Gilded Serpent presents...
Wa Sahlan Festival 2004
4: More Egyptian Monuments and First Dance Show
Travel Journal by Shira
June 25, 2004. I debated whether to join the group for this
day's scheduled outing to the pyramids and Sphinx on the Giza
plateau. I had seen these sights on a previous trip to Egypt,
and although I was very glad I had been there on an earlier
trip, a little voice inside me was saying it might be enjoyable
to do something else. But then I heard that camel rides were
planned, and decided to join the group because that was something
I had been wanting to do.
We were told
we could expect to return to the hotel by about 2:30 or 3:30
in the afternoon, which would allow us plenty of time to freshen
up before going on the Nile Maxim dinner cruise.
this was my third trip to Egypt,
I still felt a bit of a thrill at the sight of the pyramids and
the Sphinx. These monuments truly are very spectactular. Our
tour bus went first to the Great Pyramid, and people were given
the opportunity to get off the bus for photos. It wasn't possible
to enter the Great Pyramid because a limited number of tickets
is available each day, and they are typically all gone by 8:00
a.m. The guides offered historical information on the bus as
we approached, then allowed a limited amount of time for picture-taking.
to the bus within the allotted time, and was frustrated to
see some people weren't back yet. It became even more frustrating
as 5 minutes dragged into 10 minutes and dragged into 20 minutes. Let's
just say that sitting on a bus full of 40 people in the blazing
Egyptian summer heat waiting for inconsiderate people who don't
return within the time allowed is not my favorite thing to
bus took us over to the smallest of the 3 pyramids, and those
people who wished to go inside had an opportunity to do so. I
did that when I was in Egypt in
1999, and didn't feel the need to do it again, but I encouraged
my friends on the bus to do it. I think it's something every
visitor to Egypt should
try at least once unless you have either a health condition
or claustrophobia. I normally don't have any trouble with
claustrophobia myself, but when I entered that pyramid in 1999
I definitely felt very uneasy. The air was hot and close,
the passage was narrow with a low ceiling that required me
to walk bending over at the waist, and I felt as if the massive
weight of tons of rock were closing in on me. It was a fascinating
discovery, to realize that under certain circumstances I could
feel claustrophobic. Well, that was five years ago, and I
didn't feel the need to repeat that experience on this trip. Those
members of our group who did choose to enter the pyramid reported
feelings similar to the ones I felt when I did it in the past.
we sat around on the bus for 30 minutes waiting for people
who didn't bother to return by the time the guides had set
for returning. Once again I found myself feeling very irritated
with selfish people who didn't respect other people's time. Grrrr.
last the stragglers saw fit to join the rest of us on the bus,
and the tour guides decided to take us to a perfume shop. We
were allegedly going to be shown how perfume is made. Well, not
exactly. We were seated in a group and served tea. The shop
representative offered one or two sentences about how perfumes
are made, and then launched into his sales pitch. A few selected
perfumes were daubed on our wrists to tempt our wallets. Then
the shopping began.
The Sphinx, The Jewelry Shop
went to a buffet place that overlooked the Sphinx for lunch. When
we were done eating, our guides instructed us to take 15-20 minutes
for photos, then board the bus so we could move on.
certain people took much longer than the time allocated. It
became apparent there was a pattern of repeat offenders. I
wonder if these people even noticed the sullen, resentful expressions
on 40 faces when they finally sauntered onto the bus.
In the morning,
the guides had said our camel rides would occur while we were
at the Sphinx. However, instead of taking us to the camel
rides, they took us to a jewelry shop. In addition to jewelry,
the shop offered a diverse range of the customary souvenir
shop merchandise. The group as a whole went into shopping
the time we were done at the jewelry shop, it was almost 5:00
p.m. Although we were originally scheduled to return to the
hotel around 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., the guides had one more place
they wanted to take us: a shop that sells papyrus. The place
closes at 5:00, but the guides called it and said they had a
busload of 40 people, so the shop decided to stay open for our
went in, the guides told us we should not order any custom-painted
papyri, because there wasn't time for the work to be done before
we needed to leave. They told us we should take only 15 minutes. Well,
by now you've probably guessed it. Some
people went ahead and requested custom-painted papyri in spite
of the guides telling them not to, so the rest of us had to
wait while their pieces were done. A stop that was supposed
to take only 15 minutes dragged into 45. We finally returned
to the hotel around 6:00 p.m., a couple of hours later than
The Nile Maxim
of the many delays throughout the day, we had only an hour to
freshen up for the Nile Maxim dinner cruise. The Nile Maxim
is a river boat restaurant that serves an elegant dinner and
entertains diners with an Oriental dance show. The dancers that
it features are generally high-quality up-and-coming dancers. In
1999, I saw the Argentinian dancer Asmahan perform
on it. We were hoping that this time the performer would be Randa
Kamel, but as it happened she wasn't available and someone
else danced instead.
