Sunday, December 31, 2006

Out with the Old and in with the New...

It's coming to the end of 2006.... and if the weather is anything to go by, the end of the world too! New Year celebrations have been cancelled in Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast amoung other cities- but so far Edinburgh seems to be going ahead- although I am guessing that many people will opt for a 'night in' rather than challenge the gales raging through ther town centre as i type ( 6.30pm). Hopefully of course this will mean that lots of people will decide that Morocco Restaurant on Dundas street is where they want to see in the new year- then tonights party will go with a bang whether the fireworks go off as planned or not!

So how do i feel right now.... what has 2006 meant to me and changed me- and what do i expect and hope for in 2007?

The first 3 months of 2006 saw me announcing my plans to head to Cairo to all my students and then be flooded with good wishes and thanks and support ( as well as tears from people not wanting me to go). So much it still overwhelms me when i think back. The big halfa in March brought all of that to a head- and i still feel immensely proud when I look back at the DVD. The end of an era for me (nine years continual teaching) and the start of the next....

Just before i headed off to sunnier climes. My sister made me a very proud Auntie, and being there throughout the birth of Sam and trying to see him as much as possible took up a great deal of my last month in Scotland. Seeing my baby sister confronting motherhood, and handling it so well made me stop and think about what is really important to me and what i really want to achieve in my life. Good family ties is definatly part of that ( although my family would no doubt argue that moving abroad doesn't make that easier!) Thank god for Blog and MSN!!!

.... and then I went to Cairo. My initial 6 months there has been extended so far to 9 and since I am heading back the day after tomorrow.. for more time still. In fact, I don't really know when i will return to Edinburgh for good... but I know i can't until I have achieve or found what i set out to do back in March. Its been such a huge learning experience for me (as is a 'year out' for most people i guess!!) Learning what it actually means to live and work in a completely different culture. Dealing with people from all sectors of the community and learning to cope with difficult situations and look at others in a different way. Understanding that, what people mean doesn't always correspond with what they say, has been one of the most painful lessons. My patience has definetly grown. Although i suspect that dark side of that coin is that i also have less energy to push for things to happen, i expect set backs. When you are thwarted time after time, it is incrediably difficult to stay optimistic, hopeful and driven. But, I am going back for more so I guess that says I haven't let it beat me yet!

My arabic has drastically improved, and so has my dancing. My understanding of the culture, society, people and religion and how all of these things effect the music and dance is bound to have added to me as a person, never mind as a performer and teacher. Learning how to dance for Egyptian audiences trather than for British ones... very different qualities required- although the things which make a dancer really good, wherever they may be, is having confidence and compfort with their own body, and a good personality which wants to entertain and bring happiness to others.

I guess being able to recognise more of my own strengths and weaknesses too, partly from just living alone and not being able to hide in dance and the company of dancers. Realising I am stronger than i thought I was, but also that I have definate limits before i crack and that when i reach that point I am really not much fun to be around!

I have read so many books this year , mainly by arabic authors, and this has really helped open my eyes to factors in society- both in Egypt and in UK, which i may otherwise not have noticed. Writing this blog has been a revelation to me too. I am always surprised at just how many people actually read it and often find myself throughout the day thinking- i must remember that thing that happened so i can write it up in my blog. So Egocentric- to imagine that people really want to know how you are feeling about everything that happens in your life... but I guess its like reading someone elses diary. I just wish i could put absolutely everything in it... but that just wouldn't be possible... for legal reasons!! I really enjoy writing.

So what does the New hold in store....? if only we knew eh?!

My immediate plans; after return to Cairo... enrol in the next level of arabic classes, plan the weeks events for my group coming over to see me (10 bellydancers in Cairo!) and spend a week with them- having fun and seeing as much of that 'senses blowing' city.

Then what? Ideally dancing lots.... but if the papers part of it doesn't sort out soon, then i am really going to knuckle down to the learning part- with lessons as much a possible... so that, if I am forced to return to Uk in Feb for good, ie when savings run out and can no longer pay my rent, then at least i feel that i have achieved even more before i do return. After all the support and encouragement I have recieved from my students and fellow dancers and teachers back here in Scotland over the whole time I have been away... I really want to feel confident i can do that justice and give back lots. Stubborn eh?!

So- that truth is- I really haven't a clue what 2007 will hold. Or even which country i will be living in for the majority of it... but time will tell... and hopefully luck, fate and/or 'Allah' will be on my side.

so now I am off to brave the Edinburgh Gales... and dance the night away in Morocco restaurant, nice and cosy... til 3am (or when the last person leaves!!!)

I wish you all the very best for 2007. May all your (our!) dreams come true!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Holidays

That sound really American doesn't it?!!! Ah well- it covers a multitude...

anyway- hope you all had a fabulous Christmas- I did... was lovely to spend quality time with Khalid and my family and to share baby Sam's first christmas with him too!

Eid Mubarak for those of you that will be celebrating Eid this weekend.... both in Egypt and here in Edinburgh....

and Happy New Year when it comes to everyone!

so much going on.... no time to write much just now- but I am sure there will be plenty blog entries next week when i return again to Cairo on the 2nd Jan 2007 (next year!!!!)

