Saturday, March 31, 2007

In...

I am in my new place- and guess what...... some one in the building obviously has wireless internet connection without needing a password- so I am online! Very happy (better update my anti virus soon though!)

Happy because I was expecting a huge fight with landlord re getting my deposit back- but I got almost as much as could have hoped for- so it so far has been a very good day!

Last move

Well......... today is last blog for a few days since I am leaving this flat for good now... and don't yet have internet access in new place! Will have to try to sort that out on monday (no point doing it before since its a public holiday weekend)

So please - if you email me- don't expect a reply straight away!!!!

Am really happy with new place. It feels much more homely than last one... and have TV which I found out last night has over 60............ yes 60 MUSIC channels on it!!!!!!!! Fantastic! Off I go.....................

Friday, March 30, 2007

Lucy

Yesterday, the engineer came round to set up my TV in my new flat (I dont watch it at all at home- but nice to have here the music channels at least- especially to laugh at all the new cheesy videos!) I was just about to leave the house when i saw a horrific sight- Lucy singing in a pop video. Now, i admire her on stage dancing... but this enterprise I feel just doesn't do her any credit! (This is the dancer who's plastic surgery people comment on as much as people in the west might comment on Michael Jackson's!)

After the video clip was an interview with her (on 'Zoom' TV)- so i had to sit and watch that! I am sure it was good practise for me arabic......... but my god it made me really wish I knew more! At least here I knew roughly the subject matter... so I could piece together some of it... in particular she was asked about whether she thought Fifi Adbou or Dina were the better dancer. Fifi she rated as a person and Dina (I think!) she said had taken the dance in a new direction, a new style........ I wish I could have understood it more fully though to tell you!

She was also asked about how she stood about foreign dancers......... this was when I was really cursing that I couldn't understand word for word! She did say definatly though that she thought the bad foreign dancers should be forced to leave since there wasn't enough work or money available for Egyptians when they were taking all the jobs.....

The Khan

I chose last night, of all nights to go do some shopping in Khan el Khalili. The traffic there was worse than usual...... why? because today is a holiday- 'the prophets birthday'. All the sweet shops have streams of 'christmas' lights outside and huge boxes filled with sweets and dolls with massive sugary sweet dresses of white, yellow, pink etc.... Thursday night and Cairo is out to celebrate- many people out in their 'sunday best'.

I had a couple of errands to run first- buying kiddies bellydance costumes for a start followed by walking around getting ideas to beautify my new flat! I know its not a permenant base or anything- but I love being in nice surroundings!

After a while, with feet throbbing from walking around.. I took refuge in my usual CD shop, where they gave me (as a regular customer) numerous cups of tea and a place to recover from the efforts of the Khan. Not once did they even show me anything to buy.... very kind of them (but then I guess they have made plently out of me over the years!!!) Was interesting to see them go to work- putting on some Koran, followed by some Hakim....... anything to try and draw in some shoppers. When my friend joined me, she bought 6 CD's and 2 DVD's.... so I guess that did make it worth their while to have entertained me for the nearly 2 hours preceeding that!

Then Kaydee and I headed down to Yasser's cstume shops- where we spent another 2 hours, trying on costumes. I was very good. I didn't buy one for myself (although I did fall in love with a goldy/orangy one!) Kaydee chose a deep rose pink which looks stunning on her. Then we went back to El Fishawy to rest.

We ended up staying in Fishawy for nearly 2 hours! Both of us were surprised that its was after 3am! We'd been sitting drinking 'Sahaleb' ( a hot milky drink made with semolina, coconut, raisens and nuts and a wonderful winter warmer!) whilst we listened to all the various musicians who were going round the tables entertaining the people there. Groups of young guys up dancing in the street, Young children being put up on tables to dance in front of their proud parents, everyone singing and clapping along. An amazing party atmoshere! We even had a old guy- violinist sit with us singing and playing 'Enta Omri' just before we had to leave.

It was an amazing night- and I am really glad I went (even though I didn't get back to back til 4am!) I felt I was really part of the Cairo I love, enjoying the holiday with everyone else, enjoying just sitting with a friend, loving the music and the atmosphere! So happy I am here in Cairo!

'Kol Sena Wentu Tayyib' (may every year be good!)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Taxis, Arabs and STUFF!

I'm going to have to get myself a regular taxi driver.... I discovered last night I had to walk quite a way from my new flat before I got to one....... and even walking down the street with a huge empty suitcase I hardly got any hassle from the guys hanging around...... a little by the time I reached the main road... but over all less stress than in zamalek (very surprised at this!!!) Anyway- dont mind walkng for a taxi like that- only a problem if I am dressed up to go out....

