The Post Revolution Entertainment Scene in Egypt
by Leila Farid
As I sat in the Gomhoreya Theater the other day waiting for the ballet to start, I felt happy just to be there. Only a few short months ago, the dancers and staff had been on strike. They were demonstrating against a statement by the former Islamic Minister of Culture, calling the ballet “nudity” and “indecent” and proposing to eradicate it all together.
As I watched the gorgeous rendition of the old folk tale “Ayoub wa Nassa” by the Opera’s Forsen el Shar’a Ensemble, I couldn’t help but think of how close Egypt came to going down a road where dance, secular literature and film may have become dinosaurs of the past.
Since the massive demonstrations that lead to the ousting of Islamic president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt breathed a short sigh of relief. The two kilometer long gas lines are gone, the cost of electricity has been cut by at least half (and it actually works-no more day long power cuts), and water comes out of the tap when you turn it on. Essentials have been restored which make daily life easier. The sense of lawlessness that permeated the streets during Morsi’s presidency is gone. The police are back and the military is a presence again with the majority support of the people.
Now starts the long and grueling rebuilding of the country. Writing a new constitution, managing effectively the countries resources, establishing social programs and minimum wage, addressing the gas crisis, organizing a new and fair presidential election are just a few of the problems facing the interim government. Also the followers of ex-president Morsi did not go quietly. There are incidents every few days where Morsi’s followers retaliate for what they saw as a coup. The universities are hot beds for clashes between students who supported Morsi and the students who support his ousting.
For artists, we lived a very long year under Morsi’s presidency, wondering when and where the axe would fall and would it be our art form that was next on the chopping block. Tax cases were brought against most working dancers in Egypt and even those who had retired or returned to their own countries. The Islamists did not stop us from working but they made us pay for being dancers, literally.
It would have been hard to find a dancer in Egypt who didn’t celebrate the exit of Morsi and his government.
Just as the threat to our art form from the Islamists is gone, we face another one, economics. For dancers in particular, the elation at having a secular government has been replaced with the numbness of the dry spell that is already upon us.
Lynette had asked me when I was in the States over Ramadan last Summer, to update the Cairo clubs page, which was originally added in 2007, and updated in 2009, investment and industry has given people hope that this summer things will start to turn around. But the winter we are facing is long and cold.
Hopefully some of the restaurants and nightclubs that featured dancers will reopen or new ones will take their place. It is hard to imagine an Egypt where dance is not a big part of Egyptian entertainment. Personally, I don’t think Oriental dance in Egypt will die. I think it just has to sleep for a while before being awakened by the handsome prince of tourism and a stimulated economy. Maybe in the months ahead there will be a new beginning for raqs sharki; I have hope!
Current Clubs and Dance Venues in Cairo
Amoun Cabaret – Shakira
Aquarius Cabaret – Aziza, Shakira
Grand Hyatt Boat – Folklore Show only
Intercontinental/City Stars Fairooz Restaurant – Thursday nights only, Soroya
Memphis Boat – Luna
Marriott Zamalek Outdoor Tent and Nightclub – Worked on and off after the revolution. Closed since early 2013
Meridian Haram Outdoor – Closed after the revolution
Merryland Outdoor – Closed from 2010
Mena House Nightclub/Restaurant – Closed after the revolution
Nile Pharoan Boat – Working one cruise a night if they have reservations Magda Monti, Mona Ghazi
Nile Maxim Boat – Working one cruise a night (the dancer you see is based on the number of reservation for that night) Leila Farid, Nesma, Noura (dancer on CD)
Parisiana Nightclub – Working, Lucy (by special request)
Pyamesa Nightclub – Closed
Semiramis Intercontinental Haroun al Rashid Nightclub – Worked on and off after the revolution. Closed in early 2013
Sheraton Cairo Aladdin Restaurant – Closed in 2010
Sunset Cabaret – Working Aziza, Shakira, Shams
VIP Cabaret, Nabila Cairo – Working, Safinez
Some more Cabarets that are working in Harem Street – Lido, Hormoheb, Tivoli, Aish al Bolbol, El Leil.
*Cabarets now have house bands. The dancer does not bring her own band with her.
