“We get more inquiries about when the next Habibi is than most other events,” Number Nine’s Aaron Riggins says. Habibi, named after the common Arabic term of endearment for both lovers and friends, is a Middle Eastern-focused party held at the P Street lounge in Logan Circle on the third Wednesday of the month — though July’s was pushed back a week so as not to fall during Ramadan. “It’s a little bit more of an energetic Wednesday than the average,” Riggins notes. “An exciting Wednesday night with great music and a really friendly social crowd.”
Riggins helped launch the D.C. party in April of 2013 a few years after he attended the original Habibi party in New York and met its founder DJ IZ, who serves at the event’s resident DJ. “We’re lucky enough that he can come down every month,” says Riggins, who notes DJ IZ “has a huge arsenal of Middle Eastern videos and visuals that he syncs with his music [which] is generally Middle Eastern, or a Middle Eastern-sounding remix of another song that people might recognize.”
The party is open to all, though the focus is on gays of Middle Eastern descent, broadly defined to include those whose lineage is Arabic, Jewish, Turkish or Persian. Even those of Pakistani or Indian heritage won’t feel out of place, given the South Asian influence or pedigree of some of the music DJ IZ plays. And, of course, American dance-pop and pop culture comes into play too.
“I’d say it skews more Middle Eastern, but there are certainly non-Middle Eastern attendees as well,” Riggins says. “And also guys that are just into Middle Eastern guys.” Among that group is Riggins, who isn’t Middle Eastern himself but has traveled pretty extensively throughout the Near East. “It’s definitely a culture that I am fascinated by. I very much enjoy the music, the people, everything.”
The New York Habibi sometimes features belly dancers as well as other stage performers. In D.C., “there’s been talk about supplementing the experience with some additional programming,” Riggins says, “but it’s still in the works.” For the moment, Number Nine’s Habibi has a healthy regular following, which grows a little bit each month. “If you haven’t been, it’s a fun new experience,” he says. “I know friends who just wandered in once and now have become regulars.”