Gilded Serpent presents...

The Cairo by Night Festival

Snow in Stockholm.

November 4-7, 2010
Stockholm, Sweden

by Nabila Sabha
photos by Zeina, Mohamed, & Aras
posted February 28, 2011

Some months ago in 2010, I received an invitation to dance and teach at the Cairo by Night Festival in November in Sweden, Stockholm. From Germany to Stockholm is actually not that far, but I had never gone there. Therefore, I was greatly looking forward to seeing this lovely and historical city about which I had heard so much. Because I was traveling often during this year to teach and dance, I was really looking forward to visit Sweden and wanted to have, in addition to my workshops and my appearance in the show, some free time for sightseeing as well as time to enjoy Stockholm. I was anticipating the opportunity to teach in Royal CastleSweden because I know that the dancers in countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway are intense in their search for dance knowledge–a “pure” Oriental dance style; perhaps, some would like to call the style “old style” Egyptian dance, but I call it “Basic Egyptian”. I felt happy when my lovely hostess, Zeina (Suzanne Abu Shebeka), chose from my workshop theme list, the workshop “Secrets of Ballady”–and for some fun–my “Hot Oriental-Samba Drum Solo”  that is so much fun for me to teach and dance!

Zeina danced professionally in Cairo in the “good days” of Oriental dance from 1990 Through 1994 where she was under contract with many 5-star hotels, as well as dancing for weddings and many other great events. There, she happened to meet her husband, Mohamed Abu Shebeka; they fell in love immediately and went back to Sweden together! Since 1997, they have owned and run a successful Oriental dance school in Stockholm (the biggest in Sweden). They have produced and presented, for many years now (twice a year), international Oriental dance festivals in Sweden, featuring internationally recognized teacher and dancer–like the one to which I was invited: “Cairo by Night”.

Since 2005, together with Aida Nour and other Egyptian legends of dance, they have organized the well-known Oriental Dance Festival in Cairo the “Nile Group Festival”.
The GlobeFrom the first moment that I arrived in Stockholm until I left, I felt warmly welcomed, relaxed, and it felt so fantastic to be with Zeina and Mohamed Abu Shibeka, that I spend my most memorable time there! My hotel was located next to a big shopping center and “The Globe” (an amazing sport and entertainment hall in the shape of a globe). The most exciting thing I discovered in the morning at the breakfast room: it was connected to the eighth floor of The Globe Sport & Entertainment Hall, and we could peer down into this amazing hall!  Therefore, the V.I.P. seating for the evening events in the restaurant and breakfast room of our hotel offered an amazing round view!

Rehearsing before the big show at the theater!I was certainly surprised that the Saturday night show was held in the most prestigious theater of Sweden – The Royal Ballet Academy of Sweden!(In Sweden, the Oriental dance seems to be more respected by other dance forms.) It was a great feeling to enter this wonderful school with all this lovely photos on the walls, and in all the training studios at every floor, where you could feel the energy of dance in every corner. The stage was professional with great seating for the audience and excellent lightening. What a blessed and gifted feeling to dance on this stage!

I shared the stage with Zeina’s ensemble “Nefertari Dance Group”, her master students, (and other Swedish professional dancers as well) such as: Lisa Lundgren, Elia Valli (Bollywood), Evelina Nicastro, Ylva Trankell, Anaheta Pour Khavari, Yasmeen Sadeek, Alexandra Ruiz, Lisa Juliak, Anna Forsenberg, Annelie Hultvi, Yasmin Benali and the group “Belly Dance Movements”. Once more, in this show, I could see how strong the Swedish dancers are trained in Egyptian folklore!  There was the Shamadan and Saidi choreography by Zeina and Mohamed, and I enjoyed watching as much as possible from my backstage position.

Nabila and Mercedes backstageThis trip was also exciting for me for another reason: I shared the stage with a lovely colleague who was already familiar to me via Facebook! She was Mercedes Nieto from Hungary. What a lovely dancer and sweet person she is!  We spent the most amusing time backstage chatting, laughing, and watching each other’s performance from backstage. Mercedes has her own strong dance style, which is rich and exciting to watch. She is also known for her unique costumes that she designs herself, which I believe sets a new trend in the costume designers’ world.  

So, in this relaxed and warm-hearted company backstage, and on stage, we all experienced a one-of-a-kind show! Of course, after the show, we went out together for “after-show” dinner.

Oh,… Have I mentioned yet that Mohamed and Zeinab invited us (everyday) to another restaurant, where we had to eat until we burst? Yes, I was in terrible trouble with my costumes back in Berlin!

Costume ShopFrom Thursday until Sunday, it was workshop time with a rich program of Bollywood dance by Elia Valli from India, free Oriental dance warm-up classes in the morning (great idea!) and many other workshops as well from Zeina, Mercedes, and me.

Because I have danced and performed Samba for ten years, as well as more than 20 years Oriental Dance,  I offered a hot mix of Oriental-Samba Drum Solo. All the participants were quite flexible of mind, and fantastic in their movements (For instance, Samba counts on 3 not like Oriental on 4, which is a bit tricky and very fast).  It was a pleasure (as well as fun for me) to teach them! Also, for my Ballady workshop the next day, I became inspired by the participants, who were professional in many regards, and it was a pleasure for me to discover, together with them, the secrets of Ballady! Sometimes it was so quiet in the studio because of intense excitement and concentration; it was, for me, exciting to work with them!
After the workshop, all of them had been the “Queen of Ballady”; they felt the essence of Ballady and could show it with body, soul, and mind!

At Zeina and Mohamed’s huge studio (three studios and a big costume shop all in one place) I had the pleasure of meeting another dancer: Hannah from Japan!  She is Zeina’s protege who had come over from Japan for two years to learn all about Oriental dance. What an ambitious dancer Hannah is! She was congenial in the studio and was taking care of all of us–all the time. Thank you Hannah!

Also, the studio has its own Facility Manager: Bobo (Zeinas cute little dog), who takes care of lost veils, homeless Saidi sticks and other items. Bobo is the cutest dog I have ever seen, and he recognizes exactly the part in a choreography that a veil drops or a stick will need to be put away, so he comes immediately and takes it away. Great job, Bobo! I want you as my personal assistant also. (Zeina had to watch me carefully when I left.)  

Bobo!On Monday, I was able to join Zeina’s regular folklore class, and I loved it so much; what a pure Egyptian style! You can see that she was an experienced professional dancer in Cairo; it is the special way of moving and the expressions! I felt that I could have watched Zeina for ages, but we did not have much time left because we went after her class, together with Mohamed, to my promised sightseeing trip to old town of Stockholm.

What a beautiful city!
The old town is so full of history, lovely Swedish people, and little shops, with the palace right in the middle, also, there is the large port (with the big ferry -boats to Finland) next to the palace. It is an exciting atmosphere! 

On top of all this, I experienced my first snow for this year in Sweden; the day I left, winter came to Stockholm and prepared me for the “Alaska-feeling” that I had during December in Berlin.

I love my job! I travel around the world, always meeting so many interesting and amiable people. I can enjoy and entertain them with my dance and experience and its great that there are no borders in minds of artists–we are all united through dance and music!


Mercedes Workshop
Nabila's workshop

Nabila's Class in Stockholm



Nefertari Elshamedan by Zeina


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