All the best to you all- enjoy this festive season..!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back in Edinburgh

What can I say? Thank God my flight today was via Amsterdam and not Heathrow which is closed due to freezing fog- all those poor people stuck in airports- nightmare. Anyway- I arrived safely- even though my suitcase hasn't shown up yet...........

So- I am in Edinburgh til the 2nd Jan... lots of nights performing at Morocco restaurant (including Hogmanay) and already have a few private classes booked up too- oh and then there is Christmas and New year to fit in too!

I have already discovered that my attitutdes to life- and in particular, driving have changed. On way back from airport Khalid was- 'look at that- he didn't even indicate' etc etc - various comments- and i had been oblivious to it all and stunned by how safe and uneventful the drive was! No mad tooting horns or hours of traffic jams or sheep by the roadside. Mind you- he was behind the wheel- it may well be different when I am!

Glad to be back..... despite the cold!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rugby Club

On Thursday night I went out with a few friends to the Cairo Rugby Club in Maadi. Mostly ex-pats there, almost all Brits… although the choice of music from the DJ could have given that away – Abba, Cheesy pop, 'I will survive' etc with a handful of Latin tracks thrown in for us salsa dancers in the crowd…

Unfortunately they only played one Arabic track- but that was dedicated to 'Lorna- the professional bellydancer' I swear I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me! Esp. since he said it about 6 times through the song- which wasn't even a very good one for dancing! If I ever find out who told him………. Anyway- what was fun was watching all the Brits flee from the floor when it (the Arabic song) came on and all the Egyptian (guys mostly) flock to it (the dance floor I presume- rather than to 'me' since I was dancing for me and very self consciously and with red face, NOT performing for the crowd!) Oh and I met the Finnish girl, Anke (not sure of spelling!) who teaches bellydance in Maadi too- very pretty, blond and nice rhythm. Didn't get to see her bellydance though so can't comment on that! Think she teaches rather than performs anyway.

They operate the same system there are they do in the other club in Maadi I went to. You pay an entrance fee- which is not expensive, but then to buy drinks you need a card which cost 50le and your drinks get marked off on it each time you go to the bar… It means you can buy your cards at the start of the night and not have to work with loose change I guess- but I found it just makes you drink more! Of course- Rugby club crowd much the same here as anyway… Lots of beer consumed, bad dancing impromptu karaoke on DJ's mic, a fight, people getting cosy on the dance floor, a man falling down a hole…. You know- the usual. They do actually have a Rugby team, so I believe, and they play and compete here and in other countries eg Dubai etc…

A fun night- I felt like it was my Christmas party here…… or nearest I'll get to it anyway- esp. when they were playing all the cheesy Christmas songs…… first I have heard them here (I bet all of you in Scotland are jealous of me for that!!! Since I am sure they have been in the shops since Nov!!)

Rhanda Kamel workshop

Wow… you know- there are some things you do and really regret- then there are those where you know your life would never have been the same if you hadn't. At the risk of hero worship I would say Rhanda Kamel's workshop this afternoon feel into the second category!! She is the true queen of Egyptian dance. Such poise, power, control and life, And all in a beautiful and fun form. WOW again!

She did bits of technique with us… and did part of a choreography.. but she place more emphasis on the 'feel' of the music than the steps- which was a lovely refreshing change, although that’s not to suggest that she doesn't wan the technique itself to be just so! I liked the way when she taught that she didn't rush from move to move but did it over and over- first with her- but then many times with her watching us- so she could correct mistakes. Her Body does it so much more efficiently and proficiently than mine, but I love her dance and classes because I feel she often interprets and feels the music in a way I can relate to. Maybe because I have thought for 9 years now that she is the best in Cairo- so I guess If I was modeling myself on anyone it would be her. Not that you should try and be someone else when you dance, that’s not what I mean- but Rhanda defiantly inspires me! Really chuffed too- I got 3 ''Really good... Excellent'' s from her! I know that says a lot more for her teaching skill than it neccesarily does about my dancing but still- I'm easy pleased me!!! Favourite piece of technique from today… chonk LRL then chest shimmy (not shoulder shimmy!!) with R knee up and R foot up at L knee. Elegant and cheeky at the same time. But that was just one thing- I loved it all!

I wish I could have attended this whole course (Raqia Hassan's professional course for teachers at Intercontinental Hotel at Pyramid Park) because it is lovely to be taught at such a standard by such good teachers and in such a small class! You could see the teacher easily and she was able to give individual feedback to us all. Fantastic. To any teachers out there- I recommend it! (Only thing stopping me doing the whole thing is the fact I don't have an income at the moment!!!) I am planning on going to Suraya's workshop on Tuesday- so I'll let you know how that goes!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Home For Christmas and New Year!

Well…….. this wasn't defiantly not in the plans……… but there was yet another problem about getting my work papers complete in time for me to work New Year here- so I am coming home!!

Really excited about happy about seeing Khalid and all my family again…….. and if any of you feel like a night out at Morocco (the new name for Morocco Walima) I will be performing a few dates there over the 2 weeks I am home (with new costumes!!!) I know it’s a busy time of the year for everyone- but it would be fantastic to see as many of you as can make it along (I suggest you book early though since it is fairly busy in the restaurant too!)

