Gilded Serpent presents...
Wa Sahlan Festival 2004
June 30, 2004. Every night during the week of classes, the
Ahlan wa Sahlan festival included an evening of dance performances
known as a "Summer Party", featuring the festival attendees.
At registration time, people had the opportunity to sign up
to perform in one of these. Morocco had
made advance arrangements with Raqia Hassan for
one Summer Party evening of the festival to be dedicated to
her group, and this night, it was our group's turn to perform!
There were a small number of performers that night who were
not part of our group, but the majority were.
weeks before I left the U.S. to come to Egypt, my 19-year-old
cat died. I decided to employ a bit of wallet therapy (shopping)
to deal with the grief of losing such a faithful longtime companion.
Before leaving the U.S., I found a turquoise dress made by
Pharaonics which was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits,
lighten my wallet, and wear for my performance in Egypt.
know it sounds crazy to buy an Egyptian-made costume in
the U.S. shortly before going to where they would be so
much more affordable, but my need for retail comfort couldn't
wait! I was looking forward to performing in this costume
for the first time.
I had intentionally
left my schedule free of classes this day because I had planned
ahead to see Lucy perform the previous night
and I wanted to allow myself time to rest after pulling the
all-nighter. I was grateful I had made this decision!
classes being offered this day included ones taught by Momo
Kadous, Nour, Sami Nawar from
the Reda troupe, Nani Sabry, and Mona
El Said. The folkloric classes included Morocco (sagat)
and Farouk Mustafa (Saidi). It would have
been nice to attend some of these, but sleep was a higher priority
for me! I needed to be well-rested for my upcoming performance
I didn't attend Mona el Said's class, I heard that her attire
was somewhat distracting to the students. I'm told that she
wore skin-tight spandex hiphugger pants that came to mid-calf
like Capri pants. Under these she wore a contrasting color
of thong that came up to her waist in both front and back.
The thong fit tightly too, causing the skin between it and
the top edge of the spandex pants to bulge. There was no hip
scarf. Apparently, she taught well. So well that, in fact,
the person who told me about her exercise clothes admitted
that after a while she quit noticing the thong and skin bulges
and was able to concentrate on the moves being taught.
dancers appearing in these nightly Summer Party shows were the
worldwide festival attendees. Although many were professional
dancers back home, here at the festival all were regarded as "students",
which allowed us to perform without being barred by the ban on
foreign dancers. Each dancer was allowed 5 minutes maximum,
and we were given a choice between using a live band or tape/CD
music. The dancers using tape/CD music went first. I opted for
CD because when I went to the festival in 2003 some of the performers
experienced difficulties with the live musicians.
woman, for example, requested a particular song, but for
mysterious reasons the musicians substituted something
entirely different that she had never heard before, leaving
her to improvise to an entirely unfamiliar piece of music.
For the 2003
festival, the nightly summer parties were held in a nightclub
in the Mena House hotel complex.
However, for 2004 the large number of festival attendees made
it necessary to move the summer parties to a ballroom, and
even with this greatly expanded space nearly all the seats
were filled each night. Morocco told
me later that Raqia's decision to
move the Summer Parties to the ballroom was somewhat last-minute,
after being overwhelmed by an unexpectedly large number of festival
attendees this year.
created added expense for Raqia, including not only additional
rental/setup fees to the hotel for the larger room but
also more expensive costs for lighting and sound system.
Consequently, a fee of $10 per dancer was charged for each
individual performing in the Summer Parties to cover these
unanticipated costs. Morocco paid
this additional expense on behalf of the individuals who
were performing from her group.
I don't remember
the exact order we all danced in, so I have presented this
photo gallery in random order. My own photo appears at the
top of this article. The conditions weren't ideal for taking
pictures - our table was some distance from the stage, and
there were many heads in the way. But I'm sure you'll agree
my friend Glee did a great job operating a
camera she wasn't familiar with under difficult conditions.
Throughout our visit to Egypt,
I was constantly impressed by the many inventive ways Naomi
found to wear the scarves she had brought to cover her hair.
show opened with a performance by Naomi. I had enjoyed
meeting her over dinner at the Chinese restaurant the very
first night the group had arrived in
this Summer Party, Naomi rescued me when I realized I
had failed to bring my makeup kit with me from the U.S. She
had several items in her own makeup kit that were a suitable
color for me, and I much appreciated her letting me use
from New York had been my roommate when I attended the
festival in 2003, and we had been so compatible that Morocco arranged
for us to share a room again this year. Although her day
job is that of a school teacher, Alexandra is also an artist.
