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Author dancing at AWS Festival

Gilded Serpent presents...
My First Experience in Egypt
by Nadira

I have always felt a pull to visit Egypt to experience the history and culture of this dance I love so much. The chance came about just recently and it was so worth the wait. My trip to Egypt was a whirlwind of sightseeing, cultural intake and one amazing experience after another. I’ve been to Turkey on contract to dance and instruct but this trip was different. I went with my husband and more than 20 other people on a tour group with the amazing Lucy of Scheherezade Imports. We were there for a total of 18 days and in that time experienced so much of the Egyptian culture. We traveled throughout Egypt including Cairo (Downtown, Old and Coptic Cairo), Giza, Aswan and Luxor. Each area of Egypt held a different way of life. You can read books or watch the travel channel for a glimpse into Egyptian history, but you have to be there in person to truly get the grander picture and awe of history. Even though this was my first trip, I felt at home in Egypt, almost as though I’d been there before. 

The middle of our trip was spent at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival. This was an overload of sparkles, baubles and bling. There were vendors everywhere trying to lure you into their booth promising to have exactly what you need and featured instructors like Momo Kadous and Amir Thaleb surrounding you and the ever present lure of performing with a live Egyptian band each evening. Being a nightclub performer and having my start with an Egyptian band myself, I felt excitement to have that same experience in Cairo. As I took the stage, I could see in their eyes, the audience was taking me in just as I did the previous dancers. The band played my favorite song, Leylet Hob, and I allowed the music to take over. It was freeing as my dance and trip came full circle. Although this trip wasn’t just about seeing the sights or dancing, this was an experience I did not set out to have, but glad I did.

If you get the chance to go to Egypt, go. Going with a great group like I was with made the trip much more fun and memorable. Don’t go simply for the festival. Go experience Egypt in its entirety – that is where you will connect with the culture. This is a country rich with history. Go to a Nubian village, have tea and get henna with a Nubian family and take in the brilliant house colors. Take a cruise down the Nile and walk through the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Go to the Egyptian Museum and see King Tut’s treasures up close. Visit the Temples and Mosques and feel the awe of such ancient works of art. Try the local food; my favorite was Kosheri. Learn how Papyrus paper and silk rugs are made. Attend a wedding where the entire town celebrates. There is so much to see and experience. Just remember to pack your patience, adventuresome spirit, do your research and enjoy the ride!


Some of our Cairo sights….

St Sergius church is considered the oldest Coptic (Christian) church in Cairo and where
the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus stayed in the crypt below the church.

Muhammed Ali Mosque is sometimes referred to as the Alabaster Mosque
for its extensive use of the stone. Muhammed Ali is considered the
founder of Modern Egypt establishing Egypt as an independent country,
increased agricultural industrialization and for the creation of schools


Sultan Hassan Mosque operated as both a mosque and religious school.
This is one of the original doors made of copper, gold and silver.
You can see all three up close.
El Refai Mosque was full of these gorgeous designs

The Gayer Anderson Museum which used to be the home of Gayer Anderson,
a wealthy merchant who fell in love with the culture and filled his home with Egyptian works of art.

This is a hidden room housed behind a fake bookcase where the women
were able to sneak in and watch the celebrations in the room below.


We also caught some fabulous Whirling Dervish shows 

This man did amazing zill playing. He was the highlight of the solos!

That’s me on the dance floor under the skirt


On to Giza, the pyramids and festival…


Some of our group who braved the ride

The Pyramids

The view from our room at the Mena House

This is a silk worm…the beginnings of a silk carpet

Our new carpet…the finished product!

Wedding lights.
These are the typical wedding lights strung high for outdoor weddings

Then we flew 500 miles south to Aswan and Luxor & boarded a cruise down the Nile    

Nubian homes use brilliant color both inside and outside the homes

Philae Temple on the Nile.
There is still gold inlaid in the stone (hand is shadowing to see).

This is the first sight you see when entering the Valley of the Kings.
It is an expansive and overwhelming view. This picture doesn’t do it justice.

The entrance to King Tut’s tomb.
We can’t take pictures inside to preserve the art on the walls but his mummy was just inside

Karnak Temple.
These are minerals from the ground used for painting the temple walls and makeup.
Our guide used my arm as the canvas….new costume color anyone??

Karnak Temple.
You can still see the original paint on the ceilings as the shade has protected the color.

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