I also have a feeling that the area I am now in will be over-run with Arabs in the summer...... we'll see. In the summer saudi's, kuwaiti's etc come to Cairo to escape the heat and have some fun........ And thats where the problem lies- having fun isn't always limited to good muslim behaviour! There seems to be a belief that if a girl is walking down the street then its only because she is looking for a man who's car she can jump into! anyway- I might be predicting problems that won't happen here- we'll see..................

the very frightening thing about this move has been discovering how much STUFF i have. Never mind the 2 suitcases packed full of dance costumes.............. theres also 3 suitcases of clothes and at least one full case of toiletries????? !!!!!!!! And if anything here I am underestimating! guess when I do eventually come back to UK I'll be having to break my life long habit of hoarding!!! In meantime though- I am going to buy more nice things' pictures , mirrors etc....... I stayed in this last place a year rather than the intended 6 months and regret now strongly that I didn't get big mirror in to practise dance in front of etc- not going to do that again!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shakira

The whole of Cairo is crazy busy tonight because it is the shakira concert! The annoying thing is that I got the chance of a ticket- but didn't have anyone to go with so had to say no. Can you believe it? There are many things I am happy to do on my own ........... but going to a pop concert is not one of them!

So what will I do instead? well- I spent the whole day cleaning the fridge in my new flat..... so I dont know that my evening can possibly get more exciting than that!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I suspect one of the things i will miss most about my flat in Zamalek (apart for the amazing views!) is the privacy........ unfortunatly my new flat is in built up area and I'll have to be careful which windows I leave open etc...... never thought I would wish i had net curtains!!!! (have in bedroom and they are a relief!) oh- and talking of curtains.... you should see the horrible ones that are up in the living room just now.......... wow! They gotta go............. material shopping for me I guess! Soon! (heading to Khan el Khalili tomorrow night- so it'll be interesting to see what I 'HAVE' to buy for my new place!!!!!) I love this bit about getting a new house......... problem is - when I eventually do return to Edinburgh I am never going to be able to afford a house large enough to put all these lovely things in!!!

Oh- discovered another problem with the new place....... I am going to end up over eating there. From 3 pm every afternoon some cruel cruel person starts barbequing chicken for about 2 hours (guessing there is a restaurant around I haven't found yet!) The smell, when you are hungry, is enough to drive any sane persons bonkers!

A good thing about my new location- I have at least 4 '2.50le' shops in the area. Remember when 99p shops actually meant that everything in the shop cost exactly 99p............ well this is the equivelent......... so for the grand total of 15le (less than £1.30) I bought 2 tea towels, a pan warmer and 3 glasses! Wish i could find some nice wine glasses (mind you- hard to get nice wine here... so maye that would just depress me if I did have them!!!)

I am happy. Off to fight the shakira traffic to take another taxi load of stuff over there now! really gotta get internet connection asap though...... but this weekend is a public holiday- the prophets birthday - so everything will be shut early tomorrow til mon.... so that may have to wait...

Monday, March 26, 2007

New Flat!!!!!!!!!!!

Hurrah! I signed the lease for a new flat tonight....

The bad news about it;

-) No Nile or Pyramid View.
-) Mohandessen is a very busy area- so I predict more time spent in taxi's than before.
-) Horrible Suite in living room- but think will buy some sheets to cover that!
-) I'll need to organise setting up my own DSL (broadband) internet connection so I can stay in touch


However- The good news is;

-) Its cheaper than my last place ( not a huge amount- but when you are living off savings every penny counts!)
-) Sunny Balcony (although is overlooked so no more scantily clad sunbathing! Margaret esp. take note!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
-) Its really quiet- nice area (not many foreigners- so perhaps my arabic will improve faster- plus my new bowab seems helpful and nice- with no english- which I consider to be a good thing!)
-) 8th floor- so still got a view of rooftops
-) AC in every room
-) Lovely condition tile and wood floors throughout
-) Its huge- 3 double bedrooms and 2 sittingrooms (one with dining room) and 1 bathroom and 1 WC! (this of course means that all of you from home who want to come to visit are very welcome since I have tons of room.......I hope you take me up on this offer- I'll be here til Oct!)
-) For all you dance fans- I now live practically on the same street as Amera (Pharonics costume designers!!!)

Off to get some packing done now.......... will add some photos once I am in there and settled!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Silly food

Had to take these pics (obviously don't have enough in my life at the moment to do) but they made me laugh- so I thought I would share it...


'French or fresh?' Fries............











and whats so 'fancy' about this ketchup sachet?????