It was fascinating to explore Cairo with her because she
helped me see Egypt through
the eye of an artist.
danced to an upbeat Egyptian pop song and also appeared
later in the show with Morocco's
dance company. She had been very conscientious about
rehearsing this solo in our Mena House
hotel room, and it was fun to see it all come together
in full costume on stage.
from New York incorporated balancing a shisha pipe
and doing floor work into his act. He works closely with Morocco as
the assistant director of her dance company, the Casbah
Dance Experience. Male dancers performing Oriental
style (as opposed to folkloric dance) are rare in Egypt,
so his performance was a big hit with the audience, especially
the local Egyptians. Later in the show, he also did a duet
This evening was particularly meaningful
for Mary Ann from Springfield, Missouri. Her instructor, Jasara, had also dreamed of coming to Egypt and
had considered coming with our group, but fell ill and
passed away. Mary Ann decided to come to Egypt anyway,
and brought with her Jasara's eulogy
which included a favorite photo of Jasara on
the front cover.
Ann told me, "When we came to the hill looking down
on the Giza plateau, a feeling came over me that
this would be the perfect picture of her and her
dream. I placed the eulogy between the two biggest
pyramids and took the picture. I know she was looking
down on me and was truly happy. I know she is proud
of me and the rest of the troupe for keeping on as
best as we can.
my solo performance in Egypt,
I used a song to which she had danced in the past. I
remember her dancing to the song in a beautiful red bedlah.
It was and still is my favorite performance of hers.
So, I thought, what better way to remember and honor
her than to perform a solo to the same song. My solo
went beautifully and I could feel her presence and knew
she was proud. Having been to Egypt and
experienced it for myself, I have gained an even greater
appreciation for the dance. I would like to think Jasara experienced Egypt through
me. Jasara opened the door
for me to enjoy the dance that will now be a lifelong
passion. I know I will return to continue my studies
of this most exquisite form of dance."
from New York performed to the Arabic pop song Sabry Alil by Shareen. I had also met Denise
for the first time in 2003 as part of Morocco's
small group of Ahlan wa Sahlan
attendees. In 2003, Denise and I both attended an enjoyable
workshop in which Hamada Hossam taught
a mischievous choreographed dance to Sabry Alil that had some almost comedic moves such as finger pointing
reminiscent of John Travolta in the movie Saturday Night
her performance in this show, Denise worked with Morocco
to make many modifications to Hamada's original dance,
removing some moves such as the finger pointing that
were just a bit too tongue-in-cheek and replacing them
with things that worked better for her own personal
style. The resulting dance was still fun-loving and
playful, and I enjoyed seeing the outcome.
from Tennessee sparked energetic audience response for
her joyful dance. I had originally met her in 2003 when
we both came to the Ahlan wa Sahlan
festival with Morocco,
and I enjoyed spending additional time with her this year.
One night, while our group was still staying at the Victoria
hotel, Ariel, Glee, and I all sat up until 3:00 a.m. chatting
and becoming better acquainted. Glee and I were happy to
cheer her on in this show. Her personality on stage demonstrated
a genuine enthusiasm and love for the dance.
from New York did both a solo and an appearance with Morocco's
dance company. She roomed with Morocco during our stay
in Egypt, and assisted her with many of the logistics of
dealing with our large group - helping distribute keys
to hotel rooms, helping contact members of our group to
notify us of announcements Morocco wanted us to receive,
etc. I had met Karin twice before, once in 2000 when we
both traveled with Morocco's
tour group to Turkey,
and again in 2003 when we came to Egypt with Morocco for
the Ahlan wa Sahlan festival.
members of our group performed as well, including some
brave individuals who waited for the live band and danced
with them. Unfortunately, Glee and I weren't able to
snap pictures of all of them, and other people from our
group who shared with me photos they had taken didn't
cover everyone I had missed.
professional photographer was on hand to take photos
of everyone. He snapped three of me, one of which I
found attractive enough to purchase. Some people were
delighted with his photos of them, while others were
disappointed. One person was disappointed that he didn't
take any photos of her at all. But that's always the
way it goes with photographers!
New York performed both a solo and an appearance with Morocco's
dance company. She had brought her 4-year-old daughter Sophia with
her on this trip to Egypt,
and many members of our group were enchanted with the adorable
youngster. My roommate Alexandra had a wonderful time creating
dance costumes for Sophia's dolls using scraps of fabric
that Alexandra had with her, and she used her camcorder
to make a little movie about the dolls' adventures in Egypt.
the travel agency that coordinated our group's arrangements
for the trip, Leonor hired
a nanny to help look after Sophia while she was involved
in the more adult-oriented activities of our trip
such as the dance classes. It worked out very well
aren't many group performances in the Ahlan wa Sahlan summer parties, because it can be difficult for
multiple members of a troupe to find the time and money
to travel to Egypt together.
