Costume designer Eman Zaki poses with me
in her studio in Doqqi.
to Eat, Drink, Sleep, and Breathe Raqs Sharqi
Part One of Four
Last year I visited Cairo for the first time
and attended the Ahlan
Wa Sahlan festival, but decided that I could learn more if
I took private dance lessons. Being the intrepid traveler
that I am, I returned on my own in 2005, in the month of September,
to enjoy all that Cairo has to offer during more favorable weather.
Following are my experiences as I related them to my close friends
Wednesday September 7, 2005
Marhaban friends and family! Iíve been in
Cairo for 4.5 days and so far there really isnít much to tell.
Iíve been trying to arrange some budget accommodations so that
I can save my money for more important things (like costumes!)
and also Iíve become sick with a cold. Stomach is OK, alHamdullillah,
but this cold has me taking things easy.
As of yesterday and through the end of my trip,
Iíll be staying with my American friends, Erika
and Matt. They will be teaching English
in Egypt for 2 years and they generously offered me their extra
bedroom in their swanky flat in Nasr City, a northern suburb of
Cairo. Itís way nicer than my apartment in Oakland!
They even have a dishwasher, washing machine, satellite TV, a
maid, and free Internet access! Of course, you still
have your bumpy streets, unyielding drivers, donkey carts, and
live fowl for sale on the sidewalk, even though this is a somewhat
upscale suburb of Cairo. The
poultry in Nasr City.
inside and outside of the place where Iím staying
are so contradictory! Itís a bit far from the center
of Cairo, but itíll give me the impetus to learn how to use the
metro, and Iíll get to know another part of Egypt. Even
if I take a cab into downtown Cairo every day, Iíll still save
money for private lessons and costumes. I thank Allah for
Erika and Matt!
is an historical day in Egypt! The first ďrealĒ election
with actual opposition candidates is taking place. Iím
trying to stay abreast of this important event from TV news,
but the American and British news sources barely talk about
all over the Arabic news stations, but I donít know enough Arabic
to understand. Iíve been trying to get a man-on-the-street
point of view of the election, and there hasnít been any consensus.
Some people favor Mr. Mubarak, saying that even
though heís not the ideal leader, heís the best of whatís offered.
Other people are sick of him and just want to see a new face,
while still others think the election is rigged in favor of Mubarak
and therefore, wonít even bother voting.
I went to a wedding in Cairo, or rather to the wedding reception.
It was the wedding of my friend Kamalís business associateís family.
If there was a zeffa (wedding procession) I didnít
see it. We arrived fashionably late after having dinner,
which was a good idea because there wasnít any food at the reception.
It was in a hall with a live band, and the bride and groom
were each sitting on a dais. They looked like the unhappiest
married couple Iíd ever seen! At one point, the singer was egging
them on to kiss, and they finally did, but it was just a quick peck
on the cheek. We received a box of pastries and a soda (yes,
even we wedding crashers.) I got some video footage
of the people dancing. I tried to be discreet; so, I may not
have gotten the clearest shots. I was impressed at how much
fun the people were having in the absence of alcohol! There
was a cute little girl dancing on our table, and she had some moves
that took me years to learn! Itís great to see how the dance
just comes so naturally to the Egyptians.
My friends' swanky apartment in Nasr City.
Even some covered-up ladies were cutting a rug and shimmying.
If anyone needs proof that raqs sharqi is not a dance
of seduction, Iíll show them the footage from this wedding.
I went to the shop/factory of costume designer Eman Zaki.
Sheís very famous now, and her designs are cutting edge.
Sheís designed costumes for Dina!
Her garments are very well designed, using special fabrics and
unique details. I picked out three fabulous numbers that
will make you all drool! Her costumes are a bit pricey,
but I think they will be worth it. Seriously, Iíve never
seen some of the fabrics she used.† She incorporated some nice
bead work (I love beads!) and spectacular trimmings (gold chain
mail, zig zags, loops, pearls, and Swarovski crystals).
Wish I could afford more from her! I would have gone to
another costumer like Crazy Move or Al-Wikalah,
but I was beat because of my cold. Could it be from
a lack of fresh vegetables and fruit as Iíve been eating mainly
meat and bread? I wonder.
Iím just enjoying the television at Erika and Mattís. Itís
like Belly dancerís heaven, there is so much good stuff to watch!
I switch from old footage of Om Kalsoum or Farid
al Atrache, to Arabic pop videos, old Arabic movies with
dancing, Arabic soap operas, and, of course, BBC News. I
could spend the whole day in front of the TV! In fact, Iím
sick enough that I could, and without feeling guilty.
seen any dance shows yet because Iím doing research to see whoís
dancing where. Hopefully, the next time I send you an update,
Iíll have seen some shows on which to report.
Lessons in Cairo
Part Three- Current Cairo Happenings
Part Fout- The End of the Trip
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
A Subjective View of Raqia's
Cash Cow The AWS Festival 2004, Part 1 by Andrea
she came out as a snake, then entered
wearing a melaya, next, as a caged lion. Her performance
was very entertaining.
Initiating Dance Dialogue:
Current Trends, The Panel Discussion at Carnivals of Stars Festival,
from video by Andrea, Panel
members included: Heather as moderator, Monica Berini, Shira,
Barbara Bolan, Amina Goodyear, Debbie Lammam.
What Kind of Snakes are Good for Dancing?
many snakes, so little time.” What is a girl to do? I am
often asked what is a good snake to dance with. Well, that depends
on two things.
and Reason Series, Article 9, Can't
We All Get Along? Dancers and Musicians by
Mary Ellen Donald
you don’t have to be afraid of working with live music.
The Peace Belt comes to Tucson
by Lucy Lipschitz
it matters more, I think, that this dance can be used to stimulate
thinking and discussion, and even to help feed and clothe other