Oh- and no need to worry about my diet- it was a healthy beef panini I had with a massive caesar salad- the fries were free!!! I do love ordering food online and it turning up at your door in 20 mins- wonderful!



oh - and in the links now if you want to view only the photos i have put into the Blog since it started last summer, without going through all the writing- then you can click on the link 'all blog photos'.

the Hunt continues...

I tell you- some really horrible flats up for rent in cairo!!!!!

this last week... I am seen places which looked like they were about to be demolished- with underwear hanging on the balcony... and one place had obviously been a brothel at one point- with a horrific huge plastic water fountain in one corner of the living space and mirrored and crystal pillers in the centre of the room- and the smells............... hmmm.

My landlord here in this flat really pushed the wrong buttons yesterday for me.... I was in my bed sick (ate something bad) so didn't answer the phone at 10.30am (the equivalent of about 8.30am in UK since life here goes so late into the night!) .. or the door......... so he let himself into my flat!!!! while I was lying in bed!!!! ....then he had nerve to be upset with me because i hadn't answered the phone! I yelled to 'go away- I am in bed sick' and he shouted through he would just let the people he was with see the rest of the flat instead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I yelled him out and, with only a week left on the lease, my friend came round and changed the lock for me within an hour!!!

the nerve!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flat Hunt

8 whole days without an entry and a few of you guys are asking whats up and whats going on in my life.........
well- I have until the end of this month to find a new flat.... so that is kinda taking up most of my energies just now!I would love to stay here, but its rather pricey for me and the lease runs out at end of March so out I go. I am sure it would be far easier to find a new place at home (not that I have ever rented a flat at home!!) but here in egypt it seems so difficult! Most Egyptians who need a flat ask friends or failing that check with the bowabs (doormen), these avenues are limited to me without tons of friends here in Cairo and my limited arabic its hard to go asking strange men if there are any flats available in their building (never mind, to then go and see that flat with them without some sort of escort!!!)

so- I am relying on friends and estate agents. The problem with estate agents is the commission......... they take an entire months rent of you in commission- not all do that- but most of the ones i have found do unfortunatly! And so far- even with 3 of them working on it for me- not one suitable flat have they found! 11 days to go before I am out on my ear- but I refuse to live in a place where the water heater, and gas cooker look like something my great grandmother might have used (not to mention walls peeling with mould, or windows that open onto the street (literally- so everyone can see you if your windows are open- hence you would end up living in darkness rather than be subject to so much attention!!!) So- thats what I have been up to....... off to see another couple tomorrow- lets hope they turn out a bit better.........

I'll leave you with this image .... (totally true!). Imagine walking into a flat which is a good price and has great promise with a huge roof terrace (which is totally covered in dog mess) only to have your nostrils blasted off as soon as the door opens. Once you regain your balance, you walk through the really lovely rooms, flinging open all windows so you can breathe. You spend as much time as possible on the many lovely balconies... until you get to the kitchen............

If you have ever seen the film 'the machinist' ........picture that image of 'the fridge'...

if not- picture this- large white fridge- blood pouring down the front of the door- kitchen floor awash with blood and a huge hunk of rotting meat in the kitchen sink!!!!!!!!!!! A perfect set for a serial killer! (seems like last owner left 'food' in the fridge but the electricity had been switched off some days ago!!!!!). Needless to say- I won't be moving in there!!!!

The flat hunt continues......................

Monday, March 12, 2007

Egyptian Food part 2!

I am so lazy about cooking... I put it off until i am starving and then I can't be bothered making anything that takes more than ten mins... so , to try and encourage me to eat more healthily, I asked my cleaner Romaya (who I know is a good cook!) to make me some food when she was here. On Thursday she made me a huge pot of lentil soup- which I lived off right up to sunday night... lovely. Todays food dish was to be a surprise though... not through intention but becuase my arabic couldn't keep up! I knew it was chicken........ I didn't expect Melokhya! (also spelt Molokhia)

For those of you not in the know- Melokhya is meat (usually rabbit- this time chicken) cooked in a slimy green soup (made from the melokhya - green leafy summer vegetable- a bit like spinach!) seasoned with lots of garlic and coriander, which you serve with rice.


When I went online to check my spelling of this dish I found it is also common in Sudan too, and seemingly the make a health drink out of the stuff in Japan!


So what do I think? well- I have had this dish in restaurants before and I prefer Romaya's receipe- but I am a bit nervous about having to eat the whole pot of it!!! A small plate is nice, unusual........ but the slimy element of it kinda gets to me.....although I know it is seemingly very high in iron therefore very good for you....... I do know people who swear by it.... maybe I can invite them round for tea over next day or 2!!!!

