Monday, September 12, 2005

My Middle Eastern weekend.

I was on something of a Middle Eastern kick this past weekend, if my culinary, liturgical and musical choices are any indication. Around lunchtime on Saturday I had a craving for shawarma so I headed to the Beirut Palace at the corner of 11 Mile and Main in Royal Oak. The Beirut Palace provided the shawarma fix I was looking for, and it did so very efficiently and at an affordable price. I was sufficiently impressed by the restaurant's broad menu of Middle Eastern specialties that I'll be sure to return at some point for a fuller meal.

On Sunday I attended Divine Liturgy at St. Michael Melkite Catholic Church in Plymouth, which offered an authentic and deeply moving experience of Arab Christian worship. Though I've visited a handful of other Melkite parishes in the United States, my experience at St. Michael's reminded me in a particularly strong way of what I heard, saw and smelled during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land five years ago. The congregational singing at St. Michael's was particularly strong and soulful, and the ritual incorporated some traditional practice which aren't always seen Stateside, such as the faithful reaching out to touch and reverence the book of Gospels and the chalice as they are carried by in procession. The liturgy itself was almost entirely in Arabic, which I hadn't expected - I though it might be bilingual in Arabic and English, but I was mistaken. Though the language barrier was a bit of a frustration - especially during the lengthy homily - it didn't really prevent me from being able to follow the liturgy or from finding spiritual sustenance. I also appreciated the congregation's hospitality toward a guest who may have seemed a fish out of water.

My musical choices over the last few days have also reflected Middle Eastern influences. In particular I've been listening a lot to The Rough Guide to the Music of Sudan, a gift from one of my coworkers at Catholic Charities in San Jose. I've had this CD for several months and have listened to it now and again, but for whatever reason I've been playing it a lot more lately and particularly over the past weekend. The songs on the Rough Guide disc offer an interesting blend of African and Arabic influences; I have some other African music in my collection but nothing else that could be described as a Arabic or Middle Eastern. This Sudanese compilation may well be a bridge to greater diversification in my musical tastes. Though readers outside the Detroit metro area may not be in a good position to visit the Beirut Palace or St. Michael's, but if you're looking for a neat addition to your CD collection, consider The Rough Guide to the Music of Sudan. AMDG.


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