Fri 22nd Dec
Sat 23rd Dec
I'll be there Christmas day with my family for a meal- but not necessarily performing.
Thurs 28th Dec
Fri 29th Dec
Sat 30th Dec

And…… Sun 31st Dec
If you don't yet have plans for Hogmanay…. Why not spend the evening with Khalid and I at Morocco in our annual celebration of the turning of the year. The tickets must be bought in advance… and are only £40 each, which I am sure you will agree is a fantastic price for New Year esp. when you know it includes such wonderful Moroccan food (4 course!) and a complimentary glass of champagne at midnight. The night can be as long as we wish to party since we have a late license for it (9.30pm- 3am!!!). Last year many of us stood on Dundas street with our champagne watching the fireworks on the bells, before heading back inside for a dance. I'll be performing all night and generally having fun and helping create a relaxed but lively atmosphere! - why don't you and your friends/family join us??? Get your tickets from Khalid at Morocco, 3a1 Dundas St, Edinburgh or give him a call on 0131 652 3764.

Oh- and if any dancers would like a private class (maybe as your Christmas treat to your self?!!!) I will be available between Christmas and New Year- so let me know!

See you soon!- and to those I don't get to see- have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Lion King

Last night I went to the Modern English School of Cairo's production on The Lion King. Why? Because a friend of mine, Sylvia, was in it! Some of you may know her- she used to organize the Belly and African dance classes at Edin Uni for me- YEARS ago! Anyway- she is living and working in the school here now and is currently starring as Shenzi, the Hyena.

I have to say- having been schooled in Edinburgh, in non fee paying schools, and educated though the years of the teachers strikes…. Where the hours of classroom were strictly adhered too… the idea of a show such as this- which has a mixed cast of 150 students of all ages, and teachers- plus another 100 backstage!, all giving up their own free time to prepare it all and rehearse…is just amazing.

The venue was great too- a proper theatre with velvet curtains (or looked like it) and lighting and orchestra pit etc. Fantastic to have that in your own school! Oh- and the tickets were free…….. which I guess is as should be considering the hefty fees the students pay to attend the school! What else- fab costumes- all matching etc, made by mums and teachers. A full sized elephant (with a child in each of the legs) a massive warthog……. Fantastic artwork etc. Really very well done. The singing was good too- although I would have preferred if the mic's of the soloist were louder since the orchestra drowned them out a bit.

And Sylvia- a star of course…….. Considering she had to walk about using crutches as front legs, and had a huge papier-mâché head hanging down in front of her body, and remember her lines- act and SING as well -Tall order. I was impressed! Well done girl!

Re the school- all I saw was the entrance and the theatre- however what struck me as strange was that it is way out in the middle of the desert! I guess the land will be cheaper- less traffic and pollution, but still- strange that most of the teachers etc have to get to and from work in school buses!!!!! Although I had hitched a lift from a teacher (originally from dunfermilne) and she said when she taught there years before you could see the school from mile away all on its own in the middle of nowhere- but now there are houses built up around it!
The whole thing seemed quite American to me for some reason. The teachers are mainly British. The curriculum is British (although I believe that in secondary school you can choose between British and American system and curriculum. But of course- its for people who can pay…… so the Egyptians who do attend are coming from wealthy families and quite often go of to university abroad or to the American University of Cairo.
I am sorry but I don't have photos of the show- but I am sure they will put them onto their website once its done!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bellydance in Cairo- Who is where...

Just a quick note for Dancers who are wanting to know who is where in the Cairo Performance scene just now.. or indeed for Tourists who want to go see a dancer....

Nile Maxim- Asmahan (and Leyla and Katia so i believe?)
Grand Hyatt- Hanadi
Marriot- Fatima
Nile Pharon- too many to mention, including Joanna and Otti
Ramsis Hilton- Hemis
Sheraton- Suzie (?) and Suraya
Semis Ramis Intercontinental- Dina
Mena House- Ashmahan (+ Fatima?)

I'm sure there are lots more of note.... but thats the ones I know of just now! Who knows- maybe one day I'll be able to add my name to the list somewhere!!!

The News...

wow- one minute I write a rant about street harrasment........ and the next i read this in the BBC;

** Egypt arrests another blog critic **Police in Cairo detain a blogger known as Ayyoub whose posts are critical of theEgyptian government.<

check it out!!! Guess I had better be careful what I put in my blog eh?!!!

After I read this I went on to follow the various links and was quite shocked and upset by all I read. I guess i am very naive....... All the things they say happen here must, i guess.... Then I went to the BBC news homepage for UK and read about prostitutes being murdered in Ipswitch and shootings in Glasgow etc etc. It's bad here for some things- but I guess every culture has its own evils.

Street Hassle

OK- I haven't put a moan in about this yet- but it has to be done. There are LOTS of policemen standing about the streets, outside banks, hotels etc etc. And they do, I believe, 12 hour shifts. Just standing there- can you imagine it. I pity them- I really do.


That does not mean they don't piss me off totally by commenting, whistling and occasionally even following me up the road. Really- I am sure I probably am the most exciting thing they have seen in the last 12 hours.... but the lack of self respect or restraint is depressing- and at times even threatening.