So what started as laziness- ie not cooking myself... is developing into a culinary cultural experience! wonder what she is planning to do with the lamb she is cooking for me on Thursday- watch this blog to find out!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Naguib Mahfouz

I am currently reading the first book from The Cairo Trilogy, Palace Walk, by Naguib Mahfouz. He is famous as Egypt's greatest writer, and I had been putting the book off as it looked a bit big and daunting.... but its wonderful- loving it!!! Unputdownable (well- until you need to rest your wrists from holding such a heavy book!)

Although the English translation is naming it Palace walk a direct translation from the arabic would be 'Between 2 palaces' . I have been told by a few people who have read his books in english and in arabic that lots of the nauances get lost in translation- but I guess that will happen with every writer! seemingly the last book in the series- 'Sugar street', should be 'Sugar cane street'.... not sure why they changed that one!!!

If you want a more detailed idea of the plot- check out this link... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_Trilogy

What I love about it so far (and I am still to finish book 1 out of 3!) is how you get to see into the lives of real people and the lifestyle and thinking of the times (ie 1920's and seemingly goes on though the spanning of both the world wars...)) It talks about in detail this contrast of how women 'should' be in contrast to how 'your woman' should be, and talks alot about the ideal female form having plently meat on her bones! Considering bellydance grew out of this era it sheds a lot of light on the culture of the time and how these things would have developed. Not that it talks about dancers really (or not so far!) but wondeerful to see how important a role music, making music and singing come into peoples passions and lives... Not to mention how religion affects people and their families.......

Naguib is said to have written some of his works sitting in El Fishawy Cafe in Khan el Khalili. I find that so hard to believe since he create such multi layers strong characters that it would have been nearly impossible to keep all this in his head with the hussle and bustle of the market going on around him. I do not doubt for one second though that some of the charaters would be created and ideas dreamed up over a sheesha pipe watching life go by in a coffee shop!

Naguib was born in 1911, and first published in 1939. He has written over 30 novels and lots of short stories and many have been made into films. The book I am reading was made into a 3 part series for Egyptian TV and was very popular and very good- so I have been told! In 1988 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. His novel 'children of Gebelawi' was banned in Egypt as it upset Muslim extremists,he was even stabbed in the neck because of it. However, the banned book was released just last year as 'Children of the Alley'.He died on 30th August last year aged 94. Right up to the end his favourite pastime was sitting in cafes chatting with young writers and artists. He is remembered as 'the greatest Arab novelist of the 20th century'

I recommend this book- especially if you have ever been to Cairo and can put yourself in the shoes of his charaters........... in the coffee shops, in the streets, by the mosques......

anyway- I'm off now to continue reading!!!!!!!!!

Lubna in Edinburgh

You may well remember my wirte up of Lubna's workshop at the Nile Group festival ( sat 25th Nov 06) if not you could go and check it out now!!!
anyway- I dont usually use this blog to advertise- but Lubna, from Cairo, is in Edinburgh- and I really suggest to check it out- I really enjoyed my workshop with her and got a lot out of it... worth every penny- I'd go if I was in Edinburgh!!!

She choreographed for Nagwa Fouad for 18 years & taught choreographies for her troupe.

Lubna will be teachingin Edinburgh on 12th & 13th May 2007. There will also be a HAFLA in Medina night club on Lothian Street, on Saturday night (times now 7.30pm to 10pm), where Lubna will perform.

Classes are:Saturday 10am to 12.00 Saidii Technique £30
12.30 to 5pm Pop Baladi Intermediate £60
Sunday12.30 to 5.00 Oriental Choreography £60

Please note that Native Egyptian teachers often use the medium of choreography to teach technique, and they sometime introduce unexpected props e.g. veils/sticks - learn to enjoy the unexpected !BellyDance DivasDownload booking forms & See all 2007 Workshops at www.bellydancingcaroline.com

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Foul Fool (Egyptian food part1)

no- I am not talking about feeling stupid again......... I am talking about what is probably Egypt's national dish- Foul (pronounced Fool!)

This is what many egyptians breakfast on in the morning (and snack on thoughout the day) and indeed after fasting in Ramadan. They are famous for it- to the point that arabs from other countries will tease them about it. It is a bean paste made from broad beans (flava beans). Often it is mixed with hummous (chickpeas) too. cooked with garlic, spices, lemon juice ....... there are numerous 'recipies' for making foul and often will differ depending on which area you are in in Egypt. Its cheap- a foul sandwich with cost anything from 25p to 1le ( ie 2p to 10p approx!!!) depending where you buy it (and if you are a tourist or not!) I have tried foul many times in my various visits and stays in Egypt, indeed I dont allow my groups who come here to leave without trying it. Some love it- some not.

