Monday, November 29, 2010


i shouldn't have been surprised... but when i was talking to my dresser this evening, we mentioned todays elections in Cairo. I ask if she had voted... she said of course not. Although then she added that she should have because she would have got 50le. I didn't understand, she explained.

Seemingly, according to her, and to other band members, various candidates were handing out incentives for people to vote for them. Targetting the least well off areas of the city and offering everything from money to bags of meat! I was shocked. It seems so blatent. I guess I am still fairly naive to certain Egyptian political going- ons...!

When i asked if she had any preference who should get in, she did mention a name (which i have 'forgotten') saying that he was 'straight', ie  not dodgy. But when i asked if he too was being generous today, yes, of course he was handing out the money too... he had to , to get people to vote for him, even though he was a 'good' man! She didn't understand the irony of what she had said.

well, there you go. I dont really know what else to say.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

no surprise there..

on MSN today there is an article about the 10 most dangerous countries to drive in. Anyone who has been to Cairo has commented on the traffic and won't be shocked to know that Egypt is deemed the 3rd most dangerous in the world!

The stats they give are;

Population (2007): 75,497,913- hmm 3 years may have made a difference in this figure too..

Number of registered vehicles: 4,300,000 (I'd like to know when this info was gathered, cos bound to be more now!- plus- how many UNREGISTERED cars???)

Number of on-road fatalities: 15,983

Fatality rate per 100,000 people: 41.6

So, I guess no one else is going to ask me why i don't drive in Cairo now!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A man’s role in life....

So after a while at the competition last night we decided to do something different . A group of six of us all walked round the the Stilleto nightclub on the Nile, just opposite the Cairo Sheraton hotel, so we could have a dance. So, we were 6 women and 1 man in the group (although not quite like the "ragel wi set settat" -a man and 6 women- a TV soap opera that was seemingly very funny and ran for 5 seasons here in Cairo!) Anyway, I really didn’t think any club in Cairo would have a problem letting so many (beautiful) foreign women in to a club where there is ALWAYs much much more men to women. Anyway, we couldn’t get in. Not at first anyway.
The bouncer pulled my friend (male) aside and explained why.

They were scared to let us in, because if any of the men inside hit on us, or stared any problem, how could our ‘1’ man protect us all....?

This statement just confused and annoyed all the girls in the group when i explained to them the reason. I totally understood it and actually felt grateful to the bouncers for thinking about our safety. I guess shows how much I have internalised Egyptian ways to some extent!

We decided to risk it, all feeling quite confident we could handle ourselves, but then didn’t stay since the minimum charge turned out to be 130le if we sat at a table (no minimum if we stood by the bar). But feet were hurting and the idea of standing all night didn’t appeal so we headed over to cairo Jazz club, were we ended up standing all night anyway, but the music was better and the men were less threatening, or at least the clientele in there are used to seeing foreign women and therefore knew how to behave!

So I live in a city where it is assumed that women cannot protect themselves. That in my opinion is because there is very little respect for women taught. Respect your mother, your sister, your aunt, but any non-relative is fair game, unfortunately.

This ends total verbal diarrhoea on the male/female issues that hit me from my experiences yesterday. One day creating 3 blog entries- all about men!

A man’s role in dance.

I went to part of the Nile group competition night last night. Of the dancers I saw (and we only stayed a couple of hours) there were three performances that really stood out for me personally. Athena, from Greece. An elegant graceful dancer who looked stunning in a beautiful Hallah costume and carried herself with a lovely calm confidence which did create to her simple and effective choreography. I like it when a dancer’s personality comes across on stage. When i look and think, yes, i’d like to be her as a friend! Too many dancers can put on a personality for dance. Pretend to be something that they think a dancer’s should be. If it’s not you though, it just doesn’t work. All it does is create a barrier and show the audience that you don’t want them to know the real you.
A group, i think from Korea who looked absolutely amazing. Full glitter drag queen eye make-up, stunning , matching, black and white costumes and multi coloured fans. It wasn’t bellydance by any stretch of the imagination... but it was by far the slickest, tightest, most beautiful group dance performance I have ever seen on that stage. I was speaking to Aleya about it, and she promised to upload the film she took of it onto youtube soon, so watch this space.

The third performance that really captured me, also surprised me. I have to admit that i personally, do not enjoy watching men perform bellydance. Sorry. I know i may upset people by saying that. I am all for male teachers. Often a man does totally know what a woman should do to make the most of herself. And I like watching a man dance folk, or even oriental, when he is dancing as a man. Not as a man trying to be a woman. When a man starts dressing like a woman, and doing hair flicks and cute hand covering the mouth coquettish moves etc, I just switch off. I can learn from it, yes. I can appreciate the technique, yes, but for me the mood is ruined because I feel they are trying to be something they are not.

So, with that in mind, Hassan (i think his name was- I will get confirmation of this an add asap!) performance I expected I wouldn’t enjoy. He wore a turquoise catsuit, with pharaonic style gold belt and shoulder piece. His hair was in a pony tail and most bizarrely he carried his fairly ‘cuddly’ body in a strange manner which gave him a sway back, really thrusting his chest forward and his bum out. You couldn’t get more man trying to be woman. In fact, seeing a waiters shocked face I called him over to ask what he thought and he answered my question with a question, it that a man or a woman?

