bride and groom in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Me, dancing with a little girl in Egypt's Siwa Oasis
front cover of book
Days and 1001 Nights
One day, as I
was driving through the mountains with my brother a name
jumped out at me: "40 Days and 1001 Nights". I envisioned
it as a book in which I would travel to five Islamic countries
and live for 40 days in each, writing about my experiences.
I was traveling in Indonesia, one of my friends wrote
back "You need to be filming this!" I did, and a musical
documentary film was born.
Then a music
CD followed. Because of all the wonderful music I found on the
road, I was inspired to produce a theatrical dance concert in
Miami Beach. Finally, a charity fund to help people in the
countries I visited also became part of the multifaceted project.
I began on September 11, 2005, not even realizing the significance
of the date and found myself in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
It was ten months after the devastating tsunami that killed 250,000
people. Houses were under water and boats on the land, and
many places were gone. There was nothing but splintered wood where
villages once stood. This land had been closed to outsiders
for 30 years because of a fierce civil war. Since the tsunami, the
war ended and many believed that the tsunami "came from God"
to end the war and to punish corrupt people, or otherwise to take
the good people away from a world of suffering.
I found amazing
dances and music that had been hidden from the rest
of the world. Many dances are done sitting down, like "Saman",
in which the women sit on their knees and hit their bodies in
complex patterns to the music while singing chants. Men do "Rapa
ie Geleng", singing, playing frame drums and tossing
I traveled to Egypt's Siwa Oasis. This is
the only place in Egypt where the population is predominately
Berber. They have a unique culture. Women are very secluded and
separated. Not only do the married women cover their heads, but
their entire faces are covered and you cannot even see their eyes.
dances are very strong, to the voices of young girls playing plastic
olive drums. They do bellydancing with intense hip shimmies, using
no hands, arms or upper body. The mens dances are softer and more
Some of their
dances are also like bellydance. Others are for the harvest and some
are quite homoerotic, done lying down.
In Siwa, there
was a Bedouin man who sold music from his computer in the plaza.
He played a beautiful song for me called "Ifkar". It
turned out to be from Zanzibar, a small island off the coast of
East Africa. It is now part of Tanzania, but was once part of
the Omani Sultanate. I decided to make that my next destination
and spent 40 days in Zanzibar. I spent many evenings
at the "Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club". This is like Cuba's
"Buena Vista Social Club" in that it consists of master
musicians who get together and play every night year after year.
They are the ones who created the song I loved in Siwa.
Safaa is Africa's oldest band, now 102 years old. Their music
uses Egyptian instruments such as the qanun, oud, violin and tabla.
I loved their music so much that we collaborated on the production
of a bellydance cd - the first ever in
Zanzibar- called "40 Days and 1001 Nights, Bellydance
Music for Tamalyn Dallal."
country was Jordan. There was war all around,
in neighboring Iraq, Israel, and nearby Lebanon. Jordan was an
oasis of peace and it was clear that people were desperate for
peace. So many people came from so many countries just to escape
greatest celebrations in the Middle East are weddings. I saw
so many weddings and dances, of the local Bedouins. Old
women used tea glasses on their fingers like finger cymbals.
Bedouin men chanted with no instruments, sometimes with only
wordless grunts. In the dance, Samer, women used swords re-enacting
the days when Bedouin tribes raided one another and
took everything including the women. Women danced, defending
themselves, and if no one could touch them, they married
the most powerful and rich man.
spent 40 days in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of
China. In the heart of the Silk Road, this is Chinas
largest province, and is predominately Muslim. There are many
Turkic speaking ethnic groups living there, the largest one being
are reknown for their music and dance skills. Women do beautiful
arm and hand movements, gliding across the floor and doing very
many moves that I now use in belly dancing.
book "40 Days and 1001 Nights" will be available in
August of this year.
The documentary film is based on music, like a choreographed
dance, in which the scenes shift with the beat of the music. It
is called "40 Days and 1001 Nights, Seeing the Islamic
World Through the Eyes of a Dancer". This was
shot with a small video camera and skillfully edited by George
Achi in Miami Beach. Some of the music is field
recordings with other images superimposed. It shows life,
music, dance, how people live, and lots of food in an artistic
way. This film was sold out on the premiere weekend in Miami Beach,
January 13-14, 2007, and has been shown in many cities throughout
the US and Canada. The people who have seen it in Egypt and Dubai
gave it rave reviews.
When I was
in each country, I made or had costumes made and collected
music as well as ideas. I sent all of this back to the US.
A very carefully
selected group of dancers, including Bellydance Superstars
Amar Gamal, Bozenka and
of New York, Hanan, Alexandra, and Francesca
of Miami, and Montserat of Argentina created
dances with this music to represent my experiences in Indonesia,
Siwa, Zanzibar, Jordan, and Xinjiang.
This became a theater show, which sold out
and recieved rave reviews. It was called "40
Days and 1001 Nights, Dancing Across the Lines".
We then sent copies of the DVD's to musicians who made the music
we danced to in Indonesia, Egypt, Zanzibar, and Jordan. The
purpose was to show them how we appreciated their music from
so far away and what we did with it. This
show was also made into a DVD.
to give something back to the countries I had lived in. Thus,
I started the "1001 Nights Fund". Ten
percent of all the money made from DVD and book sales plus
donations from people who are inspired to help out go to
worthwhile projects in each country. The first was a breast
cancer awareness program in Egypt. The current project
is bringing Egyptian instruments to Zanzibar and presenting
them to the Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club of Zanzibar to encourage
more inspiration for years to come.
projects, I hope to help spread understanding between people.
I believe that art is one of the strongest tools for change in
the world. Our dance is one of the most healing things a person
can do. While I was away, often I didn't need to speak. We communicated
through music and dance, and I hope that the people I met in these
five countries can have their voices heard through my book, film,
music and performance projects.
more information including purchasing
soon- review of Tamalyn's film project DVD by Barbara Sellers-Young
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Young Woman's Multicultural Adventures in Columbia, by Tamalyn
Dallal book review by Sierra/Sadira,
we had the farsightedness to use dance as a form of diplomacy
and ambassadorship towards human rights and dignity throughout
Belly Laughs Gives
Reviewer Terrific Case of Readers Indigestion, Reviewed
Belly Laughs: Adventures with Celebrities & Other Unusual
Characters book written by Rod Long.
Dance of Power by Kathreen Saab
The sensual is from the realm of the magical, the psyche, rather
than the physical.
The Summer School of Khaleegy Dance,
Dance Style from the Saudi Arabian Penninsula, by Yasmina
“moral police” and hotel security watched every move
I made. All my phone calls were monitored. I was not allowed to
talk to or get into an elevator with an Arab man.
The Zar, Trance Music for Women,
CD Review by Amina Goodyear
produced by Yasmin of Serpentine.org. “Once a spirit is
called, it must be appeased. Then it will always be there.”
And it will have to be periodically dealt with.
Fifi Reloaded! Review of Fifi Abdo
Workshop and Show by Catherine Barros photos by Monica Bereni
by Little Egypt Holiday Inn Select, Dallas, Texas May 18-20, 2007