Licensed dancers working in Restaurants, Boats or Cabarets in Cairo:
Aziza (Egyptian) – Sunset, other Cabarets
Kariman (Egyptian) – Haram
Leila Farid (American/Egyptian) – Nile Maxim
Lucy (Egyptian) – Parisiansa (by special request)
Luna (American) – Memphis Boat
Magda Monti (Argentina) – Nile Pharoan
Mona Ghazi (Hungary) – Nile Pharoan
Nagwan (Egyptian) – Cabaret
Nesma (Egyptian) – Nile Maxim
Noura (Egyptian) – Nile Maxim
Safinaz (Russian) – VIP Nabila Cairo
Shams (Egyptian) – Sunset, other Cabarets
Shakira (Egyptian) – Sunset, other Cabarets
Soroya (Brazilian, Egyptian) – City Stars Fairooz Restaurant
Ready for more?
- 11-4-13 Exploring the Essence, Dancing to Live Music,
All the great dancers worked with live music because orchestras helped them reveal their deep-seated artistry.
I left Cairo on September 9th, 2012, after a three-week visit to research the zar. I wrote the following article on my flight home – two days before the Libyan tragedy* and the violence outside Cairo’s US Embassy. As my plane circled the pyramids I had no idea Egypt would once again become the center of world attention.
Sometimes the dirty facts of dancing in Cairo can be more interesting than the pristine Oriental fantasy… at least, it is when you tell the story later! PHOTOS!
- 4-11-11 As the Music Fades, Egypt’s January 25 Revolution’s Impact on the Muscians and Dancers
We can’t attain what they had in the past because we are not free. Our minds are full of work and what we should and shouldn’t do. There’s no time for good art. Politics mixed with religion does not make for an atmosphere where the arts can flourish.
- 2-3-11 Getting Home, Report from Cairo
As a new Egyptian national, I am proud that people are demanding their basic human rights, and at the same time, sorry for the economic hard times that have already begun here.
- 6-17-10 Leila Delivers Live Music Under the Stars, Camp Negum 2010
Camp Negum did indeed happen May 4-8, 2010. It was everything Leila promised and more – 5 days and nights of music and dance classes, almost all to live music.
- 12-16-10 Dance for Dancers
Art created for other artists will evolve differently from art created for the masses.
- 8-17-13 Dancing Through Financial Crisis and Revolution An Interview with Luna of Cairo
As fearless as the Cairenes in her adopted home, she takes on the state of the art form and daily trials and tribulations with candidness and humor.
- 6-1-06 I Love Lucy: Confessions of a Dancer
Lucy does not believe that one can properly perform Oriental dance with a set choreography.
- 11-19-13 Tarazade Brings the Bellydance World to Istanbul, Tarazade 2013, Intercontinental Dance Festival
The five workshops I attended over four days were challenging and fun, which is what I had hoped. I love workshopping. It’s so much fun to dance to someone else’s rhythm and it’s hard to walk away not feeling inspired.
Part 3: In this segment she tells about her experience of working with the Bellydance Superstars and Jillina.
In this segment she tells about creating the festival and describes the categories and using live music. We need help adding the names of the musicians in the last clip.
—Part 5: Florida Community Issues
—Part 6: Future Plans
Armando, John, Bert, Dalilah, Rhonda, Reema, Sabah, Katrina, Devija…
They loved it, clapping, laughing and encouraging me to keep dancing that way!
- 10-20-13 Entering the Sufi Spiritual World of North Africa, Sufi Brotherhoods and Trance Ceremonies in the Maghreb
…the Maghreb consists of many Sufi-brotherhoods, often recognized and set through their Zawiyas and initiations. Sufis have always worked toward reform through advice and education of the individual and internal purification through providing a model and example of tolerance, solidarity, brotherhood and selflessness removed from anything that would give a bad image of Islam.
- 10-17-13 Our Rules: Beauty & Professionalism, Elena Ramazanova Speaks About the League of Bellydance Masters
We had the pleasure to meet with Elena Ramazanova, president of The League of Bellydance Masters in Russia, artistic director of “Ramiza Dance Group”, and a successful dancer and teacher at the open beach party of the Seventh International Belly Dance Festival titled “Expression of the East” in Berdyansk, Ukraine.