Gilded Serpent presents...

Translations of 1930s Gossip Column in a Local Cairo Paper

“New and Second Hand Costumes:
Our Elegant and Not So Elegant Dancers” &

"Madame Badia Masabni"

Translations by Priscilla Adum
posted October 8, 2015

This article is from the early 1930s and it talks (gossips I should say) about the famous bellydancers of the time and their costume quirks, though not always in a very flattering way.
Thank you to KF for the very kind help. [Editor’s Note: This article supliments Pricilla’s articles in The Belly Dance Reader 2, page 38.

Multiple Costumes

The Picture Captions:
Top Right: Hekmet Kamel, Left page: Top: Taheya Carioca, Top Left: Fathya Fouad.
Lower Left: Khayria Sadki, Bottom Left: Kawsar,
Lower Right: Safya, Bottom Right: Hekmet Fahmy wearing the bedlah that she made with her own hands. Right page: Kneeling in the Center: Mounira Mohamed,

New and Second Hand Costumes:

Our Elegant and Not So Elegant Dancers

Each one of our dancers tries first and foremost to be unique in her elegance even more so than all of her fellow dancers, particularly when it comes to costumes. For this reason we see costume styles renewed and renovated regularly.

It is well known that the best raqs bedlah* which cost tens of pounds are those of the famous dancer Beba, and this is disclosed by other dancers themselves who say that she has no difficulty obtaining money** She doesn’t own any cheap costumes of the "wardnary" {fiery flower)} type that are worn by second rate dancers.

The famous dancer Houriya Mohamed made her own costumes when she began as a dancer and every one of her bedlah had a special and unique style. But her mother then noticed that other dancers copied her so she preferred to design and make them herself {for her}.

Hekmet Fahmy, before travelling to Budapest used to have her her costumes made by the best dressmakers but she finally thought of making them herself and her first attempt in this field was the bedlah that she danced in in the casinos of Europe, so she is enormously proud of this bedlah and from that moment forward she no longer goes to the dressmaker. We don’t know if that’s due to a financial crisis or due to other reasons. Only God knows.

As for Karima, it’s well known that she is zealous about her art, and she also wants to stand out among her colleagues so every season she asks her costume maker to make a bedlah for her and she names it the Bedlah of the Season. Karima wanted to have a bedlah of the season this summer, so she had a very wonderful bedlah made before Madame Badia Masabni opened for the season. But wind is what ships dislike and Badia didn’t allow Karima to dance, the reason given was that she was somewhat overweight and dancers must have slim bodies. At that, Karima responded "Well, what about Mary George?"

As for the rest of the dancers’ bedal, they’re almost all the same in style, except for the colors. It’s important for us to say something about the different ways dancers pay for these costumes. Some of them pay all at once, others pay in installments. Some pay fairly and others try to rip off the dressmaker. Among the most fair dancers are Beba and Hekmet and Karima Ahmed.

On the other hand, for example, the dancer who annoys costume makers the most is Fathya Fouad. Last week a big fight ensued between her and one of the costume makers because he demanded that she pay for a bedlah that he made for her a year ago. Right behind her and coming in second as far as not paying on time is the dancer Kawsar who, every time she wants a to have a bedlah made, the costume maker must look up towards heaven and say "My God, let me get through this safely!" We don’t know if he wants to stay safe from the bedlah or from Kawsar.
Taheya Carioca maintains a characteristic haughty attitude in front of people so she doesn’t want to deal with the costume maker and she deals with other dancers themselves. So she comes up to Karima Ahmed:

Taheya: I saw that you have a nice bedlah. Would you consider selling it, my sister?
Karima: You’re welcomed {to it}
Taheya: For how much?
Karima: How about 4 pounds, my sister?

And if Karima gets the 4 pounds within 4 months she can consider herself lucky.

One dancer who doesn’t pay up either agreeably or by fighting is Hekmet Kamel.
And what about Khayria Sadki? She pays the price of every bedlah in full…… but when would that be? When she meets one of the nincompoops.***

And thus, we find that many dancers present a beautiful appearance in front of audiences and are sweet talkers, but they’re like the adage that says: "He who sees the decorated front door doesn’t see how thirsty he is" {Meaning: You can’t judge a book by it’s cover}

The two main people in Egypt who are professional dance costume makers are George and Ellen. The first one is the costume maker for the classy dancers and the latter is for the second rate dancers.

*The original arabic article uses the words "raqs bedlah" or just "bedlah" to refer to bellydance costumes and "bedal" to refer to the plural form if they are talking about more than two costumes. However, TWO of them specifically would be "badlatain".

