and Andrea in front of a store selling
lamps for Ramadan
to Eat, Drink, Sleep, and Breathe Raqs Sharqi
Part Three of Four:
Current Cairo Happenings
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
Asdiqaa! I've done so many exciting
things since my last update that I don't even think I'll be able
to write it all down. On top of all I've learned and observed
about the way of life here, I've gained momentum in my study of
the dance as well. You could say that Aleya
and I are burning the candle at both ends and enjoying every moment! Our
priorities are three: take lessons, buy costumes, and watch
shows. We try to do two from that list every day (lesson
and show, shopping and show, two lessons and a show etc.) and
sometimes we can do three, which is no small feat. When
you go to buy costumes or take a lesson, you can't just go in,
do your business, and leave. First, you have to get to your
destination. If you're in a cab and there's traffic, you'll
probably be late. Much of the time, the drivers don't know
the exact street to we're going. Thank God that the taxi
drivers in Egypt aren't afraid to stop and ask directions, or
we'd never get to where we want to go! Second, because we're always
on the go we have to stop now and again for water, snacks, batteries,
tissue paper, or just to recover from the heat. Third, once
you get there, there's always a period of chatting with the teacher
or merchant; they offer you something to drink and make sure you
are comfortable before proceeding. Then, once the business
is done, there's another period of visiting before you leave.
To get to the next destination, you have to hail a cab and start
the process again! I know that I mentioned in my previous
letter I liked to use the subway, but oftentimes we need to take
a cab to or from the station to our final destination, or
we'll have stuff that we don't want to lug on the subway so we
hail a cab. With that.....
American women pushed a car across a busy intersection in Nasr
City during rush hour. Yup, that was Aleya and I! We
were going to a Mobinil store to have my mobile phone fixed with
the Mobinil employee named Magdy, when suddenly
his car came to a halt. He fiddled with it for about half
an hour while cars behind us honked, donkey and horse carts passed
us, and opposing traffic swerved around us. Finally, we
realized we needed to get help; so we pushed Magdy's car to the
curb. Magdy fiddled more, replacing some filter, connecting
and reconnecting cables, turning the key, doing Allah knows what
with his tools and his engine, but all to no avail. Finally,
a taxi pulled over and the driver fixed the car with.............a
piece of sand paper. Honest! An Egyptian told
me that if one Egyptian causes you trouble, there will be 100
who will help you out. That sums up the people here very
well I think. There may be a few shysters in Cairo, but
most of the people are helpful and warm.
in love with tent cloth. I'm doing a mini photo essay on
the tent cloth in Cairo. You can see it in all kinds of
different places. It comes in many different colors, sizes,
and patterns. Often it's really dirty and covering up a
building under construction, and itís also displayed where there
is a wedding or funeral in the street, but it's always beautiful!
You may or may
not know that Ramadan is approaching in October. We're starting
to see a little bit of how Cairo gets ready for it! I'm
no expert on Ramadan by any means, but I take any opportunity
to ask someone when I see something about it. First, you
can see a lot of colorful brass lamps for sale on the street. There's
one area in Islamic Cairo called "Under the lamp"
(I can't remember the name in Arabic) where just about every
shop has these beautiful, colorful, shiny lamps displayed
on the street. It was a nice sight and, of course, I snapped
a picture. In the supermarket, (they aren't common in Cairo,
but there is one in Nasr City near the apartment) they are selling
these cloth bags of oil, flour, tomato sauce, and other goods.
The clerk told us that people buy the bags and give
them to the poor. Also, we see the beautiful tent cloth decorating
shops, hung from the ceiling or wrapped around lampposts.
It reminds me of Christmas in the US. At my last lesson
with Aida Nour,
she was preparing this sort of stew for Ramadan. It had
lemons, grated carrots, sesame seeds and other things. She
said they have it every night during Ramadan. I'm sure Iím
only scraping the surface of all of the traditions and the meanings
behind them, but I'm truly fascinated and hoping to learn more.
If any of my Muslim friends want to tell me more about
Ramadan, I'd be grateful.
Aleya and I
have been so busy lately that I've had to make up a schedule.
Erika joked that we have more of a social life
than she does, even though she's been here longer! Today
we needed a day of rest. No lessons, shopping, or shows,
we just lazed around, and it was nice. I felt exhausted,
and I decided that I need to stop and recharge so that we could
resume our busy schedule tomorrow! Costume shopping until
2 a.m. can do that to a person. There have been a few times that
I've felt nauseous, and I learned that I'm probably dehydrated.