For that reason, the performance by Morocco's
dance company, the Casbah Dance Experience, provided an
enjoyable change of pace in the evening show.
the week leading up to our performance, my roommate Alexandra
was working with other members of the group to carve
out time and places to rehearse. I definitely admired
their credit, their hard work paid off well. They delivered
a performance that was sharp and precise. In this photo,
the dancers from left to right are Leonor,
Denise, Marisa, Karin, and Alexandra.
Together, these dancers gave Morocco reason
to be proud of them!
she didn't perform in the show, Mara al Nil attended it
to cheer on the rest of us. From stage, looking out over
the packed ballroom, it was definitely nice to see some
friendly, familiar faces! I definitely appreciated the
Featuring Tarik Sultan and Morocco
Morocco and Tarik Sultan
performed an elegant duet together. At times, the choreography flowed
with them dancing in unison, and at other times their
moves complemented each other. Their dance was truly
an audience pleaser.
have known Yolanda from Palo Alto, California for many
years, and it's always a pleasure to see her dance. She
always displays a sparkling on-stage personality, combined
with sharp technique. I was sorry to miss her performance
in this show, but she had opted to dance with live music
and I was too worn out from my previous night's outing
to stay up for it. She was gracious enough to provide me
with this photo from her own camera.
daughter Lulu was our youngest performer this evening.
She has been dancing in public for many years, and is clearly
an up-and-coming star. Unfortunately, I had to miss her
performance too due to my early bedtime. She danced with
the live band. The evening of the opening gala, I was
sitting next to her and we "shared
the experience" of that memorable event together.
New York was another member of our group that I met their
very first day in town. I encountered her and Naomi as
I was returning to the hotel. They were on their way to
shop for a suitable headscarf for Fatinah, as she had not brought one with her from home. Later
that evening, I set next to her at dinner at the Chinese
restaurant and had an opportunity to get to know her better.
Throughout our time in Egypt,
her blonde hair was a magnet for attention from many of
and I have known each other through the San Francisco Bay
Area dance community for many years, and it was great having
her along on the trip. She was one of the few brave people
from our group who took the chance on dancing to live music
in this show. Unfortunately, I didn't have an opportunity
to see her performance myself because I was too wiped out
from the previous night's all-nighter at the Parisiana.
course, the evening would not have been complete without
a performance by our fearless leader, Morocco herself! Dancing
in the classical Egyptian style, she showed us all just
exactly why she is so widely acclaimed in our field and
respected even by the Egyptian dance community. Thunderous
applause greeted the end of her performance, and afterward
many of the Egyptians who were teaching at the Ahlan wa Sahlan
festival offered her highly positive feedback.
End of Another Day!
left before the show ended, because I was worn out from having
pulled the all-nighter the night before at the Parisiana. I
was planning to take Randa Kamel's class
the next day, so I wanted to get a good night's sleep to rest
up and be sharp for it. In addition, Egypt is
a country where smoking is very common, and the air quality in
the ballroom was thick with cigarette smoke by the time the evening
was half over. After living in California for 20 years, where
smoking in public places is banned, I found it difficult to tolerate
for large periods of time.
I was glad
the Summer Parties this year were in the ballroom instead of
the nightclub. The larger crowd size really did make it necessary. The
nightclub had offered an intimate atmosphere which had its
own advantages, but the larger space of the ballroom ensured
that more people could participate in this aspect of the festival.
All in all,
I felt my fellow dancers in this show performed beautifully,
and I think that as a group we did a fine job of showing what U.S. dancers
are capable of. From Karla, who performed her very first public
solo, to our leader Morocco,
we showed ourselves to be enthusiastic, tasteful, joyful practitioners
of the beautiful art of Oriental dance.
wish I could have seen the members of our group who were performing
to live music, but I don't think the sight of me face-slamming
into my baba-ghanoush would have
been viewed as being very supportive. I also regret that I
didn't manage to snap any photos (or find someone else from
our group who did) of the other dancers in our group who performed.
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more from Shira-
-04 Ahlan Wa Sahlan
Festival 2004-Intro Travel Journal by Shira
Middle 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!
3: First Look at Egyptian History
4: More Egyptian Monuments and First Dance Show
Day 5: Shop-portunities
and Whirling Dervishes POSTED 7-9-04
Day 6: The Festival
Begins POSTED 7-17-04
Day 7: Classes
and Free Time POSTED 7-17-04
Day 8: Side Trips,
Part 1: Gayer Anderson Museum POSTED 7-25-04
Day 8: Side Trips,
Part 2: The Parisiana 7-26-04
9: The Evening Show posted 11-12-04 You are here
Day 10: Classes and
the Sphinx Speaks posted 11-22-04
Day 11: Camels, Class, & Competitions posted
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in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi" were
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are happy to be able to respond to the continued demand for these
articles by making them available to our readers worldwide.
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Soul by Edwina Nearing
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