I have 'bean' (excuse the pun!) putting off trying the tinned foul you buy in the supermarket- figuring that it would be a bit like expecting macaroni cheese from a can to taste like'the real thing'... but today I tried my first home cooked from a can 'Foul Medammes'. I had the 'shamiya receipe' with hummos and olive oil........ and what surprised and pleased me was that all you have to do is heat it and add whatever oil and spices you want. quick, easy, tasty, cheap, healthy. My new stable diet I think! (does this mean I am 'going local' ???!!!)

Stupid

wow- there is nothing to make you feel so stupid as stuggling to learn a foreign language- well for me anyway. I know it is difficult and I shouldn't out myself down etc etc... but I have been living here for what... not far off a year now... and granted I wasn't taking classes for maybe half of that... but really- the level I am at I know of people who have achieved the same in a couple of months. I guess we all have our strengths and weakness' and since memory seems to be a weak point with me I find this incrediably hard. I am determined to get it though....... today I have been writing out simple words in arabic onto flash cards and going through them to see if I can speed up my reading any........... it does seems to be helping. I guess I just need to put more hours into it. Ah well- unless I start dancing more then I guess thats what I'll be focussing on for the next week or so! I bought a good book in edinburgh when I was there- The 100 word exercise book - arabic. It is good- although I knew over 70% of the words already- I wouldn't have known how to write them all and certainly not very fast. This book has lots of games etc to help check I know it and dont cheat! Next lesson though I am going to have to check all these 100 words are the same in egyptian arabic so I dont learn the wrong thing! (already recognise some that are different) oh the joys.

Egyptian language is a much greater challenge here for me than the dancing, thats for sure!

..... back to the flashcards...........

Art at the Opera

On Monday night I went along to The Cairo Opera House (which is in Zamalek) to attend the art exhibition of a woman I have had the pleasure to teach, Maria Maher. Maria was born in Havana, Cuba although moved to America to study art before coming to Cairo to live. I met her at a party she was organising for a group of friends where she needed a bellydancer to perform and teach them all a few moves. What a lovely bunch a women, mostly american- it was a good laugh.

Maria's paintings were not what I had imagined. I had seen some of the ones of dancers, and she has a few on flowers, but mainly- the ones i loved were 'landscapes' of colour.... very strong streaks of colours, giving you enough confusion to allow you to see what you want to see in the painting. You have to forgive me- I have never studied art and I am sure there is a right and a wrong way to write these things up, but Maria's main objective in painting is to make people feel happy. To me she reached that objective in quite a few (funnily enough- the one I liked best was called 'Leslie's Disco'!) Hmmm.

The show is on 5-20th March 07 in the Music Library- a lovely circular space.

In fact, also in the Opera House is another Gallery where I also took a peek at an opening of an exhibition by Americo Lozano. He is from Colombia and his images of Egypt ae quite striking. I particularly liked the multi coloured sails of the feluccas.... worth a look.

Next time I am planning to go and look round the Museam of Modern art which is also in the Opera complex and only 10le (less than £1) entry. It looks wonderful and is so close, I keep forgetting it is there or I would have been before now!

so apart from the various performances at the Opera House, which can be wonderful, it is also worth a wander if you like art or architecture (a wonderful area of clean calm in the heart of Cairo) I used to go and sit in this area when the noise of all the cars was just getting to much for me!

If you are interested in checking it out the website is http://www.cairooperahouse.org

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 7


Part 7- What was the point of all this….?

The Bellydance Banquet show I produced in Edinburgh in February was part of a Middle Eastern peace and spirituality festival. Along with the food and dancing I included (with the lovely Elspeth doing the narration!) this potted history of bellydance. Why? The idea was to show that ALL things are better, including dance, when you allow other cultures, other ideas, other rhythms in. Finding a balanced blend where each compliments the other and brings out the best in them. Traditions help hold societies together and should be celebrated and dance is the best way I have ever found to celebrate anything!

Now the Jerry Springer bit;
Bellydance (or Raqs sharqi) has grown into the art form it is today from its many historical and cultural influences. Perhaps we too, the people of the world, could learn to grow from taking on the good things from many different cultural influences. Perhaps then the world would be a more peaceful place.

(Or at least we could all be a lot happier dancing around the world!!!!)

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 6


Part 6- The Recent Past and The Future

Bellydance is an ever evolving, dynamic dance form, so who knows what the future of Bellydance will hold or how the dance will develop.