This happened to me last year too, so now I make sure that I've
always got water with me. I'm taking no chances with
my health this time around! So, what the heck have we been
busy with these days?
calling people and finding out who's dancing where and who's teaching and
getting people's phone numbers too. I've written out all
the information regarding hotels and boats and teachers that I've
amassed. Currently the working Egyptian dancers that I've
learned of are Lucy, Dina, Randa, Camelia, Sherine, Hanadi,
Wa'ad, and Ibtisaam. Non-Egyptians
are Soraya, Katia, Liza Laziza (who's been very
helpful in getting us numbers), Katia, Asmahan, Outi,
Shams, and Marina. There are probably
more, but this is what I've learned so far.
I had 2 more
lessons with Aida Nour. I think that I have redeemed myself
after the last lesson. I took some pictures with her, and
I bought some costumes from her as well. That's right, Aida
makes costumes now too. They're very nice though not as
fabulous as Eman Zaki's designs, and very reasonably
priced. They all have lycra skirts because that is the style
now! Every costumer we've visited has more lycra than chiffon.
I also had a
lesson with Raqia Hassan. It was my first
class with her, and I have to admit that I was disappointed.
The choreography was nice, and she can still dance, but check
this out--she had her assistant teach the class.
For a 2-hour lesson, she was in the studio for only half an hour.
Should I have specified that I wanted her to teach
it? Should I have offered more money? I don't know. The
best part of the lesson was during the break when we talked
about the dance scene in Egypt and in general. She gave
us her frank opinion about the people dancing in Cairo now.
Oh yes! It was juicy! But no, I will not commit it to writing!
I heard that the dance scene in Egypt is as catty as it is
in the US, and let' s just say that my experience thus far has
confirmed this. I know you're dying to know the details,
but I will not put anything in writing; you'll have to pry it
out of me when I return home. There may be even more intrigue
in Cairo than in the US...........then, again, maybe not.
and I were floored and delighted by Camelia's
show at the Marquese boat! She's my new favorite.
She's relatively new on the scene, but she's accomplished much
for her 23 or 25 years of age and Iíve decided that she's destined
for greatness. Her show was energetic, crazy, fun, and she
has good moves too. I was only able to video a little
bit, then the waiter said it was forbidden. She danced,
towering over me, while I was sitting in my chair! She pulled
Aleya and I up onto the stage and let us dance around with her
for quite a while. She showed us some Khaleegy moves,
threw us each a cane to dance with, and then had us take a bow
with her. She stirred our blood so much that we'll probably
see her again. Even if it means enduring the awful dinner
cruise food, we'll see her again. (Note about the cruise
food: it looks really good, but it tastes bad.) She
danced with a shamadan too; I think that and Khaleegy
are her trademarks along with some wild hair tossing that
I plan on appropriating! We also saw Soraya's
show at the Marriott. She's
also a great dancer who dances very much like Dina.
Personally, I like Soraya better. I like her emoting and
sharp accents, and I thought she had a larger repertoire than
Dina. Many people may disagree, but I stand by my opinion.
Who knows; maybe I'll see Dina and start singing a different song!
I did get some of Soraya's show on video. She had some
cute costumes too! One thing about great dancers in Egypt
is that they just dance. They don't have to rely on gimmicks
like sword or veil or flaming anything to put on a good show.
I think this is the sign of a great dancer: when
she does a show without any tricks and I'm utterly captivated.
Camelia and Soraya both hit the mark in my book!
Last night we
were costume shopping until 2 a.m.† Yes, 2 AM! We
went out by City of the Dead to see what Crazy Move
had to offer this year. Their designs have improved
since last year, and of course, they mainly use lycra like everyone
else. It took a couple of hours to try items on. Then we
had to discuss the work we wanted done to the costumes; then we
had to discuss prices. Plus we had to catch up with these
fellows with whom we bonded somewhat last year. We were there
for 5 hours or so. I bought 7 fabulous numbers from them
because they gave me a good deal to make up for their shortcomings
in our dealings last year. Shiny fabrics, bold cut
outs, colorful beading, and unique colors are what I picked out.
These costumes are not for the weak!
I had better
get to sleep so that I can be ready for tomorrow's big schedule:
Class with Freiz at 11 a.m. (I am shocked that
someone actually teaches dance in the morning.), shopping for costumes
and music with Liza Laziza in Khan al Khalili, then
we'll see her show in Giza. Wish I had more than 10 days
left in Cairo!
Part Four- 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.
Photos of Friday Evening
show from Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy Workshop 2006 Photos
by Lynette Harris & staff sponsored
by Little Egypt held on Feb 24, 2006 in Los Angeles, California,
Giza Awards 2005, A Cultural
Odyssey, by Rebecca Firestone
it be that the West has been so involved in learning technique
and choreography that the very soul of the dance has been left
to those in the Middle East who are desperately struggling to
keep their art alive?
Fahteim in Vegas by Neferteri
Las Vegas 2006 belly dance season is off to a phenomenon beginning!