So with all my prejudices in mind, i should have hated him yes. No. He was amazing! His movements were soft, elegant, with the most amazing spins i have EVER seen on a dancer. His gentle shimmying figures of eight travelling across the stage were something that quite frankly samia gamal would have been proud of, and probably inspired. It was very golden era-esque and the timing and feel of the moves was just perfect with the music. I kept want to hate it, but i couldn’t. In fact, when i just persuaded myself not to look at his face I could kid myself that it really was a woman and possibly one of the most impressive dancers I have seen on that stage. Big statement eh?

When he came back to do a second dance wearing a black galabeya that was fitted on top but with a full circulur skirt and hip scarf, he lost me though. Physically he did everything right. However, in a song like ana fintizarek i wanted to connect with the soul of the dancer, and well, I just couldn’t. There was something about his facial expressions that pushed me away rather than drawing me in. A little too much effort there. Trying too hard. All in all. I’d love to watch him again, and I’d love to learn from him.

I know this blog entry will probably create some heated opposition, since it’s not very ‘pc’ to say outright that I don’t usually like watching male bellydancers. I have no issue at all with any man dancing...... like a man, Thats great!

But the truth is i don’t like any dancer who looks like he , or she, is trying to be something they are not.

I have no issue at all with any man dancing... like a man.

How the men are taught...

I went to visit a friend in Maadi yesterday and decided to ride the metro home. I have been on the Cairo metro many times, and love the fact that there is a female only carriage and that, wherever you go, it only costs 1le. However, I haven’t ridden the metro on my own, only with others, always opting for the more expensive, but more comfortable taxi ride home instead. I decided I should stop being lazy, and face my fears. It’s very easy, I have found, to slip into the ‘easier things’ but by doing so I often miss out on more interesting events and observations to be found in Cairo.

So, in the women only carriage yesterday we were just about to leave Maadi when 3 young boys (about 12 years old) all jumped in through the doors. My initial reaction was oops, they made a mistake, they’ll jump out straight away.

How naive of me.

As soon as the train pulled away from the station it became apparent that they wanted to break the rules, and started clapping and singing about the ‘hareem’. I was very interested to see how the women would react, because my biggest urge was to physically push them out the door at the next stop. I waited to see what the rest of the passengers would ‘punish’ these boys. Instead, to my disdain, the young girls all giggled at the boy’s jokes, and even made comments back. Even though the train was full to bursting these boys had space around them since none of us wanted to be brushing up against them. In the mixed carriage they would be squished along with everyone else. I guess that is what added to the attraction for them. That and the girls giggles.

Only at the end of their journey, after maybe 5 stops, did the boys leave, but the problem was the platform was now at the other side of the carriage, so although so far they had been up against the door the alighted by so far, now they had to cross through the middle of the sardine can of ‘sittet’ (Arabic for women) to get off the train. Finally, at this point, one girl made protest. Her argument was that they got on, so they could wait until there was space to get off, even if that meant missing their stop. I admired her spunk. Her voice though was strange, very rural with a strange squeak which the boys used to make fun of her rather than listen to her. Unfortunately the giggling girls stood up for the boys and helped them push through. One of the boys did get a slap round the head by the complaining girl’s mother though... and I really thought he was going to hit her back.... he stood in the doorway for a long time with a look of hatred on his face staring at her, but i guess he decided the odds were against him and finally left!

So the moral of the story is... boys will be boys... but only it seems because the women let them and actually in many cases, actively encourage them!

Oh for the day where my Arabic is good enough to chastise them myself without being afraid that my poor grammar would be used as a way of ridiculing me in return!

Friday, November 19, 2010

i just want to dance!!.. but where?

so, in a city of 20 million... you would expect there to be a wealth of places to go clubbing. I wish! I am hoping people reading this will be able to recommend some new places to me, because quite frankly, i am fed up with 'bars' being called clubs just cos people dance in them... in the tiny space where they might be able to move.

Cairo 'clubs';

After Eight (downtown)- a bar with live music most nights, really nice, but small and smoky. min charge 80-100le.

Cairo Jazz Club (Agouza)- a bar with live music most nights, also very nice, but small and no dance floor. No min charge.

Villa 55 (Maadi)- a bar/restaurant with occasional live music but definitely a bar not a club. min charge 150le

Floor10, Kempenski hotel (Garden city)- a hotel bar which seemingly is jumping (but was totally empty last night!) still not witnessed it in full flow.

Hard Rock Cafe (Garden city)- restaurant by day, sharia haram by night. mainly arab men with a few working girls dancing on the chairs and tables. lots of khaleegy music played. usually high entrance fee- but last night was free cos all Cairo was empty due to Eid.

Stilleto (Dokki)- lovely location club on the Nile, with great salsa night on a sunday night, but sound levels always low cos near police club. Can't really club wiith quiet music!

Blues (Giza)- bar where people sometimes dance,which stays open til 6am with mixed music, but also mixed clientele.