Through Ramadan it was easy- if a comment was made- especially through daylight, I would reply with 'Ramadan Kareem' which often made them remember themselves and stare embarresingly hard at their own shoes..... one guy even went into huge apologies- guess he felt that way he wouldn't have to add on another day of fasting in apology to God.
But now... to be honest- I try to ignore them..... but it is so hard and humiliating. Back home if someone make a sexual comment to you in the street you (well I anyway) wouldn't hesitate to tell them to get a life. Maybe once I am more comfortable and confident that my arabic won't be another cause for mirth I will get the courage to give them back what for- the way an Egyptian woman would!

Lots of the journeys I make by taxi are purely to avoid the street comments if I were to walk, and thats with lots of layers on- I'm not walking about in a vest top!!! I guess the fact that I am a) western and b) walking about on my own (therefore obviously 'lost' cause!) means that they think somehow if they comment I'll take it into my head to jump behind the bushes with them or something..... makes me sick.

... and thats just the policemen........ the people who are supposed to protect you and make you feel safe. I guess someone in training didn't explain that part of their job to them very well! So I won't waste time even commenting on the young boys - even as young as 6 or 7 who do the same... what else can they learn from their fathers i guess...............

Rant over....... Thats for letting me get that one off my chest!
Love to you all- unless you are a big mouthed policeman!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 08, 2006


More fireworks tonight....... but this time I got a couple of photos for you......... not an easy thing- to get firework photos that actually look like fireworks- but these give you an idea of how huge these ones were at least!!!!


Where else can you see this..............? 3 camels roped into the back of a pick up truck... you could see their heads bobbing about from the front- shame I didn't get my camera out in time!!! Just look at the size of those caulies too........ you don't see that in tesco!!!

It just makes life so exciting to walk down the street and not know what you will see.....Life in Cairo can be lonely, frustrating, exhausting, wonderful and fun.... but it is NEVER boring!!!

Bellylorna's Blog now Better!

ok- so I have changed it somehow.......... so now if you only want to views blogs with photos- just click on the 'photos' label at the right side... etc etc.... makes it easier to view or review entries you want to get to, and to only access the entries you are specifically interested in!

Also has meant I have been able to update a few entries with photos which didn't have photos before!!! so- check out some of the Dance entries esp with photos from the Nile Group Festival!
As always- all comments welcome!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday night

Thursday night (the big party night here) and I am home alone. Mind you it's only 8pm... so something may still come up I guess....

In meantime trying to go through my emails... had 267 to clear... and have made a frightening and upsetting discovery. Despite your supportive emials being one of the main things which really helps me get through the times when things just aren't happening here- I have been VERY bad at replying. It's not cos I don't care or anything like that- its just often there is either too much to do- or not enough to say. I am getting fed up saying - no- still no contract yet!!! So if you are one of the people who didn't get a reply from me in the past (some as late as april!!!)- SORRY.......... I am working through them now! And thanks for the continuing support despite by lack of replies!

last night I went to a birthday party. A friend of Sara's, Emad. Lovely guy. A composer, musician and most of his friends were musicians too- or artists or directors etc etc... so an arty crowd. And not particularly in the first flushes of youth. To watch these old guys laugh, joke, play oud, sing...... often fantastically well- and loud- with no alcohol being consumed at all... was fantastic! Such expressive faces; i could have sat and watch all night, except that everyone of them smoked like a chimney and I was forced out in the end by my need to breathe!!! Interesting night- and lovely people. Good practise for my listening to arabic too- although still not understanding full stories- at least picking out a lot more words than before!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


You'll never believe this…. Well, I can't anyway…………. The last 2 nights it's been raining here! That’s a big deal I'll have you know! It was really funny- yesterday just as it started, I jumped into a taxi and his windscreen wipers were complaining heavily since they hadn't been used for 11months!!!!!!!!! The streets empty……. It's like home in a heavy snow- no one wants to be out in it…. Even theatres close! And it's not like a major downpour- but the drain systems are so bad- if there are any at all… that the roads just flood. When I left the house this morning the street was stinking of rotten rubbish……. Lovely!! You can see in the gutters drifts of dirt- like sandbanks- where the dirt and dust and sand on the roads has been washed into the gutters. I saw a couple of cars where the dirt drifts came up over the edge of the tyre!! It is a strange thing to look at rain from such a different perspective, being so used to it in Scotland. However the good thing is the air is much cleaner. It smells nicer and I could see right into the desert from my balcony this morning… A taxi driver told me tonight that when he sees rain he looks forward to the mango which will grow even tastier because of it!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006


I have just had two lovely evenings that I have to tell you about…

On Friday I was asked to teach a group of women (mainly American and mainly wives of men who work for the American Oil company Apache) how to bellydance- at a private party- in the nicest villa you can imagine- every room looked like something you'd expect to see in an art gallery with many paintings by the lady of the house, a talented artist herself and many items of furniture that looked like pieces of art rather than pieces of furniture! Anyway- I performed a short dance… then I taught this group a small, beginners workshop – where we had a lot of fun- especially the yes/no hands for hip circles…. But anyway… then we had a questions and answers session about bellydance (and about me and why I am here in Cairo!)- That took the most time but was probably more educational about the dance, and entertaining, than even the workshop had been! It was a very enjoyable and interesting evening- both for myself and from the feedback I received back from the ladies on the night- and from word of mouth a few days later!!! One woman came and tugged my arm while I was leaving- 'look over there'…. She said… 'Look at the effect you've had'! And sure enough there were 3 women, standing in a corner; trying to get to grips with some of the new moves they had been taught. Fantastic! It reminded me again how much I miss my students back home!!!

