advertise on Gilded Serpent

Uschi's Villa on the Red Sea
Interview by Lynette
posted 5-3-02

Editor’s Note:  During the recent Rakassah Festival I met one of Bert Balladine’s oldest and closest friends in the belly dance world, Uschi Lenz (the “u” is pronounced as in “bush”) of Cologne , Germany , and Hurghada , Egypt .  I asked her about her connections with belly dance.  Following is a summary of what she told me. Below also are Uschi's pictures from the 2001 Festival Ahlan We Sahlan in CAIRO

I met Bert Balladine in Germany when he came to teach a workshop in the early 1980’s.  I opened a dance studio in Cologne with a partner in 1984.  I had learned to dance a few years before that, but at that time learning to dance was handled sort of clandestinely.  There were no magazines or ads for belly dance.  I heard about it from a friend, who sent me to a place where dance was taught.  The teacher was Ishtar, who studied with Bert in the late 1970's.

After my first trip to Egypt in 1985 I organized a dance trip for people, especially for my students.  That was a novel thing to do then, even having dance classes on the ship while cruising on the Nile .  I took more than thirty trips to Egypt before deciding to live there.

I met my new husband in Hurghada and bought this house and began to remodel it to fit my style and taste.  Actually, the house seemed to be just waiting for us.  There every house has a telephone number that belongs to it and this house had a number made up of my birth year and Akhram’s birth year.  After two years of remodeling, the house was completed almost a year ago.  It lies 100 meters from the shore of the Red Sea – just across the street – with four guest bedrooms that sleep eight.  Each bedroom has its own bath.  There is a dining room that seats twelve and a large kitchen.  We live in the penthouse and the guest bedrooms are on the second floor.  The ground floor is for reception and the communal areas.  Upstairs on the roof garden there is a pool from which there is a panoramic view of the Red Sea .  There are flowers everywhere on all levels.  Our dog, Blackie, and cat, Mitzi, are both very friendly.  Michael, the houseboy, lives downstairs and is on call twenty-four hours a day.  He even will go to the supermarket at two in the morning!  Laundry is done for the guests, of course.  Staying at our villa is like staying with a friend, not like being in an impersonal hotel, and I take my guests to the marketplace myself.

Cairo is 580 kilometers or five hours by bus.  It is 300 kilometers to Luxor .  The buses in Egypt are large and modern with coffee served and onboard toilets.  The Red Sea is great for skin diving, windsurfing – all water sports – and there are boats available to take one to snorkeling spots.  Lately kite surfing is becoming popular because there is always wind.  The salt content of the Red Sea is high so one floats easily – swimming is a breeze.

The cost of a stay in our villa depends upon many variable factors, but roughly I would say that groups using 2 or 3 bedrooms pay $ 220 per person a week. The big hotels mark up everything, including water.  With us, you buy your own supplies at the prices the locals pay and then use the kitchen.  This is a wonderful opportunity for someone who keeps his eyes open and finds a cheap flight.dining room

We have a Jeep Chereokee and, of course, will take you around locally.  Akhram is Egyptian and can arrange for anything you like.  Children are loved and welcomed in Egypt .  The custom with Egyptians is to take the whole family to all events and if the children fall asleep they find a place nearby to lay them down.  Childcare is easy to find.  All of the hotels have activities for guests’ children and people from the outside can use the facilities for a small fee.

Hurghada has become quite a large place and a tourist center so, of course, everything one needs is available there, including modern hospitals, TV, cable and Internet access.  There are a lot of Internet cafes, which charge six Egyptian Pounds or about $2 for an hour’s access.  Bert and Glenn say I am the shopping expert, and I’ll tell you that you can shop until you drop every day without ever leaving Hurghada

For reservations contact:
Uschi Lenz
P. O. Box 329
Hurghada, Red Sea
Tel.: 065 444774



Uschi with friends from Japan

Uschi's photos and notes from
The 2001 Festival Ahlan We Sahlan in CAIRO
on June 1-8, 2001 at the Cairo Sheraton

 The festival produced by Raqia Hassan, lasted eight days with 500 dancers registered. The Stars included Dina. Dina was very popular and had good classes, which I highly recommend.  I interviewed Dina for a German magazine, Orient, and asked her where she gets her powerful stage presence.  She answered, “It’s so simple!” You will have to read the interview in Orient for more!

Uschi with Mahmoud Reda

Sohair Zaki taught in a huge room with 150 students.  Raqia Hassan, Ibrahim Akef, Hassan Afifi also taught. The Banat Mazin were dancing in the Gala.  I took their workshop and was surprised that a man taught it.  The women were sitting there with their babies, but a man of the family did the teaching. 

Aladin el Kholi also taught.  Although he lives in Germany , he is originally from Egypt .  Of course Mamoud Reda had a big class, and was also there, plus there was more.  Raqia provides a very good program for the classes – one can study everything!  And in Cairo !  When you leave the Sheraton, you are in the Orient, with the smell and the sound of the music; you can absorb it and have the feeling for the dance. Festival Ahlan We Sahlan 2002 will have nearly the same teachers.  A web site is available.

I see Scheherezade is doing a tour!  You can also do it individually – come first to the Red Sea , stay with us, and then go to the festival.  I prefer not to stay at the Cairo Sheraton because there are lots of flats that you can rent for the week in the same area.  We can, of course, help to arrange this for you.  We know a lot of people there.  If someone wants to perform, we have connections at the Sinbad Tent, a wonderful local venue.  It’s a place where you can see belly dance and folklore.  We know most of the dancers, so you can even perform in Egypt if you like!

Raqia Hassan and Momo Kadous with Uschi between

Correction from Grainne and Uschi
The dancer is Ba'dia. She is from Cairo but now lives in Los Angeles. The gentleman with her in the foreground is her hubby - the gentleman on her other side is Aladin el Kholi . He lives in Germany although he is Arab (either Egyptian or Turkish I'm not sure). He is a SUPERLATIVE teacher and those that have the opportunity to study with him should grab it with both hands.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Ready for more?
4-18-02 Egyptian Travels after 9/11 by Scheherezade
I feel safer there on the streets than any place in the U.S.

10-18-01 My Taxi Ride in Egypt after 9-11 by Fred Glick
And as we reach my destination, he asks me to tell America that he is sorry, that Egyptians, they are sorry.

4-22-02 MORE DANCING IN THE '70's, The Cowboy Bar in Montana by Kalifa
Out of breath, I asked her, "Why didn't you warn me?"

The Gilded Serpent