Saturday, May 22, 2010

The sparkle cycle!

My friend Emily (a top dancer in London) sent me the following tips for washing bellydance costumes.....I figured it was only fair to share it with the world and hear your experiences!!!!

' I discovered a great way to wash costumes. It sounds scary but works a treat as long as they don't have feathers or anything like that on them. Put them in a pillow case and safety pin it shut then put them in the washing machine on cold/express wash with non bio detergent, spin on a gentle cycle and hang to dry! I've done Bellas, Emans and Amiras this way and they all came out clean and smelling fresh with no damage (ok so 1 Eman lost a few stick-on stones which I just reglued). ' Emily.

I have since tried this out and my 1st 2 attempts have been perfect (waiting to get home from work to check 3rd attempt which i left in the machine!!!). Just a handful of the glue-on stones have come off... so will have to reglue. I guess its not worth doing it most of the work is glued rather than stitched!!!

I also guess if you just dance occasionally at a halfa or 2 then its not worth the risk... but if you are a professional dancer like me, dancing serveral times in one night... then a good , affordable, safe way to wash the cossies is a godsend.

Thanks Emily!!!!

Please do feel free to give me your costume care tips?!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Farha Festival, Luxor. 22nd - 29th September 2010

The most exciting festival of 2010!!

Classes are designed to be of interest to dancers, whatever their personal level of ability.
If you love Egyptian music and are interested in how a band and dancer work together, this is for you.
If you love the older, softer style of the 40's and 50's, we have the incredible Eman Zaki teaching.
If you want the more modern Cairo style, we have the dynamic Lorna Gow.

For contrast, through the week, we have the wonderful Mohamed Kazafy teaching Reda style folklore.
Most professional dancers started with a folklore troupe before going on to be solo cabaret dancers.
The stepping patterns and combinations can be used to create a more dynamic solo - and can be really good for troupes.

Mohamed Kazafy will also teach a piece of choreography which you can choose to perform at the party night if you like.
A lot of folkloric dance is with boys and girls ... we rarely get the chance to explore this side of things in the UK.

We have a troupe of Saidi boys who will join us to give you the opportunity to do some fun partner work!!!
Last year we had girls of all levels learning and/or performing this and they had a whale of a time!!

It's about taking part and having fun!!

Suitable for Improver + level and upwards.
Also suitable for higher level dancers who want to explore working with live music.

If you love live music and want to learn more about the background and musicality of the dance, this festival is for you.
As well as classes, we have talks with our teachers to give you a deeper understanding of the dance.

The opportunity, for delegates who want to, to rehearse with a band - and perform solo on our party night.

This is not an opportunity you get often - so grab it whilst you can!!

Partners are also very welcome.
There is a day off mid week to enjoy sightseeing and you have several evenings free to go and explore Luxor.

The Farha Timetable will be on our new website soon!

7 nights Bed and breakfast at the 5 star Sofitel, Karnak
Transfers to/from Luxor Airport
20+ hours of tuition, talks etc. - most dance classes with live music
Performances/talks by teachers
Rehearsal time with live band - opportunity to perform solo or work with Folkloric troupe to perform on the last night
2 dance shows
Party/performance night with delicious buffet
DVD of performance night

Only £600 for dancers (in a shared room - £10 supplement per night for a single room), £400 for non-dancers/partners
Flights not included

To book:
Send us an email or letter with the following information:
Your name, address, daytime telephone number and email address
Would you prefer a single or shared room?
Do you have special dietary requirements?
Would you like to book a dancer's place or a non-dancer/partner place?

Send a cheque for £100, made payable to 'Farida Adventures' along with the booking information above to:
Farha Festival
9 Ferndale Avenue
East Boldon
Tyne & Wear NE36 0TQ
If you are booking from outside the UK, please email and we can send you our bank details to make a transfer.

For more information please go to
or email
or call Kay on 0191 519 0305
You can also see the latest updates on our Facebook group at!/group.php?gid=290707709950&ref=ts

We hope to see you there!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

How it happened... my story so far...

This post has been inspired by a question from one of my blog readers (thanks Anya!)who wanted to know how I came to be where i am! Since I have published so many posts now on this blog, over the years it might not be apparent to new readers how i came to be where i am today. So this is for you guys!!!

Bascially my story is this...