Tonight (Monday) - the women from Friday night had decided that their men had to get a chance to see me dance too………… so I was invited- as a guest, to dance at their annual dinner, in Mena House Hotel. LOVELY! Really. I have performed there once before, at Raqia Hassan's 'Ahlan we Sahlan' festival last year… and that was an experience and a half- very nerve wrecking dancing in front of your peers………. But this time round it was a pure pleasure dancing for such an appreciative audience. Often at these types of events, the hardest people to get on your side are the women- they all seem to think you are after their men or something like that…. But of course- since I had met the vast majority of the women already and they had invited me- they knew I was 'safe' and were pushing their men to watch! Lovely atmosphere and lovely people……. It was a dream come true performing in that hotel too! If even half the women come to my class next term who say they will… the classes in Maadi at least will be fully booked before term even starts!!! For those of you who have never seen inside Mena House- it’s a palace………. Gold walls, rich red carpets, Chandeliers that were larger than any of the rooms in my flat at home!!! Just a beautiful venue to be in, never mind dance in! Oh- and I have never had such clean feet after performing anywhere in the world, EVER!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I would love to know what the occasion was tonight……and will let you know if i find out...…. But I was sitting doing emails and suddenly there were lots of bangs- it really sounded as though Cairo was being bombed! I ran to my balcony and saw the most wonderful huge fireworks lighting up the sky above the Nile and the Four Seasons hotel- behind the Cairo Tower- what a wonderful sight. Granted they didn’t have a huge range of different types of fireworks- but it was still lovely to see. What else was really nice was seeing all the people on their balconies and also standing in the grounds of the Gazira club…watching and clapping after each firework! It was lovely and reminded me how sweet and excitable the Egyptians can be at times………….

Arabic class

First class of the new Arabic class term was yesterday………You won't believe this- I have enrolled at level 3- AGAIN- for the 3rd time!!!!!!! I was looking over my books- and I could recognize the writing was mine- but the words written it was like reading them all for the first time! I am so annoyed with myself for not doing regular revision to try and keep the knowledge in my sieve like brain. I wish we had learned my rote much more in school when I was young- maybe it would be trained enough to be able to do it now!!! Anyway- not only is it my 3rd time- but it felt like I was really struggling to grasp what we did even in this first class!!! Thankfully I have 2 really good teachers again this term- so fingers crossed something sinks in!!! I wish I was being forced to use it more…… it's really hard when EVERYONE it seems speaks English- I order in a café for example- in Arabic- and they reply in English! Tell me how is that ever going to help me learn???? GRRR…. Although- on a positive note- I do find my self listening to music and some words jumping out cos I suddenly realise I understand them!!! It's like watching a film in black and white and occasionally some of the actors can be seen in colour even though everything else is grey!!! That was yesterday- today was better- after an early night and a couple of hours revision this morning, I felt back on track again…….. I was speaking to a girl from Hungary and she agreed it was much easier for her because she doesn't have any English so people have no choice- they have to try in Arabic!

Nile Festival Closing Party

The Party was due to start at 9pm…. So of course- it was nearer 10 when it got underway. A lot less people there- or so it seemed than at the opening party. And frustratingly there were tables reserved up the front for people the organizers obviously wanted to impress etc. I really feel that the people who had paid to attend the festival should get first dibs on seats….. rather than the friends of teachers…. Ah well- that’s Egypt I guess. It is a fairly small hall- seats 250people, and they did have 2 large screens so you could watch the dancer there if your view was blocked which ours was- by the video man of course!!!)

1st dancer was Fatima. She dances regularly at the Marriot nightclub and is young, and Egyptian. She obviously hasn't been performing long- however the potential is there to be a fantastic dancer. A name to watch out for in the future!!! I have to say- I found it hard to focus on her moves when I was distracted by her costumes all the time- 3 costumes all with teeny short skirts… and a miracle her top half stayed where it should too. The 4th costume was a long skirt and she just looks so much more elegant in it- she has a fabulous figure…. And hair to die for- I would love to believe it was a wig, just so I felt less jealous- but I think it was the real thing! I believe she is Aida's protégé… and I believe she will go far. Her band was fantastic! Huge- as big as any I have seen Dina perform with. At least 3 different male lead singers- one of them, poor guy, did an Egyptian version of 'Lady' (which I know as a salsa song- but I believe Kenny Rodgers did it too?) anyway- I have heard the song at a disco- but this guy was so nervous, fiddling with his pockets while singing and shaking that he could hardly get any sound out- poor thing- its been a while since I have seen someone struck with stage fright so bad. She had another notable singer- a blind woman who looked- and dressed, and styled her hair- like Omm Kalthoum- it was a very surreal feeling- watching Omm K on stage with a dancer……… nice gimmick.