**The words used in arabic here, insinuate that Beba made money from other activities besides dancing and her clubs..and not particularly in a good way.

***Nincompoop meaning one of those men who habitually showered bellydancers with gifts.


Badia Translation

Priscilla Adum presents another translation- Madame Badia Masabni

WHERE DID BADIA MASABNI LEARN TO DANCE? Who Taught Her? In This 1930’s Interview (I don’t know the magazine’s name) Badia tells where she learned and who her teachers were. She has some words of advice for dancers which might be useful even today, eighty years later. Beba Ezz El Din also tells, though unfortunately her interview is incomplete and apparently continued on another page of the magazine. I can’t help wondering if some of Badia’s responses to the questions were a deliberte jab at Beba, an ambitious Lebanese girl who had started out in Egypt as one of Badia’s dancers and who had caused Badia quite a bit of grief in the past.
Thank you to KF for the assistance.


Among Dancers of Cairo and Alexandria, How Did Some Of Our Dancers Learn The Art Of Dance?

Badia Masabni and Beba Tell

Madame Badia Masabni

Madame Badia Masabni was sitting down during a rehearsal and had her legs propped up on another chair, so we could tell that she was in a good mood and would be willing to answer any question we asked her. So we asked:
"These Egyptian dancers who are dancing {here} right now, do they need to have a teacher, or is it not necessary?"

BADIA: Any dancer who tells you that she dances without having been taught is a liar. Nothing can be correct without having been taught.

INTERVIEWER: Ok then, so who taught you the dance?

BADIA: I learned the dance in 1914 from a woman in the Levant, her name was Baheya Simeka and another woman named Mountaha el Amerikaniya and you have no idea how that expression *youda3 sero fi ad3af khalco* really applied perfectly to me. {My Note*It’s an expression that refers to someone who proves to be talented or skillful at something that nobody thought they would be skillful in)


BADIA: The first salary I had as a dancer was 15 lira which was nothing. As fate would have it the war began and do you know how much my salary increased to? It was suddenly 45 lira.

INTERVIEWER: Bravo, and this certainly means that you progressed quickly. Where was the first place you worked at as a dancer?

BADIA: At a café called Khristo Café in the Levant.

INTERVIEWER: So, was your first stage appearance as a dancer?

BADIA: No, I had learned some Egyptian songs such as ya men3anesh ya beta3et el lous (Ya fresh Ya Almond Seller) and makli fi el sawani foul soudani (Roasted Peanuts On A Tray) and step by step I learned to dance from Baheya and Mountaha. As for playing sagat, I learned that on my own because playing them is just instinctive in all of Lebanon and Syria. For this reason you won’t find any Egyptian dancer who can play sagat as skillfully as dancers from the Levant who are also skillful dancers as well.

INTERVIEWER: And what does a dancer have to do in order to become outstanding?

BADIA: A dancer who wants to become outstanding and who works towards becoming famous has to put all of her thoughts into her work before any other subject or interest. First of all, if she doesn’t have an instructor to coach her or a dancer colleague to give her lessons, then she must have an outline of the dance she’s going to perform. If she has success with this outline, then she has to renew it daily and add to it daily. For example, if she sees a beautiful dance, she can take the beautiful things from it and add them to her own dance and modify them somewhat so that no one can say that she is blindly copying others.

I believe that it’s easy for the Egyptian dancer to work towards being an outstanding and admired artist, however her mind must not always be thinking about men because many times I will see a dancer neglect her work and arrive late to rehearsals, or they arrive late to the sala and when I ask what her excuse is, she’ll tell me she’s late because she’s in love with someone and she went out with him, or that he’s angry with her and she was trying to convince him to make up with her. However, if she forgets about all of that and just works towards being an outstanding dancer, her public will be the first to love her and they will be the first to follow her.

Beba Ezz El Din
And Madame Beba Ezz El Din, before being a sala owner was well known for being a skillful dancer to the extent that people talked about her and about how well she danced. I asked her as she was sitting at her Sala in Alexandria, "How did you learn the dance?"
BEBA: Are you kidding?
INVERVIEWER: I swear by God that I’m serious.
BEBA: Ok, then listen to these serious words. I learned it myself without any teacher.
INTERVIEWER: Does this mean you just began to dance right out of the blue?
BEBA: Well, don’t forget that you must know that not everyone who wants to dance can dance.
BEBA: She has to be interesting in her dance

[unfortunately her interview is incomplete and apparently continued on another page of the magazine.]


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