I was teaching Bellydance throughout Scotland for 9 years full time. Every year I came to Cairo at least once, although eventually up to four times in a year, just to buy costumes, music and see dancers and be inspired. To learn more so i could teach my ever hungry students even more!

On one trip, I had at least 4 different people within 4 days saying to me.. but why don't you work here... and me constantly saying 'i'm not good enough'. I decided to listen to people instead of my own self doubts.. and tried out for a couple of auditions... and was offered 2 jobs instantly! I was overwhelmed and very happy. However I was also very commited to my students (over 400 of them by this time!) and to my Edinburgh fringe festival show which was already selling tickets. So I declined both job offers but told them that I would be back in the spring to work.

So thats what i did. I told all my students, friends family etc etc that i was moving to cairo to try my luck at performing over there for 6 months... and then I'd be back again to resume normal life and show them all what i had learnt!

As you can see, over 4 years later ,I'm still here- things didn't really go to plan.

You see , the problem was, that laws changed about foreign dancers work permits... and it became very difficult for any new dancer to get a license to work. You needed a work visa to get a contract, and a contract to get a visa. In those 1st 6months I did get work for a while...good work... in a couple of 5 star hotels... but without work papers. So i was continually looking over my shoulder, scared I would be discovered and possibly deported! I couldn't even advertise the fact that I was working on my blog in case anyone told tales on me to the police!

After a year I was ready to quit and come home... feeling myself a failure. I hadn't achieved what I had gone there for. I had worked.. but couldnt tell anyone about it... I was the lowest emotionally I have ever been in my life. I had come from Scotland where I was a big fish in the pond, to Cairo where i didn't even feacture as a tiddler. My self esteem was at an all time low. I even had quesitons about how I could go on. I was also financially low, having spent my entire lifes savings just living, rent, food, arabic lessons for a while. Things couldn't have been much worse in fact. The only thing that really kept me going that year was the fact that not one single day went by in the entire year, where I didn't get some email of support from my friends and students back home. All proud of me... and missing me, and wishing I'd come home but also encouraging me to keep at it and stick to my dreams. Women telling me how I had inspired them to start up their own businesses, to follow their dreams. I felt I had let them all down. I had failed.It felt really awful.

The day I was set to pack my bags... i got offered 2 contracts!!! Never rains but it pours, and couldn't have been even a day later, i was at the very end of my tether and 5 days away from my final plane ticket! I refused the contract at the Sheraton and accepted the one at the Pharoahs boats. I was at last legal!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been dancing at the Pharoahs ever since.

There are still problems of course. The main one is that foreign dancers are only permitted to perform at the venue written on thier contract... so that means scouting about for other work is difficult. The beauracracy is always a nightmare, with all my work papers having to be renewed everytime I leave the country. Even to the point of having to retake an aids test every time!!! (bizarre law!). I hope the future gets brighter for other foreign dancers wanting to work here too because at the moment it doesn't seem great.I don't know of anyone else who has got a work visa since I did 3 years ago, unless they are married to an Egyptian. It's even harder now to make it here than when i first arrived. The pay is good by Egyptian standards, but not very good if you are trying to cover flights 'home' and rent and of course the ever needed new costumes. Which is why i rent out my 2 spare rooms to visiting dancers, to help pay my rent.

That said, i really enjoying having people stay- meeting likeminded women from all over the world and showing them 'my' Cairo. Its great. Also , despite doing it for over 3 years, I STILL get a buzz dancing on the Nile night after night, with my own band. I do what i love. Its a great feeling. I also love that everyday i am learning something new about the culture, the language, the music, the dance. Everyday!

Of course i still have greater aspirations. To be known more and working more , teaching and performing on the international circut. To be performing here on a larger stage with a larger orchestra. However, I am also very gratful to be in the very fortunate position of being content with my life. There are not many who can say that i know.

so... Thats my story so far............

how long I'll stay in Egypt? as long as i can keep performing..I love it so much.... after that, who knows?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lunch time cruise on the Nile

One of my friends just sent me a link to this latest clip on youtube. It's a bit scary what i almost show during my saaidi steps in that high cut skirt!!!!

