Gilded Serpent presents...

Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival 2009

Raqia & Dr Mo present awards with Raqia's picture in the center, click for larger view

Page 3:Competition Winners, & Closing Gala

Photos by Denise Marino
text by Leyla Lanty
posted November 11, 2009
Page 1: Opening Gala, Page 2: Teachers

It’s June 27, 2009, in Cairo, Egypt, which can mean only one thing – the Opening Gala of Raqia Hassan‘s Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival! At the Mena House hotel the excitement in the air is palpable, not only because of the highly anticipated evening show where dancers from all over the world gather to see the top dancers, musicians, and singers in Egypt, but the next week of classes with Egyptian stars and teachers from all over the world, nightly parties, and the Closing Gala, a spectacular evening of top dancers, AWS competition winners, musicians, and singers.

One feature of the nightly parties is the dance competition.  Although it’s one competition, it is spread over 2 or 3 nightly parties, with only some of the competitors performing each night until all have had a chance to perform once.  Judges for the AWS 2009 competition included Mo Geddawi, Mona El Said, Nabil Mabrouk, and Katia.

Winners are chosen from the whole field of competitors with no semi-finals or finals.  The 2009 Winner of the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Competition was Dariya Mitskevich from the Ukraine, who received a gold ankh trophy, a performance slot in the Closing Gala and the opportunity to teach at AWS 2010. This year there were several teenage or younger competitors and Maria Litovka, Russian, won first place among them.  Both winners were outstanding dancers whose performances showed their artistry, musicality and talent.

Denise-"Not all the judges are there because evey night there were different judges except Katia & Mo Geddawi were there every night"
Zaza Hassan on left & Nabil Mabrouk
left to right: Mo Geddawi, Mona El Said, Nabil Mabrouk, and Katia
Dariya Mitskevich
Dariya Mitskevich of the Ukraine wins
First Place Winner Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2009

Dariya Mitskevich
Dariya Mitskevich

Daria Miskevich
Dariya Miskevich with her trophy

Closing Night Gala

Some of the entertainers and dancers in the Closing Gala were guest artist Jillina from California, Katia from Russia living in Egypt, Dalia from France living in Egypt, and the famous singer Saad el Soghayer."
Leyla and Roland
Leyla Jouvana and Roland


Sayed El Artist of Egypt
Said El Artist

Said el Artist – He and his highly talented and extremely well rehearsed percussion ensemble wowed the audience with percussion as no one had ever heard before.  The show included some Nubian dancers and drummers along with some fine drum, tambourine, and cymbal soloists.  Featured in the show were drum solos by some of the young boys in the El Artist family ranging in age from about 6 to 12 years.  In the next photo, the accordionist on the right is Houda El Artist and the accordionist on the left is Sallah, two of Said’s brothers.  Behind Houda was another brother, Dede who in the past has been head drummer for Dina and Dandash. Houda and Said own a recording/rehearsal studio in Giza just off Haram Street, where my CD “Golden Days, Enchanting Nights” was conceived and put together. 

Sayed El Artist
Said El Artist

Katia of RussiaKatia of Russia
Katia of Russia living in Egypt

Dalia of Egypt
Dalia is a French dancer living in Egypt
Jillina of CaliforniaJillina of California
Jillina of California, guest artist

Jillina – Oh yes Jillina!!  She knocked my socks off!  As far as I know, she’s had only one opportunity to rehearse with the band before being the final dancer at the Closing Gala.  She looked as if she’d been dancing with them for months if not years.  She sparkled and shone throughout her performance – what a great way to end the dance performances at AWS 2009. [Ed note- article by Jillina on her experience coming soon!} 

Saad el Soghair
Saad el Soghayer

Saad el Soghayer – He and his wonderful orchestra and team of about 40 young male dancer -drummers lit up the night, energizing the whole room even though it was already 2:30 in the morning and it had been a long, long show already.  He and his dance team moved out into the audience early on then to keep the excitement going, ended the show on stage with a number of the audience members dancing on stage with him. 

Saad el Soghair
Saad el Soghayer

Maria Litovka, winner of the children’s division gets to dance with Saad on closing night.
I saw her during the competitions during the week and her technique and musicality were both impressive. 
Maria Litovka and Saad
Dariya Mitskevich with Saad el Soghair
As winner of the competition, Daria Miskevich gets to dance again on closing night with Saad el Soghayer

Amir Thaleb is the man in the center

Angelika, Princess Farhana and Fahtiem

Just a few more photos from the Opening Night Gala…

Essam Karika is a very popular Egyptian singer who closed the Opening Night Gala.  His show includes a number of circus acts circulating among the audience while he sings, sometimes from atop a dining table.  There
were stilt dancers who danced shaabi style up on top of their stilts, along with an assortment of characters: clowns, a man in a gorilla suit, raqs tannoura dancers twirling the big skirts above their heads, duff (hand drum) players in shirt, ties, and dress slacks.  Note from my diary "General pandemonium".

Stiltwalker Little Entertainer
Essam Karika
Essam Karika

Essam Karika clown
Mona Said is the woman in middle snapping her fingers.



Denise Marino, world traveling professional photographer, who has been a featured photographer at the festival for several years, contributed these magnificent photos from AWS 2009 to the Gilded Serpent.
See Denise’s bio page for a list of more of her photos posted on Gilded Serpent and for links to her websites

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