For the last 40 years bellydance has become an increasingly popular pastime for European and American women and Popular even in Japan and Korea since the early 90's. Various pop artists, in particular Shakira have brought world wide publicity to the dance. Huge touring dance troupes such as the American 'Bellydance superstars' help promote the dance to a new level touring worldwide. ATS and Tribal fusion have come into being, showing that there is more than one way to do something and even in Egypt trends come and go.

In 2003 Foreign dancers were banned from performing in Cairo, for fear of there not being enough jobs for the Egyptian dancers, but diversity rules and the law was changed again in 2005 with dancers from around the world (including Scotland!) now shaking their stuff along side the Egyptian ones. Fresh ideas, variety of cultures and styles all go to ensuring a competitive scene in which the dancing never gets a chance to grow stale.
It is still to be seen what new ideas from Scottish culture may be added into my bellydance repertoire and how Egyptian audiences will respond to it!

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 5


part 5- Linking Ballet and Bellydance

It has to be said- I have written about many of the far flung flavours which have gone into the mixing bowl of bellydance… yet there is another very influential dance style involved, this time from Europe which has also changed the image and status of bellydance in Egypt. Ballet.

Arabic dance and ballet inter-relate- with the arm & hand movements of ballet come from Mideastern/Persian dance, brought back by Crusaders & travelers.

In Egypt in the 1940's many famous dancers evolved, for example, Samia Gamal and Naema Akef. Samia's ballet teacher gave her a veil to use to improve arm posture which is how veils became popular to dance with around this time- from ballet!

In 1959 Egypt's national dance troupe- the Reda Troupe was founded. The idea was helping promote the local dance steps, styles and traditions but also to help make them more socially acceptable as an art form by being ballet based and holding performances in theatres rather than nightclubs and hotels.

Even today many of the top bellydancers in Egypt are also ballet trained. I, personally, have found that ballet lessons have improved my posture, arm movements, balance and strength. So ballet is still affecting the way bellydance is performed in Cairo today!

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 4


Part 4- Linking India and Bellydance

Even the names we give bellydance hint as some of its roots. 'Oriental' dance is also known as 'Raqs Sharqi' the dance of the east!

Egypt's direct link with India was of course via the great spice trade of the 18th century. NB; Christophe Columbus was so determined in his attempt to avoid Egypt and reach the spices from the Far East directly without having to go through the middle men in the souk of Khan el Khalili in Cairo, that he went the other way around the world and discovered America!!!

Being the true heart of the spices world- no wonder Egypt's music and dance among other things was influenced so much by all the different peoples who passed through. Even today many of the beautiful rich fabrics used even today for dance costumes would be direct from India. The main drum in both India and Egypt is called the Tabla (granted the drum is different in structure but the name is the same!) Many of the 'oriental style' movements and story telling aspects found in Bellydance have their routes in Indian dance, although in Indian dance often the story is religious based and in Arabic dance it is often about love!

The Classical Indian dance, Bharatnatyam. was originally a temple dance, a religious dance, from the south of India. The verses carry the story- the chorus is 'pure dance'! I guess this idea could link in with the temple of Isis too! Maybe even to the bible too, eg when the isralites were dancing and making music in the desert to worshop god and give thanks for crossing the red sea safely!

Bellydance has inspired people to link it with the styles which formed it and others…. Linking folk and tribal and performance all together- from many cultures. ATS (American Tribal Style) and its offshoot, Tribal Fusion came into being. ATS is an evolution of bellydance, incorporating moves from traditional Egyptian and Turkish bellydance with posture and arm movements from Flamenco, and movements from a diverse range of ethnic dances, including Indian Kathak. ATS is traditionally performed as a group and is almost always improvised, with each dancer taking a turn of leading the group, using physical (body and arm position) cues and verbal cues to signal a change in movement.
Tribal Fusion is an offshoot from ATS. Tribal Fusion incorporates a wide range of influences - Egyptian and Turkish bellydance, Flamenco, Indian Kathak, yoga, as well as contemporary dance forms such as hip-hop and break-dance. (Thanks to Laura Monteith for the info on ATS and tribal fusion!)

So Bellydance is growing and inspiring new dance forms… just as bellydance grow from many things, including Indian dance- it is now linking with many things now to create new moves, new style and new art forms…..

nb- if people have info they feel should be added to any of these histories....... please do comment or email- as I said before I don;t know it all- and would love to learn more from anyone readying this!!!!

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 3


Part 3- Linking Africa and Bellydance

So already we can see that bellydance has grown out of local folk dances with influences from Turkey, other Arab nations and even Spanish or Latin rhythms spicing it all up. But that’s not all – many cultures have been added into the mixing pot which has produced the dance as we know it….
Stop the press- Egypt is in Africa! We tend to forget this fact since it is an'Arab country' and think of it as beiing in the Middle East... but it is actually African!

