Villa on the Red Sea
Interview by Lynette
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
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
met Bert Balladine in
when he came to teach a workshop in the early 1980’s. I opened a dance
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.
my first trip to
in 1985 I organized a dance trip for people, especially for my
That was a novel thing to do then,
even having dance classes on the ship while cruising on the
I took more than thirty trips to
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
– 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
. 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
is 580 kilometers or five hours by bus. It is 300 kilometers to
The buses in
are large and modern with coffee served and onboard toilets. The
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
is high so one floats easily – swimming is a breeze.
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.
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
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.
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:
P. O. Box
Tel.: 065 444774
Uschi with friends from Japan
and notes from
The 2001 Festival Ahlan We Sahlan in
on June 1-8, 2001 at the
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
Uschi with Mahmoud Reda
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.
el Kholi also taught. Although he lives in
, he is originally from
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
! 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. http://www.raqiahassan.net
see Scheherezade is
doing a tour! You can also do it individually – come first to the
, 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
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.
a comment? Send us a
Travels after 9/11 by
I feel safer there on the streets than any place in the U.S.
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.
DANCING IN THE '70's, The Cowboy Bar in Montana by Kalifa
of breath, I asked her, "Why didn't you warn me?"