Gilded Serpent presents...
Wa Sahlan Festival 2004
Day 10: Classes and the Sphinx Speaks
July 1, 2004. I was scheduled to take Randa Kamel's class at 10:00
a.m., so I needed to set my alarm to get up early enough to eat
breakfast and put myself in the mood to dance. The buffet breakfast
offered the usual choices.
Oriental workshop choices included Faten Salama,
Randa Kamel, Freiz,
and Dina. Originally, Dina had been scheduled
for Friday, but she was moved to Thursday to accommodate a change
in her schedule. I had considered signing up for Dina's class,
but I did take it in 2003. In 2003 the primary thing I learned
was that I love to watch Dina dance, but the style of choreography
she teaches doesn't align with the dance style I prefer to do
myself. Also, her immense popularity led to a huge crowd in the
classroom in 2003, and I preferred to avoid repeating that particular
experience. In 2003, it had been difficult to see her despite
her being on the raised platform - I knew that 2004 would only
be worse due to the fact that the number of festival attendees
had doubled over the prior year. The folkloric classes scheduled
for this day were Beba (baladi), Gabi
(Lebanese debke), Khaled Mahmoud
(baladi), and Sameh el Dessouky (Saidi).
Kamel's class was enjoyable. It was more crowded than I would
have preferred, but it wasn't any worse than many a popular seminar
I have attended in the United States.
Randa did her teaching from a platform raised about 3 feet in
the air, which made it easier for people in the back to see her
movements. Although she didn't know a large amount of English,
she knew enough to make key points and offer her students some
direction. Like most Egyptian-taught classes, this one was mostly
"follow the bouncing butt". I felt Randa's combinations were cute,
and I took notes on quite a number of things I wanted to retain.
Randa used several different Arabic pop songs, such as Sobry
Alil by Shareen. Since I enjoy Arabic
pop music, this enhanced the class for me.
I didn't realize
until after class was over that I had failed to take any pictures
of Randa. Rats! But in retrospect, there's a positive side to
that. It means that I enjoyed her class so much that I focused
on retaining what I had learned rather than on reporting for the
class was definitely a highlight of the festival for me, and
I would gladly attend another class taught by Randa in the future!
by Others in the Group
I was enjoying Randa's class, other members of our group were
enjoying other adventures of their own. Karen
and Barbara from the Washington, DC area decided
to use this morning's time for horseback riding. There is a stable
near the pyramids where people can engage either camel rides or
horseback rides. They decided to hire a pair of horses along with
a guide who would presumably give them a lesson on horseback riding.
told me about the adventure. And some adventure it was! It started
out innocuously enough. The guide/instructor took turns with each
of them, offering pointers on riding. At one point, the guide
rode ahead with Karen to give her some individual attention while
the child assisting him stayed with Barbara and led her horse,
a real "sweetie" named Sugar. While this was occurring, Sugar
saw an opportunity to get a bit frisky, deciding the time had
come to enjoy a nice, playful roll in the sand. The child was
powerless to stop it! Barbara had the presence of mind to roll
out of the way, so thankfully she wasn't injured.
the guide realized that Sugar was displaying a bit of rebellion
and he came back to assist, but it was too late to prevent Barbara
from being covered in the sands of time and her belongings strewn
in the dirt!
The festival featured a number of vendors.
Earlier in the week, I simply wasn't very interested in seeing
what they had to offer. But the temptation finally caught up
with me, so on this day I decided to explore the vending booths
after Randa's class. The first one I visited was the designer
that Dina uses. There I met up with Karen and Barbara from our
group, both from the Washington,
DC area. Karen was tempted by a costume, but wanted a second opinion
because its price tag was so high. It was the sort of bra/skirt
costume that Dina sometimes wears for her performances. The bra
looked like a typical pretty costume bra without fringe, only
it was made of a sort of molded foam rubber with the decorations
glued on. There was no belt; instead, the straight skirt had
beads and sequins sewn in a design near its top edge that coordinated
with the design on the bra. It was a pretty costume, and it was
easy to see why she liked it.
took a close look at the workmanship, and I recommended that
she look around some more to see what the other vendors had
to offer. I expressed the concern that the glued pieces might
start to fall off after a few wearings. The skirt seemed to
be more durable. Its decorations were sewn onto it rather than
I went upstairs
to explore more of the vendors. I saw a number of items with surprisingly
high prices, considering this was Egypt.
I tried to bargain them down, but they wouldn't move.
most of the other festival attendees were cheerfully paying
those inflated prices, so they saw no need to be flexible with
me. I shrugged and moved on without buying anything.
Some women in our group were organizing an
outing that evening to the Light & Sound show at the Sphinx.
This was something I had been interested in doing in 2003, but
that year I hadn't been able to find anyone else who wanted to
join me. So I decided to skip that evening's Summer Party and
at the agreed-upon time, I met Toni, Jennifer,
and the others in our hotel's lobby. We found ourselves some taxicabs
and headed over together. I wish I had started early enough to
walk over, because the prices being charged by the cab drivers
were outrageously high for such a short ride. It's annoying to
feel like you're being cheated by the locals. A couple of the
women in our group really disliked negotiating price and just
purchased tickets from the Misr Travel agency at our hotel to
go over there with a tour group.
