men. Prior to the period of European influence [late 1800’s], male oriental dancers were not novelties; they were quite common.

Male oriental dancers wear colorfully embroidered vests, shirts, and loose fitting pants. They also wear scarves around their hips, not only for style, but also to emphasize the visibility of their intricate hip movements.  Audiences are pleasantly surprised by their ability to control their bodies as they shimmy and undulate, much like their female counterparts, but from a masculine point of view. This oriental dancer is balancing a 3’ tall hookah on his head at the same time as dancing and playing finger cymbals to exemplify his high level of skill.

The Stick or Cane dance, known as Tahtib, is an Egyptian folk dance. This dance involves a lightweight stick or cane that’s typically about 4’ long. Some say this dance is similar to fencing because the dancers use the canes to depict a strategic fighting routine.

Stick and Cane dancing has been featured at many events booked through Zohar Productions including a media event debuting the Trump Organization’s joint real estate venture with Nakheel, a Dubai luxury hotel developer. Below are the dancers posing with Donald Trump, Jr.

Zohar also provided a cane dance performance for an event inaugurating Qatar Airline’s new airline route to Dallas International Airport.

The Whirling Dervish dance is a Sufi dance originating in Turkey. Traditionally, it is performed at a customary worship ceremony where the dancers dress in an all white costume with a tall hat. The spinning of the dervishes symbolizes the journey to reach the source of all perfection.

The Egyptian style of this dance, Tanoura, is a popular form of entertainment at parties. Tanoura dancers wear multiple layers of colorful skirts, mesmerizing the audience as they spin and dance to the music. Zohar Productions provides the Whirling Dervish dance at parties and festivals across the United States.

Debke is a popular Arabic folk dance in several countries including Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. Debke performers, dance in a line holding hands or linking arms. When the music begins, they are led by what is called a raas or a lawweeh in a dance of synchronized steps. Debke is traditionally performed at weddings and other festive celebrations where guests can join in on the celebratory dance. The Al-Arz Lebanese Art Group is a Canadian troupe that performs and teaches Debke, as well as other dance styles including Oriental Dance and Zaffé (traditional bride and groom entrance). Zohar booked this talented troupe for the opening night of the U.S. tour of the Jordanian Petra Exhibition, which was underwritten and sponsored by the Queen of Jordan.

Zohar Productions also offers ballroom dancers as party facilitators to dance with the female guests. This “Persian Prince” was a popular party addition at the Arizona Symphony Ball.

Zohar Productions is an event planning company that specializes in Middle Eastern entertainment and authentic decorations for Arabian Nights and Moroccan themed events. Zohar Productions can supply any of the entertainment featured in this blog at your next social or corporate event.  Call 800-658-0258 or visit http://www.zoharproductions.com for more information.

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June 28, 2012 · 11:16 pm

Hiring Exotic Animals for Your Special Event

We are frequently asked to provide exotic animals for our well-known Moroccan and Arabian Nights theme parties. Although, having an elephant, camel, monkey or snake charmer at your party is an exciting prospect, there are several things you need to take into consideration before you do this:

Indian Royal Hoda Elephant from Zohar Productions

  • Do the animals come from a reputable and reliable source? Are they healthy and well groomed? Do they have USDA papers and inoculations required by law? Do you need a permit to exhibit the animal? The rules on this vary from town to town and from state to state. Some communities have no laws regarding exhibiting an animal and others require an officer from Fish and Game to be present during the party. Be sure you check this out well in advance of your party because, if you need a permit, the paperwork may take a few weeks. Some locales do not allow contact with the animal and a barrier or stanchion must be between the animal and the public. In other places this is not required and you can have contact with the animal. It is always at the trainer’s discretion whether or not to allow this depending on the crowd and the disposition of the animal. In most cases, this is not an issue, but safety is always of the utmost importance. You want to hire a responsible trainer and a friendly animal…

Snake Charmer from Zohar Productions

  • So, are you hiring a “party animal” that loves people and attention? An animal that is not nervous around loud music, flashing cameras and lots of activity and excitement? What about the personality of the trainer? Do they love their animal and know how to keep it happy for several hours of continuous picture taking?

Costumed Gibbon from Zohar Productions

  • Speaking of pictures…how photogenic is the trainer and the animal? Will they be dressed in colorful, beautiful costumes? Guests will undoubtedly want to have pictures taken with the animal. Those photos should be as picturesque as possible. For an Arabian Nights theme, you will want costumes to match. Most trainers do not have their own costumes, so costumes will need to be rented, custome made, or supplied by your event planner. If you are spending $750 to $5000 for an animal, you want those photos to be fabulous!

    Camel from Zohar Productions
  • Last but not least, let’s talk about something that is not usually discussed, but is a very important consideration. What if the animal has to “do their business” during your party? This could be a real downer if not planned for in advance. A knowledgeable trainer will feed the animal far enough in advance to try to prevent this from happening…but this kind of accident can’t always be prevented.

  • Here are a few suggestions: for a camel or elephant there should always be a second trainer on hand who can handle clean-up duty. They should bring a shovel, broom and receptacle that they can keep tucked away and out of view unless it is needed. A bale of wood shavings is great to absorb moisture on cement surfaces (you don’t want to see dark colored puddles on the ground). A carpet of astro turf is great when the animal is on your manicured lawn and you don’t want brown spots left after the party. The astro turf blends right in and can be removed leaving the lawn in pristine condition. Riding into a ballroom on a camel or elephant is tricky and the time spent indoors should be kept to a minimum. Be sure you check with the venue to see if they are OK with this! A monkey needs to wear a diaper, so be sure you have this hidden under a costume.


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