Deals (Mohandiseen)- Bar where people sometimes dance and has fairly steep min charge

Dice (Royal king boat, Agouza)- club playing mainly house music, dubious clientele.

Morocco (Blue Nile boat, Zamalak)- restaurant by day, club by night. expensive min charge. but good mix music usually.

Purple (Zamalek)- only been once, was nice club, with mix music but difficult to get past doormen.

Africana (Haram)- great music, wild night, not very safe for women unless with bodyguards!

Club 35 (Giza)- not been yet. no one I suggest it to every recommends it- but can't say from experience why!

Ritmo (Downtown)- hotel bar where people go to dance but only ever seen people drinking, not dancing!

Swiss Club (Imbaba)- a lovely old villa but mainly organised party nights rather than reg weekly club nights.

Cafe Bian (mohandiseen)- cafe (no alcohol) which has organised dance nights. salsa on tues and thurs, oriental on wed.

what else.....?

really struggling now... ok- so it looks like there are a lot of places to go... but actually, to go and dance and not get hassle or mistaken for a working girl, there are few. very few. I want to dance! and specifically, i want to go to dance to R&B music... but I can't find any.

Please have any suggestions pass them on....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

parties parties parties...

apologies to my blog readers...
Facebook has seriously taken over....

now whenever something happens in my life in Cairo - instead of tunring it into a blog article, with lots of relevent (well, sometimes relevent) info and stories, it becomes a one line status update. NOT good... especially as this blog is supposed to be my memory aid for when i am old and grey and come to write up the whole bellydancer in Cairo experience into a book... (that is , once I no longer live in Cairo and can actually dish the dirt hehe!!!)

anyway- whats been happening? 3 parties in 2 days... and all very diffferent!

I performed at a birthday party on Eid at a friends house... it was great. I danced to Enta Omri, which when i had 1st put it onto the cd had thought maybe this is too heavy for a party... but then I thought- why not, i love it and want to dance it. So i did... and the atmosphere in the room became electric once it started... at one point i started to sing outloud (it was an instrumental version of the song) and about 15 people, mainly egyptian women , all joined in the song... and i swear I nearly cried. I felt i had really, finally made it- I belonged. I fitted. I hope i never forget that feeling, it was so emotionally overwhelming!

after the party i went along to catch the end of the opening gala for the Nile Group festival. I had missed all the dancers, but the Saaidi band were still playing and my houseguests were all there dancing away as was my friend Aleya. So we all had a boogie together and Magdy el-Leisy dragged me up on stage to dance with him. We had a fabulous time! Just wish I could have been there for the whole thing... was nice to see and chat with Camelia at the end, but wish i could have seen her show too, not to mention Asmahan and Nour! ah well, next time!

Yesterday I went to another party, but not to watch or perform dance, for a change.  Through my writer friend Linda, I have met some swiss artists who are here in Cairo on a residency and they invited us to their studio for a party. The strange thing was that this studio is on an island, in the Nile, in the middle of Cairo (just near the pharonic village) and you have to access it via boat (which cost 25p each way, Egyptian piestres not pence that is !!). There are no roads on the island, and its all fields and palm trees. I really felt I was out of the city in the middle of the countryside. It was lovely and peaceful. Linda performed her poetry with 2 friends who are musicians backing her up. They performed in a 'cage' on the roof- a space designed to keep away mossies... and which was well lit so made a bizarre, but fabulous stage! at one point, to take a call, after the show, i wandered over to another place on the roof and found myself looking over the fields and trees and Nile, with complete silence around me, and started to dance, just for myself, no music, but I felt so free... I can see why they chose that spot for the residency studio- it was really inspiring!

Here's Linda in her cage stage' !!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Folk sometimes say the strangest things...

an American man recently after a performance on the golden pharoah decided he had to come to tell me how good he thought i was , saying- "you are really good you know, you should go to Las Vegas and dance there, really you are good enough" .......  i pointed out to him that i really didn't want to go America to perform on a stage in a hotel which has been made to look like its in Egypt, full of pyrmaids and pharoahs, when i actually currently dance on a boat, on the actual Nile, with my own Egyptian band and Egyptian audiences. He didn't get it... "but no- you'd be really good there.. you should try it." i replied "thank you , but I am really happy here". Then he tried to encourage me to enter in some Amercian talent show, when i said "no, it wasn't really my thing", he kept telling me how good the prize money was... and couldn't understand at all when i said I wasn't into dance for money.

Some people just don't get it at all.........

others do;

The manager of TGI Fridays in Giza welcomed me at the door of the restaurant one afternoon when i had popped in for a bowl of soup inbetween sails at work. " I saw your show last week on the Pharoah. You're very good. Thank you so much for your performance my friends and I really enjoyed it, and if i can do anything for you at all please just say". Then he walked away... no sleeze or horrible comments, just genuine appreciation and respect. It was lovely.

Then, I was in a club in Cairo last night, and in the queue for the bathrooms, a girl came up to me all excited..." i know you, i know you- I'm from Morocco and i've have seen your show on the Nile Pharoah... you were so so good, really talented, and classy and funny too. We all really enjoyed it so much. Thank you, Thank you."

That was nice.