Once we arrived
over there, we were herded past souvenir vendors to a courtyard
area. We had chosen to go to the later show, so we needed to wait
for the earlier show to finish and its audience to leave before
we could be seated. Although standing around waiting for stuff
isn't my favorite thing to do, I enjoyed the opportunity to chat
with Jennifer and Toni and get to know them both better. One
of my regrets from the trip is that I didn't manage to take any
photos of the two of them, because I had enjoyed meeting them
and it would have been nice to have the photos to remember them
In the Light
& Sound show, the Sphinx speaks. "He" speaks of how he has
sat here in the desert since the dawn of time. He then narrates
the history of the Giza plateau and ancient Egypt
in general. As he speaks, different colors of lights shine upon
the pyramids, the Sphinx himself, and the other structures in
the complex to illustrate the comments being made. For example,
when he speaks of the height of the Great Pyramid, a laser light
passes up one edge of it to illustrate the point. At other points,
artwork is projected on the wall to the left of the Sphinx to
illustrate the mummification process and other topics being described.
lights used to highlight the structures are assorted colors, my
photo is in black and white because the infrared night vision
feature of my camera can't pick up color. I tried some normal-style
color shots, but they didn't turn out at all.
must confess, I was a little disappointed by the show. I thought
the notion of using laser lighting effects sounded really cool.
However, it was frankly a little boring. The Sphinx's deep,
stentorian voice sounds annoyingly pompous.
it would sound like if James Earl Jones made fun of a puffed-up
self-important movie director. In fact, later when Karen from
our group (who didn't go with us to the show) asked me what I
thought about it, the first words out of my mouth were, "It was
The cool laser
effects weren't used as much as I had hoped. Instead, floodlights
illustrating the face of the Sphinx and images projected on the
wall were the primary visual effects. The information contained
in the Sphinx's narrative was generally a bland re-telling of
the many things our tour guides had told us the days we visited
the Cairo museum and the Pyramids at the beginning of the trip.
It was okay as a review, but I didn't really feel a need to hear
it all again.
I'm glad I
went, because I had been curious about it. I had believed I was
missing out on something special, and now that I've gone to it,
I know it's something I don't need to do again if I ever make
it back to Egypt. And it gave me some good laughs the next day
when I did pompous imitations of the Sphinx for Karen and Barbara's
benefit. I never realized mimicking a Sphinx could be so much
<long pause> AM <long pause>
At the Hotel
Some of the others in our group were in the
mood for a late night snack, and that sounded appealing to me
too. So we went to the outdoor café next to the swimming pool
and ordered some light goodies. Unfortunately, I learned the hard
way that the delicious light snack I had enjoyed at this café
earlier in the week was available only during the daytime. There
is a different "evening menu" for late at night which doesn't
include it. The waiter and the kitchen did their best to approximate
what I wanted, and I appreciated the efforts, but my palate was
On a more
positive note, I enjoyed relaxing with Jack from
Palm Desert, California, Amira (Mary Ann) from
Springfield, Missouri, and Tracey from Boynton
Beach, Florida. I had had some opportunity to get acquainted with
all three of them earlier in the trip, and it was lovely to have
this opportunity to get to know them better.
As we chatted,
we enjoyed the breathtaking view of the full moon rising over
the Great Pyramid behind our hotel. (See the photo at the top
of this article.) It's absolutely amazing, to lounge next to a
swimming pool and see this magnificent view.
When I went
to Egypt in 2003, I had
tried to take a picture on my film camera of the full moon rising
over the Great Pyramid, and it didn't turn out at all. Since I
had this fancy new digital camera with a night vision feature,
I decided to see whether it could do better. Once again, the night
vision feature doesn't capture color, but I'm thrilled with the
way this picture turned out! [I played with the photos a bit!-Ed]
was getting late and it seemed like a good idea to try for a good
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more from Shira-
Ahlan Wa Sahlan
Festival 2004-Intro Travel Journal by Shira
Eastern dance artists and students from throughout the world attend
this event to immerse themselves in instruction by leading Egyptian
instructors, shop for costumes and other supplies offered by Egyptian
vendors, and enjoy the gala shows featuring top Egyptian dancers.
Check back for regular updates!
3: First Look at Egyptian History
4: More Egyptian Monuments and First Dance Show
5: Shop-portunities and Whirling Dervishes
6: The Festival Begins
7: Classes and Free Time
8: Side Trips, Part 1: Gayer Anderson Museum
8, part 2:The Parisiana
Day 9: The
Mystery Dancer #1: Iklas
Gilded Serpent is looking for clues to the story behind this lovely
dancer! If you have any information, please contact us!
Sunday Afternoon at the Desert Dance Festival
'04, Page 2 Photos by Monica
Sunday Afternoon at the Desert Dance Festival
'04 Report by Nisima Photos & Captions by Monica Page
I was a very popular girl all day as vendors called out to me
to visit and talk. After all, I was a bona-fide Actual Audience