After the buffet there seemed to be some dispute who would dance. It turned out to be Leila (American). Beautiful- with stunning costumes- every one. A few Eman Zaki creations in there I am sure. My favourite part of her show is the Nubian section- where she has 2 Sudanese guys dance with her- and they are sooo good. Lovely to see a man dance who is 100% male, and who is not trying to be or do anything other than that.

Then with hardly room to pause- the next dancer. Liza Laziza (part Iranian, I think part British too- or maybe just brougt up in Britain?) She seemed on edge and not as good as I have seen her before- possibly because she was dancing with the same band Leila had- i.e. Safa's (and I don't think she usually dances with them?) Maybe because she had expected to dance before Leila. I liked it when she just danced….. when she wasn't trying to 'do' anything. Her stick dance was the same routine exactly as at the June festival and when you have seen it once- well- that’s enough for me. I felt watching her that woman really do get stronger as they get older- as long as they don't try to be or stay something they are not. Coquettish doesn't work for me past the age of , well even past 35 unless you look really baby faced… but proud and powerful never sits so well on a young woman as it does with someone who has seen and experienced a bit more of life. Liza's Khaleegy was fab. Really enjoyed her feel in it- fun and lively and she didn't have it go on too long either- something which often ruins a khaleegy performance! She looked in her element there. The final costume was the perfect one for her too- white with large-ish pearls all covering the bra and bum……. Straight skirt. Very elegant and showed off the moves well. Such a shame Aida wouldn't allow her the extra time to do her drum solo…. I guess the next band were hassling to start.

The band which came on after Liza was massive- larger, or equal to Fatima's band anyway. I am ashamed to say that yet again I have to let you down- I don't know the name of the singer- she was Sudanese- and seemingly very famous…. A wee bundle of energy and fantastic voice anyway. And she had wonderful fun dancers with her- 4 guys 3 girls. They could DANCE. Not just waiters who had been put into a costume which is the impression you often get here of backing dancers!!!! Really fun- with sticks with tassels on them- all bright colours which they filled the tiny stage with and then went round the audience with- getting people up to dance and circling round them- making these sticks seem like a bright colourful roof above the dancer. Lovely- I couldn’t' sit still and stood up the back shaking my stuff the whole time- so nice to feel like I want to dance again….. I missed that feeling since being ill!

The band couldn't have done double the length of set and it wouldn't have been a problem I think- everyone seemed to be loving them. Maybe cos it was something different from watching a bellydancer yet again? Or maybe cos it was just such fun dance inspiring music to listen to!

Before the night came to a close they had the 2 winners from a recent competition in Russian perform. Not sure about one girls name- but she was very like a very young fifi- lots of big fast moves and covering the stage well- fun. And the other girls Yasmine was fantastically charismatic- full of fun miming to words and very Egyptian in feel.

And so the Nile Group festival came to an end. I am glad I went to the workshops I did. It was also good to see all of the performances- Fatima in particular, I had heard good things about her and had want to see her for myself for a while. I miss the grandeur (and much higher dance level) of the Ahlan we sahlan festival. But this is a good one for people who haven't been dancing so long….. smaller classes and a friendly atmosphere- again more down to the smaller number more than anything. The opening and closing shows I have to say don't compare in my mind to the Ahlan we sahlan festival- but then again- the buffet is easier to get to!!!

Yet another late night. But head bursting with new ideas and itching to get performing as soon as possible!

Aida Nour- workshop

It is just so difficult for my body to come to terms with dancing at 10am…… totally unnatural!!! That’s when Aida's workshop was on Sunday. I was really looking forward to it- 3hrs of her fun style of teaching with melaya. She is a strange dancer to describe. When she floats- she really does… but when she does earthy it is more funky than grounded. Often she puts in moves that I know she can get away with in her dance- e.g. pelvic thrusts with knees bent and legs wide…. But I know if I was to put it into a dance people would say it looked vulgar, whereas she just looks like she I having fun! Maybe that one of the benefits of age! Anyway- she started us off (after a beautiful floaty warm up with stretching balletic arms) into the melaya routine… which wasn't obvious- but definite achievable. I felt I was enjoying and getting it….. but then she watched us all (about 60 in the room) doing it and she told the guy on the music- 'mish mumkin' and 'wahish' – i.e. not possible and bad!!!! So she changed the routine. I was really disappointed cos I had really liked what we were doing and the music, but I guess there was probably only about 10 of us in the class who actually got it- so she changed the level of the workshop to suit the majority of the class- which is exactly what you should do I guess as a teacher- but I felt like she had slapped us all!! Ok- so it wasn't meant personally- but I took it that way and went into a bad mood for the rest of the workshop! Esp. since she did a routine which I had done with her both in the June festival and last year in a private class. GRRR. She did one melaya routine, then quickly danced though a couple of times 2 other dances- including one haggela one- with had a lot of head slapping- don’t ask, and lots of circles with shimmys.

