Use the heat of July to your advantage and host an Arabian Nights party. Invoke the romance and intrigue of the far east, stay cool with a menu of Lebanese salads and dips and Moroccan mint tea, sway to some desert grooves and watch aghast as Hollywood makes a fool of itself.
Embrace the warm evening air and make use of all your outdoor spaces. A plush blanket or some dorm-style tapestries and rich-colored throw pillows spread on the floor can turn your back porch into an exotic lounge space. Encourage guests to remove their shoes and get cozy. Fairy lights or a string of lanterns create the perfect mood lighting. Serve dishes on a low coffee table, and if you can, beg, borrow or buy yourself a hookah. (This particular site has them for cheap - generally they run for two or three times as much, and often, you get what you pay for. If you don't know anyone fortunate enough to own a nice one, one of these cheap ones would do in a pinch).
Chances are, if you haven't watched Jewel of the Nile in the past 20 years, you will be in for a shock. It makes Raiders of the Lost Ark look like a documentary on cultural sensitivity. Rent it from Netflix, screen it on mute, and let the fun begin. Also recommended: choose one of the following technicolor classics: The Thief of Baghdad and Lost in a Harem with Abbott & Costello. For the hat trick, try this magnificent beast of an instructional video: Belly Dance Party with Neon!
Yes, that is lace-up denim you're looking at.
There's a lot of freedom in this theme. Expect men in loose fitting tunics, and women in scanty frocks accessorized with Middle Eastern jewelry or scarves. For girls who long to bare their midriffs, this party is a hall pass back to 1996. For people who happen to own hip belts and castanets? Their lives have basically been building up to this evening.
Check out the dashing couple to the right. She's rocking some exquisite jewelry, and he is wearing a red bathrobe and a large hand-towel turban. Amazing.
Fill a blender with a cup of ice. Blend 2 1/2 oz light rum, 2 tsp. lime juice, 1 tsp. sugar and 6 mint leaves for about 15 seconds. Makes one deeeeelicious serving.
Further reading: I HIGHLY recommend A Taste of Lebanon by Mary Salloum, Interlink Books, New York, 2005. This book turned me onto Lebanese cooking - her ratios of lemon juice and salt are always on target, and the dishes are transcendent. Also, consider investing in The Best of America's Test Kitchen, America's Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA, 2009 - every recipe has been tested to perfection, they explain the science behind their findings so you too can replicate their results, and their roasted garlic hummus will blow your mind.