The tribal dances of Africa have long been used as a medium for celebrating the life stages (births, circumcision, weddings even death) Dance is also a means of establishing moral and social rules and norms. Not to mention expressing oneself and having fun!

The music and dance of Egypt can still be linked to its African ancestry- the heavy hip movements, the strong emphasis on picking out the bass in the music, there is even potential for using it to attract a mate!!! Often in Arabic countries , especially outside of the large cities, a couple will first meet at a friends wedding, the occasion where people dance more than any other!

Egypt- like Africa, also sometimes links the dancer to their occupation- for example the rocking/swaying motion of Nubian dance- a dance for people who lived their life on and from the rocking/swaying Nile.
Zar dance which originates in East African is a spiritual 'exorcism' dance, still practiced throughout Egypt even though it is banned in Egypt today due to its anti-Islamic connections. Many of the rhythms and songs unchanged from its Kenyan roots.

In many ways the dress for 'African' dance and bellydance can be similar. Forgive me here for the generic use of 'African dance' there are many countries within Africa and many different styles of music and dance and it is not really correct to lump them all together in this way- but not possible in this short blog to write about them all separately- although if people have specific examples then please feel free to add a comment!!! In many African dances the performer will tie something around their hips to make them look more impressive- and bustle for instance, or a goat's hide… all designed to make the movements more noticeable…. Compare this with the scarf tied round a bellydancers hips!

Today in Egypt, Bellydance performances are still a central part of wedding and engagement parties, henna nights and social gatherings, in fact any time groups of women especially get together. So Just as African 'folk' or tribal dances may celebrate life stages- so does bellydance! Often as a sign of status, rather than just having the guests up to dance, the family will hire a professional solo performer for their wedding (just as they did in the times of court or royal performances- these can be traced back at least to the times of the pharaohs) anyway, then and today, this solo performer would be skilled in her (or his!) art form, to entertain the guests.

The Ritual of dancing for specific events can been seen worldwide!

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 2


Part 2- Linking Flamenco and Bellydance

In 1500 flamenco developed when moors escaping persecution fled to the Spanish mountains. The Moors had ruled in AndalucĂ­a for about 900 years and during this time the local folk dances and the gypsy dances (which may already have been influenced by Turkish dance) would have taken on board elements of the music and dance of the new ruling power.

A 'Moorish style of flamenco' was performed barefoot and the very word 'flamenco' itself comes from Arabic ' fellah al mangu '. "Ole" became the chosen cry after the Spanish Inquisition when crying out Allah would have invited the severe punishment of death- thank god religious tolerance has grow from that – at least in most places in the world.

Tahire Carioca was a famous dancer in Cairo (1936-52) during reign of king Farouk. If you look to the old films she appeared in, many of her arm movements have a very definite 'Spanish' feel to them. Whether it is because she took inspiration from flamenco- or whether she was taking it from the same roots flamenco developed from who can say, but what followed was a very powerful and graceful style which made her the star she became.

Great Arabic musicians such as Farid al Atrache and Mohammed Abdel Wahab often put Samba, Bossa nova, Cha cha and other such rhythms into their compositions. Even today many of the dancers in Egypt will take inspiration from other dance style from around the world. Latin rhythms, both in music and step, feature highly in modern Arabic dance

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 1

A disclaimer before I start!!!- I have taken much of the following information from other dancer's websites… and also history based websites, and from various history and bellydance books I have read. Shira's Morocco's sites were of particular help in piecing all this together- especially the info re flamenco (thank you guys!)!

I wrote all this up as a way to introduce my Bellydance Banquet show in Edinburgh last month, and it is not meant to be a complete history of the dance- just to give some snippets of info. I hadn't even intended to put it into my blog- but many people have asked for it- so here you go!!! Comments and corrections welcome (I do not profess to know it all- or even half of it!!!!!!!!)


Part 1- Folk dance, Spiritual dance and Turkish influence in Bellydance

How has 'bellydance' come into being? Lets start at the grass roots (or desert roots in this case!!) Folk dance. This is a term to describe solo and group dances which the 'common folk' would participate in. It wasn't organized or taught in a structured way and traditionally would pass down through generations, growing and changing on the way….. much in the same way as dance performed in a nightclub in UK by people out on a night out (the 'normal people') has changed drastically from say 1940 to modern day! Folk dance is designed by the people who perform it to be a dynamic, exciting, socially bonding experience. It's what people did to have fun!