Everyone I spoke to enjoyed it………….. so it was Just me….. For lots of reasons- too tired, and disappointed we as a class weren't deemed worthy of her new routine, and frustrated at doing something I'd done before. Maybe understanding Arabic is going to lead to more frustrations than if I didn't?!!! If I hadn't understood her judgment of us all then maybe I could have believed that she had just forgotten which routine she was supposed to be doing or something. Ah well- glad I went……… I enjoyed the first half hour of it at least!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Workshop review- Zeina

Zeina is from Sweden, married to an Egyptian (one of the organizers of the Nile Group festival) and used to perform here in Cairo, although she told us in the workshop today that she hasn’t performed since '95. There is seemingly a very strong and talented dance following in Sweden- and I can imagine if they have had this woman's guidance over the last ten years at least then that's part of the reason.

I have to say I was dubious at first….. She went over some of the drum rhythms, but the drummer kept interrupting and correcting occasionally…….. and people couldn't hear at the back (well – I couldn't) so although a lot of people seemed to learn a lot from that section- I actually felt confused after where I had felt fine before hand!

However- then the dancing started…… she started with a few different combo- mostly with shimmy's - to a couple of rhythms…. Then a few moving around the room combos…. You felt that these were really nice pieces of dance that were useable to a variety of different styles of music and nice to adapt into your own style of dance. Then she said lets start the choreography- and low and behold she had taught us a large section of the start of the dance- it was a lovely feeling- to be almost dancing to the music from the first listen as we had drilled the combos so well that we only had to concentrate on connecting them- oh except for arms. Zeina has lovely graceful arm movements- I felt like an awkward baby foal trying to copy- as though my limbs were just too long and not within my control!!! It was a lovely dance and we finished it in perfect time in the workshop. I really felt I could dance at least parts of the routine, and focus on putting feeling and emotion into it rather than worrying what steps came next. It wasn't an exceptionally easy routine either- just the organized manner of teaching it really helped it stick in my mind far more than is usual with other people's choreographies!

I had been toying with going to Dandash's workshop instead of Zeina… but I made the right choice… especially since Dandash failed to show up and her workshop had to be covered by another teacher at the last moment! When it comes to energy and feel and fun- Dandash has it- but as for teaching skills- Zeina any day!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hemis and Suraya- Performance reviews

On Friday night (last night) Caroline and I went out to see a couple of dancers…

First we went to see Hemis perform at the 'windows of the world' restaurant in the 36th floor of the Ramsis Hilton. She has danced there for years and has defiantly improved over that time. Now she has 2 'dancing boys' to warm up the dance floor for her- not literally- there would be no need- you should SEE the shoes!!!! I have to say I often feel that she would feel and look the part far more if she was ever to invest in decent costumes….. Not so nice. Short skirts on each on, and she doesn't have the most perfect pins in the world and the shoes- well………… I KNOW I couldn't have walked in these let alone danced and spun!

Her dancing was fun and flirty. She makes her audience feel appreciated. She has the usual 'I don't have to try hard at this' type of attitude you often see in Egyptian dancers- usually at lower class establishments; except that she does it all with a friendly smile and wins you over. Her dance really came to life for me on this occasion when she danced to baladi- she got lost in it for a while and you saw all the potential she could have. I often feel watching Hemis that if dance was a more respectable occupation to have in this country and she had been made to feel valued because of it (as I have been lucky enough to have had at home) then she would pull all the punches. To me there is something almost apologetic about her- maybe a fear that she may offend. As it is you are left feeling that it could have been something more….. Her spins (esp. in those shoes) are impressive and her khaleegy and Zar both really got the crowd going- it was a very nice atmosphere. Worth a visit, even if just to enjoy how well the drummer followed each move- or as Caroline put it- a very generous drummer- a lovely a relevant expression, they got me up to dance at one point and he made me look like I really knew the piece of music I was dancing to and I didn’t!

Then we went to see a star. Suraya, from Brazil, at the Casablanca restaurant in the Cairo Sheraton. WOW. WOW!!! I have seen this girl dance I couldn’t tell you how many times- numerous… and often I feel wow she is really good…. But occasionally she actually makes me forget to shut my mouth or even to breathe. This was one of those occasions. Her costumes were stunning- all obviously high quality (at least one by Eman I guessed) and a couple of rather risqué ones too which made me wonder how she could possible stay in place. Her orchestra really tight. And her musical interpretation much more relaxed than I have seen it before (I mean that in a positive way!- i.e. she is not miming all the actions to all the words in a song- although there is still a fair bit of that too) But her moves- TIGHT does not cover it. Her hits and tummy pops were so strong they seemed physically impossible. I felt that I was watching as though I didn't know how to do most of these moves- i.e. with the awe that someone feels when they see their first ever bellydancer (if she is any good!) She did reverse V8's that seemed almost internal. Watching this bundle of beautiful energy dance around the stage and entertain us all really made me feel both that I was a rubbish dancer and should give up and go home now, and also inspired to work harder and try for at least a fraction of the skill she has. I remember years ago coming to Cairo- before she was in the Sheraton (so more than 4 years ago) and seeing her rehearse in Raqia's dance studio- at least 3 hours every morning. That’s a sobering thought and worth taking into consideration! I need to get to the gym!!! She danced to the same baladi number Hemis had earlier that night… and what a difference with a full orchestra and with a desire to do your best for the audience. Watching Suraya last night I really felt she wanted us to really enjoy her dance…. But not in a pleading way- she seemed really proud that she could be doing this and showing us what she could do. Sexy rather than just coquettish too at parts- stronger. Shimmy's to die for- and a tummy pop shimmy which made me gasp out loud. The move was huge and fast- very fast! Her final number was Lissa Fakir and it was the best I have seen her dance to Omm Khalthoum. Especially this first part when it was all on the spot and really controlled. Watching her I really felt that of all the performers in Cairo just now… She is defiantly up there in the top 3. Rhanda, Suraya and I guess Dina (although I prefer to watch Asmahan than Dina to be honest).