opened with a performance of a theatricalized (very theatricalized)
tannoura (whirling dervish, Egyptian style) by a male dancer
named Hakim. It seemed a little incongruous to me that the
band was playing Mohammed Abdel Wahab's song Cleopatra as
he whirled, because normally, whirling dervishes use religious
music even in a secular presentation. But to his credit, Hakim
was skilled at spinning and doing the expected "tricks" with
the frame drums and skirts.
dancer for the evening was Hanadi.
a playful stage personality, and was enjoyable to watch. Her
style reminded me of a blend between baladi and Dina. She
opened the show wearing a yellow bra/skirt outfit. The current
fashion among the young dancers in Egypt seems
to be to abandon the use of a separate belt. Instead, they
favor slinky skirts that are embellished with a design around
the top edge that coordinates with the bra.
Dina may have
been the first well-known dancer to introduce butt-wiggling when
she made the "jewel" move famous, but many of today's generation
of up-and-coming dancers have incorporated that into their own
did Hanadi frequently incorporate the jewel into her dancing,
she added further moves to emphasize her own shapely gluteus
maximus. One move in particular involved bending forward from
the hips Dina-like, then using little hip twists to slowly
move her body in its own circle until her rear assets were
directly facing the audience. In this position, she did just
a few more little twists to make sure everyone got a good look
before returning to a more mainstream series of moves. On
the one hand, it was kind of cute and worked well with her
personality. On the other hand, it seemed to extend the sort
of invitation that I would rather not extend to my audiences.
end of this set, Hanadi breezed offstage and disappeared. Her
band kept playing, which was our signal that we could expect
a second set.
before long wearing a brilliant white costume that contrasted
well with the scene around her. She was accompanied by two
musicians in folkloric garb, one playing a mizmar (oboe-like
folk instrument) and the other playing a tabla baladi (folkloric
drum). The musicians on stage played along too.
to the stage, she captured two members of our group, Della from
Omaha, Nebraska, and Tarik Sultan from New
York, and urged them to accompany her to the stage and dance
second set, she wore a white bra/skirt ensemble. This skirt
was a very sheer chiffon fabric with one slit up the front
over one leg. Under it was a pair of boy-leg shorts to cover
the necessary parts. It looked odd to me to see those shorts
under the skirt throughout her set, but she isn't the first
Egyptian dancer to wear such an ensemble and probably won't
be the last!
shorts emphasized Hanadi's gluteal jewels (I'm referring to
the hip twist jewel movement here) even more than her earlier
yellow costume did. Fortunately, her well-muscled body didn't
seem to have an ounce of fat and she managed to look fabulous
even when twisting her ass-ets right in my face as I knelt
at the side of the stage with my camera. I didn't take a picture
of that particular rear view, but I snapped one when she did
the move facing a different angle later in the show. In hindsight
(pun intended), I somewhat wish I had captured the moment when
she was right in front of me.
show ended, there was still a little time before the boat returned
to dock. Many of us headed out on the deck to enjoy the beautiful
night air and offer ourselves to the mosquitos for a dining
experience of their own. At least one member of our group was
a bit green around the gills from seasickness, but most people
were enjoying the beautiful night and the gentle rocking motion
of the boat on the water. Eventually, the boat docked and
we returned to our hotel to rest up for the serious shopping
that awaited us in the morning.
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3: First Look at Egyptian History
Day 5: Shop-portunities and
more from Shira-
6-28-04 Ahlan Wa Sahlan
Festival 2004-Intro Travel Journal by Shira
Eastern dance artists and students from throughout the world attend
this event to immerse themselves in instruction by leading Egyptian
instructors, shop for costumes and other supplies offered by Egyptian
vendors, and enjoy the gala shows featuring top Egyptian dancers. Check
back for regular updates!
First Two Days
3: First Look at Egyptian History
6-16-03 Breaking News from the
Ahlan wa Sahlan 2003 in Cairo reported by Shira
flavor of the instruction and dancing are very different from
that offered by the U.S. festivals, and it offers an exciting
opportunity for immersion in the Egyptian dance arts.
from the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival, The Opening Night
Gala by Tahseen Alkoudsi and Shira
at the Mena House Oberoi Hotel on June 10-17, Cairo, Egypt.
Hassan's Dance Festival (Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2000) By Latifa
Then my dance
idol, Suhair Zaki, walked in, creating eddies of excitement that
ran through the crowd.
the Road (The Bousada Troupe Tours) by Yasmela
carved our own niche, created our own style, scandalized, delighted,
educated and entertained everyone around us, including ourselves.
We were “Bou-Saada”.
Grace, Belly Dance Comics by Alexandria
I sit here for a few moments?"