A Giza Club Lecture
by Amina Goodyear
Lanty was the guest speaker at the Giza Club on
Sunday, July 22. She was going to tell us of her recent trip to
Cairo where she went for a little dance and R and R from Silicon
Valley. The Giza Club met a little before Leyla began her talk
to work out some details on membership, future activities and
how to make the web (giza.org) more accessible to members. Any
members wishing to volunteer time for administrative duties are
welcome to come forward.
into her Cairo apartment
to Giza Club tradition, the members met first to eat, drink and
chat. According to Giza time, Leyla's talk started about an hour
later with Giza members ready to digest the cakes, cookies, chips,
fruit and drinks and listen as the Wacky Woman Traveler told her
tales. Leyla sat in the traditional leopard covered Giza chair
and wore a leopard shirt to blend in. She first donned a beautiful
caftan printed with "King Tut" designs and told us how
Egyptian women always have a caftan handy by the front door of
the apartments, just in case. This caftan was for wear around
the house and for use as a nightgown.
you live the nightlife because of the heat being almost unbearable
in the day, you may get a visitor before you are out of bed. It's
convenient to be able to roll out of bed and answer the doorbell
without having to find a robe or caftan with which to cover up.
You will already be wearing it. One such example is: the meter
reader coming to the door. Leyla said that in Cairo the electric
meters are read inside the apartments, and the meter readers come
whenever, so it is handy to have something cool and presentable
to wear as a cover up for less modest clothing. She proceeded
to tell us that after the meter reader leaves, about a week or
so later another person comes to collect the bill (in person).
She said that business transactions are generally done in cash
as checking accounts are only for businesses. The phone bill is
paid once a year, cash also. The telephone is included in the
rent of short term rentals. In order to avoid big bills, the owner
of the apartment restricts the telephone to local calling. Being
restricted to local calls can be an inconvenience if you need
to reach someone who has a cell phone because in Egypt calling
a cell phone is the same as "long distance".
introducing us to Cairo life, Leyla showed us her "trip book".
It is a handy book that she uses whenever she travels. The first
sheet in it is a packing list which she said she would share with
others wishing to be as organized as she. The packing list consisted
of items one would need while living in an apartment in Cairo.
She methodically discussed the list, which included items of personal
toiletry, clothing, handy household items, and books. Her trip
book also had a list of phone numbers from the Cairo newspaper
"Egyptian Gazette": bank, embassy, hotels, tourist offices,
night clubs, as well as personal phone numbers of friends and
connections in Egypt. Leyla discovered that one whole district,
Dokki, had new prefixes and she needed new numbers for special
people such as Raqia Hassan. Leyla had with her a travel
diary with a calendar and her passport number. In it, she wrote
impressions, notes, comments on the weather and traffic, and how
much she was spending. She keeps a "gift list" that
records what was purchase and how much was spent. Leyla also maintains
a list of "what to do"; and a current address book.
told us how she found her apartment, which was having a Cairene
friend go from "bawab" to "bawab asking about vacancies
". (The bawabs, are usually Saidis, Egyptians from the south
of Egypt, sometimes including Nubians who are known for their
honesty and who are the door men and, essentially, the building's
settled in by relaxing Cairo style which means sitting at
home, peeling oranges, and drinking tea. It is unbelievable
but ya don't hafta run around all the time!
Family of Drummers
began telling us about her adventures in Cairo.
Leyla is friends with Said el Artiste the Egyptian
drummer we hear on many recordings including her CD "Ma btishaloosh
leh?". During her visit to Cairo this past June, 2001, Said
invited her to attend Drum concert. This concert turned out to
be a recital of his drum school. However, this was not a recital
as we know it. Although many of the drummers were students, it
seems that to be a member of the Artiste family, one had better
learn to drum.
said that when a boy is born in this family, a drum is bought
for him. No matter that the drum is bigger than him. "He
will grow into it."
She said amid
the long line of fifteen percussionists on the stage were two
of Said's brothers, Sokar (yes, Sugar) and Dedda (dancer Dina's
main percussionist). There were fifteen, mostly professional,
back up tabla players (Egyptian for drum) and the seven or eight
dufs (wood frame drums similar to tambourines) and a student tura
their own routines and they backed up all the other soloists except
the Nubian group. This drum band did not include a riq (tambourine)
player. They were so well rehearsed that even without Said conducting
them, they were able to make the many drums sound as one. The
drumming varied in intensity; sometimes loud, and louder, and
then bright, and brighter. At one point, they faded down many
decibels and the audience, as if on cue, gasped - at the synchronicity
and the musicality of the playing.
The next group
was teenagers and very young adults doing a Nubian piece. They
had flat hand drums hanging from their necks flat against their
abdomens and they played the drums with flat sticks. They were
accompanied by Said standing in typical drummer stork position
(one foot on a chair) playing his tabla with one hand, using a
flat stick. The playing technique was vaguely eminiscent of that
for the Tabla Beledi (the large Saidi bass drum).