Bellydance, also known as 'raqs sharqi' is a 'folk dance' too- which has since been developed for performance. Men and women dance- but it’s the women who have a more traditional role as performers in Egypt. This is an ancient role, with tomb painting depicting early dancers back as far as 5000bc. In the temples of Isis, in pharonics times, it was the women who were priestesses- and just as we have singing to praise god in churches today, they would make music, song and dance to please and appease the great Isis. Dance was seen as spiritual.

So in this way folk dance already started to change from purely a social dance to a performance art. In fact, bellydance today in Egypt, and therefore around the world, has been very influenced by these traditional folk dances. As the dance became more of a performance dance, the skills involved became more refined and the music more complex to best show off the performer's abilities.

Egypt is the only country in the world which had been ruled continually by foreign powers for 2000 years. Because of this there have been a lot of influences on the Egyptian culture, musically, politically- and of course with regards the dance.

The Ottoman Empire took control of Egypt for a long time and the people of Egypt, and Cairo in particular had to adapt many of their own local traditions in order to find favour with their new bosses. Turkish rhythms (often complex with 7 or 10 beats in a bar) were incorporated into their own music (which was often simpler with most rhythms having 2, 4, or 8 beats to a bar) and of course, dance styles too had to adapt to fit the new music. During this period- i.e. 1500-1600- Turkish ladies were brought into palaces to entertain the harem ladies. So the long running argument as to where 'bellydance comes from- Egypt or Turkey has to be a very definite both- what we know today as bellydance is a very intoxicating blend of the 2.

The Turkish influence aside for a second, Another way in which folk dance is still reflected in modern dance can be seen in specific dance styles- for example the 'asaya' or stick dance, the 'melaya' or Alexandrian dance. Folk dances from other Arabic cultures have been incorporated too- with the Lebanese debka still a hit at any Egyptian wedding, and the gulf Khaleegy rhythms and movements routinely found in the repertoire of many dancers in nightclubs (especially ones where visitors from the gulf make up a great percentage of the cliental) So you can see- even today, dancers in Egypt are adapting the dance to suit their audience- just as Egyptians did with the Turks!

Niceness

Last night was just lovely. I went to Maadi to teach my class- and only one person showed up, a new girl. Turns out that it is the school holidays so everyone with kids, and all the school teachers I teach, were out of cairo for the weekend! The new girl however was lovely- and a good dancer too. At the end of the class, because she had enjoyed it so much, she gave me as a present her massage appointment that night!!! Wonderful! Finally found someone here who can ease the aches and pains for me........... and discovered in such a lovely way! People can be so lovely sometimes!

Anyway turns out this American woman, Pam, who does the massage knows lots of people I do (such a tiny city this cairo!) and she offered me a lift most of the way home then invited me to the cinema with her and a friend! unfortunaly the only film showing was the last king of scotland- and since I saw that when I was in scotland, and I still get nightmares from it, I choose not to join them. But was overwhelmed by how nice people can be!

Then I had to get a taxi from the cinema home- and this was where I expected the evening to turn sour, I've had so many nightmare taxi journeys since I have been here... but the taxi driver had me in stitches the whole way home- doing impressions of famous comic actors here in Cairo, and also singing and doing fabulous tabla solos- all with his mouth- amazing- did sounds like a real drum!!! Turns out he used to work in the theatre and had made some cassettes etc then- but that all had to stop when he got married- so now he drive a cab to feed the family- and entertains his passengers at the same time!!!

So this blog entry is a thank you to human kindness- so happy to meet so much of it in one evening (helping making me much happier about being away from my family and friends!!!)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Reprieve

looks like I'll be in the flat for the rest of the month before I have to move out......... so the flat hunting has begun....

Watching the sunset from my balcony..... I missed that when I was in Edinburgh.... not too mention the hour sitting sunbathing... nice! Feels weird not getting ready to dance in Morocco restaurant on a friday night though.......

I'm happy to be here.......... more than I thought I would be.... will be better once I am dancing here though......

Welcome back to Cairo

wow- what a return.
Got back at 11.30pm... to be told by the friend who picked me up that we were going straight out to a club.............. that was fun!!!

Then this morning had a manic landlord pounding my door saying he was being sued and I was his only saviour.........

It turns out that although my lease in this flat doesn't end til end of march, he has rented it out to someone else starting 1st march (ie yesterday!) and accepted all the money from them in advance............they are threatening to sue. I have negotiated today and tomorrow to move out!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thankfully I do have a friends spare room to move to til I find somewhere more permenant, and I know I could stick my ground and stay here- but it saves me a months rent here and money is tight- so maybe a blessing in disguise!

Crazy welcome to this mad city though............

Only in Cairo!