Hope you enjoy........... enjoy the dance that is.... not the 'almost' view!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bellydancing Blogging LIVE

well it doesn't get any more live than this........ I am writing this from my changing room onboard the Golden Pharoah boat in Cairo. I have performed 2 shows, and have one more to go before the 'work' part of the night is over.So here we are, you and me.... Bobbing about on the Nile!

I decided there was way too much time wasted in my life sitting about at work in between sails... so i bought an internet USB and plan to start trying to clear my outstanding emails and keep my lovely readers as up to date as you can possibly be, without actually being here in my changing room with me... !!!

I love going to see dancers perform and i don't do it enough! However, having a couple of London bellydancers staying with me this week has been a good excuse to go to the Nile Maxim to see Randa Kamel and also the the Marriot hotel to see Suraya. Fabulous.

Randas wore a stunning gold bedla which was edged in tons and tons of feathers- about 3 feather boa's worth! The photos don't seem to have come out very well- but if my friends got better ones I'd add them later! My complaint about the whole show was that it was too short. This is the problem with shows on boats (as I well know after doing the same job for over 3 years). There were only 2 costumes... the gold feather and then a green trouser saaidi. The crowd were a thursday night party crowd who wanted to get up and dance on the stage with her and have their photos taken... which she did with grace... but frustrating for us when we want to just watch her dance. I love the way that randa put fantastic timing into her dance... creating space by holding a pose- and then... only then.... hitting the beat with a move. Very powerful. I just wish i could see a whole hour long show again... I miss the days when she performed at the Marriot. Thats stage was big enough for her... the Nile Maxim just isn't.

It was interesting conversation too- chatting with the London dancers I was there with and another pro dancer who is currently working in Dubai. I know nothing about work in the gulf and it was interesting to ask her how it all works. Seems much easier in lots of ways than here... but you don't usually get your own band- just work with the hotel band wherever you go... which i guess has benefits and downsides too, like little rehearsal time!

Suraya last night was inspiring as always. Wasn't very impressed by the costumes though. A samba suit to start- for the enterance dance and some Egyptian classic songs... it just looked wrong! Then a turkish trouser outfit, in flesh colour with lots and lots of tassles... which was different... but unfortunatly her black knee support bandage was very obvious through it and somewhat distracting! The a black dress, that i liked but the others didn't. She finished her show on an Om kalthoum... which was my favourite dance of the night- I LOVE her violin player! i would have liked to see her drum solo though. Lots of intricate tight moves that I have already found dancing tonight influencing me a bit! My drummer Magdy is doing a good job keeping up! I even put in a new ending instead of my usual kiss to the hips... which was Suraya inspired... but nothing i actually saw her doing- if that makes sense!!!

ok... i can hear the zeffa outside.... i guess we have a bride onboard tonight. i better go touch up my make-up and get myself stretched out to get onstage!!! Happy to be onboard blogging!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Shahla Belly Dancer

Shahla is one of the top dancers in UK, based in London,and since there isnt a lot of video footage of her around, she doesn't always get the acclaim i think she deserves. A beautiful dancer with a massive wealth of moves and an authentic feel for the music.

Death of a Duck

THIS is what happens when the duck stops singing.........................

..... other than that, things are good in Cairo.

The weather is perfect... warm high 20's most days- or low 30's, as yet not too much sand from our annual 'Khamsin' although i guess there is still time for that to kick in! My balcony garden is steadily growing... now i have killed the ants that lived in the pots and didn't seem to be doing them much good. I drink freshly picked mint tea every morning.

Work on the boat has been pretty much daily recently...although I have a few days off due to me later this week.... and I am loving dance and interacting with my audiences. I even feel I am getting the hang of the 'arab' audiences more... but that could be famous last words! The 'trick' seems to be direct eye contact, especially with the women, and not being the 1st to look away!!! Very un-British!! That and a kind of widening the eyes, almost in recognition, when you 1st look at each person. This doesn't seem to work with European audiences so well but is great with the Egyptians and Arabs!!!!!! Obviously the dancing has to be up to scratch too- the eyes alone won't cut it!

I have 2 new guests arriving from London tonight.... so i am sure it will be a party week with little chance to get online, but i am thinking seriously about buying a USB attachment so i can get online at work. I do an awful lot of sitting about between sails at work... so perhaps this is the answer to my massive outstanding email list!!!!?

So, shopping list for today; a couple of boxes of water for the 'mornings after', a USB so i can get some work done and a new duck!