The next act
was Dedda's two sons, one aged 7 and a very short 11 year old
named, believe it or not - Hummos. These two boys played so hard
on drums proportionately too large for them that the senior Artiste's
had to help hold the drums in place. Hassan Anwar, the tambourine
player, did a long solo with technique not to be believed. At
one point he balanced--did not hold--the tambourine on his hand
and proceeded to do a series of rhythmic changes while continuously
rolling and shaking the tambourine. Said also featured women percussionists
and played duets with a woman drummer and riq player. This recital
was really a bargain too. Only 10 Egyptian pounds! Not to be confused
with the English pound, the 10 Egyptian pounds are equal to about
$2.50. Besides Said's drum school, there is also a state run music
The Music Scene
it was only $2.50 U.S. to see a drum concert, the nightclub shows
in the five-star hotel nightclubs (the few that are still doing
shows) run a minimum of $65-$75. This does seem quite high, but
then this usually includes a full meal and a show featuring big
stars from midnight until 4:00 or 5:00 or later (not including
beverages and/or bottled water). Although many of the shows seem
to be losing their quality dancers and folkloric shows because
of economics, Leyla did see and meet many famous dancers and musicians.
She also saw and met dancers and musicians the natives' way, in
the street, or rather, in the coffee houses situated in the street
or square around the Khan.
us of one incident where she had become acquainted with some young
musicians who would hang out and perform for free after hours
at a Khan el Khalili coffee shop. (They seem always to
be dressed and ready for action, in tuxes.) Later she saw them
again on a subsequent trip to Egypt as featured singers with their
work and familiarity pays off. Leyla told us, as a result
of hanging out in these Khan el Khalili coffee houses, she
had several opportunities to perform at various parties.
in Cairo exists in the coffee houses for many of the men.
The women "like" to stay home, but the men "need"
to play backgammon and dominoes in coffee houses.
women can go in more coffee houses besides just el Fishawi in
the Khan, but usually they must be escorted in order to be considered
respectable. Across the street from the Khan el Khalili is a wonderful
stone mosque/palace-like building of Islamic design. It is home
to the government -sponsored tanoura troupe (whirling dervishes).
They give an awe-inspiring, breath-taking, yet spiritual performance.
However, after hours, you can find them also playing music and
dominoes in the coffee houses at the Khan. Sometimes, though,
they have to be reminded to turn off all cell phones which play
Arabic tunes instead of ringing.
showed us some beautiful costumes she bought at Mahmoud's,
which is also in the Khan el Khalili. As she said, she didn't
really need another two or three costumes, but how can one not
buy a few costumes when the "price is right"?
costumes led her to stories of the dance festival in Cairo. I
must admit, I was green with envy when she told us that she (and
another 150 to 200 attendees) got to dance along with beautiful
Soheir Zaki and do three choreographies for three hours.
These were typical "I do, you follow, I do again, you follow
again" format. What better way is there to learn and capture
the spirit of the beledi of MY favorite dancer, than to dance
along and hope some of it rubs off? Oh, well! She got to dance
along, not me, but at least I got to hear about it, all for $60.
That's only $20 a dance!
the way, it seems true: Westerners can't ever dance like Egyptians!
If you're not dancing with the music coming out of your ears,
your body, your pores, you're not dancing. If you don't know
the idioms and are unaware of all the customs and cultural
Miscellany, how can you really "Dance like an Egyptian"?
Many of us try, many of us are almost there, but are we even
Dance Festival, produced by Mme. Raqia Hassan, did not
just feature Soheir Zaki. It featured Kayria Maazin
and two of her fellow Ghawazee dancers and many new rising stars
of Cairo. Surprisingly they were not all foreigners.
Dina in costumes she described as brief, briefer and briefest.
She saw Egyptian Amani do a nice, but not very emotional
show. She saw rising star Bedia and the new Soheir
-- a kind of "Dina look alike" and Leyla told us of
her new favorite rising star - Randa. Randa, wearing a
short jungle outfit danced with Fifi-style pizzazz and Soheir
Zaki-style emotions. All in all, the rising stars seemed to be
following Dina's trend of brief and briefer. How can she get away
with that? There were many cut outs, minis, micros, sheers,
and what seemed to be skirts with built-in panties. Were they,
perhaps, to help keep the decency level from rising above the
level of the crotch?
some Brazilian dancers and featured some of her protégés,
such as the Russian dancer Noor. Noor is technically perfect,
but she still doesn't "get it". Yet.
with Soheir Zaki, another highlight of Leyla's trip was performing
at the Alhambra Nightclub at the Cairo Sheraton. After
Leyla finished her talk describing her performance, and some favorable
comments from Dr. Mo Gedawi, we went back to our cakes
and cookies and wished that we, too, had been there. When reality
set in, we decided to finish the night dancing along with the
music of the Arabian Knights while dreaming of Leyla's real life
So ended another
fun Giza Club meeting.
More by Amina-
Make a Giza Club!
to become our first Wacky Woman Traveler...
SUMMER CARAVAN 2001,
Scottish Rite Center, July 28 & 29, 2000 by Susie Poulelis
beautiful photo spread by Susie
Tribute to Dalilah!
began dancing in the 1950s...passed on September 18, 2001