Ohh- and I forgot to mention- she has died her hair bright red. Like..... RED!! Looks great- really funky and different- but suits her quirky girl-like attitude.

What a day. 2 workshops and 2 performers. There are times like these where I feel so lucky to be here! It is worth all the down times!!!

Blog number 100 !

Well……….. I can't believe here is my 100th entry in the Lorna in Cairo blog… who would have thought 8 months on I'd still be here, still fighting to achieve my goals and living on savings!

I hope you have all enjoyed the blog so far……….. Hopefully as time goes on it'll get more and more dance orientated…….. I am glad so many of you read it and enjoy it and I really appreciate all the feedback and comments I've been getting! I feel like I haven't left Edinburgh in so many ways because there has been so much contact between us… Thank you all for that. And sorry for the moans and groans- this blog has many purposes… keeping you all up to date on what's happening, acting as a diary for me so I can look back over my time here and remember it all, and also as an aid to keeping me sane!!

You know I was chatting with a friend yesterday and she was saying that no matter what I feel I haven’t yet achieved being here all this time- I have in fact gained from the experience sooo much! And she is right. I have new friends, an improved knowledge of the culture and language, a deeper knowledge of me- living on my own all this time and being often alone more than I have ever been in my life- finding I can live with myself- a fairly nice revelation, and of course the far greater appreciation and understanding and skills I have now in the dance.

So 100th blog on- please- I want lots of comments on this entry- what has been good to read- what do you want more of/ less of… what would improve it??? (other than more photos- they are on their way- promise!!!) Remember- if you tried to comment in the past- I have changed the way it works so it is much easier to comment here- but please leave your name- lots of the comments are coming up as anon…. unless you want to remain anonymous of course!!!

So what should you expect over the next 100 blogs…………. More of the same I guess- more of daily life and experiences of a

Scottish Bellydancer in Cairo!!!!

More workshop reviews- Lubna and Nour

Yesterday was a wonderful day. 2 fantastic workshops;

Lubna- Egyptian dancer- not so young… was a bit concerned when I saw the white catsuit with black, thigh high, leg warmers………… But… When it comes to Saaidi this woman really knows what she is doing!!
In 3 hours she took us through a lovely wee choreography for stick- not that we could use stick in the class 'cos there were too many people in it to do that without injuries!!! However- when she demonstrated with the stick you just wouldn't mess with her- if you know what I mean! A powerful lady. But as a teacher- very friendly and warm and humourous, with a structured teaching style and only one break in 3 hours!! Reda style- but with more attitude. For that grounded earthy feeling you need for a good saaidi dance - I have not seen many better. Am hoping to arrange private classes with her over the next week or two. The steps she taught were not complex, but lovely little combos with fantastic feel. Nice. Felt but the end that I had got it enough step wise but that I could spend the rest of my life aiming for that feel!!! She looked like she may well have been born twirling a stick!!!

Nour- Russian who has lived and performed in Egypt for many years now and has such a good reputation here that she doesn't perform in any hotel in town- she gets enough work from weddings alone! At 4 months pregnant she was striking. If that was her feeling a bit ill (she was a little late for class 'cos she had morning sickness) I really don't think I could keep up with her on full strength! The choreography she did with us was very oriental in style and full of good balance and grace and tight controlled pelvic drops, lifts shimmys etc etc… well, it was when she danced it anyway. Again not many new moves as such- but lovely little variations of moves and step patterns in very varied combinations (e.g. very fast chonks on top of a H8 which was changing height all the time- sorry I know these bits will only make sense to dancers who know my names for moves!!!) which means that it was often difficult to predict what was coming next- lots of surprises for the audience. Very skilled. A true professional. She had a clear and logical teaching style and lovely interesting foot patterns- very balletic in her strength and control, and spins. Another one I want lessons from! Especially if she can get my arms even half as graceful as hers are. I sat out part of her class 'cos I was tired- she didn’t rest once- amazing! Then when I was really ready for the end of the class- she did another half hour of khaleegy- wow. I have seen many people do it- but none who have turned it into a sensual performance art! Usually it all the usual khaleegy moves… but they seem to link to the 1234 of the music- when she danced it there were lots of stops within the music and pauses and small sexy shoulder rolls etc I have never wanted to watch anyone perform khaleegy as much- usually it’s the type of dance that’s far more fun to do than watch…. She did the usual hair spins and also what I will forever know as the 'Bortucali' dance- i.e. an Iraqi move a group of us did one year for a show and hafla… with saaidi jump fwd and back- but Nour did it flinging hair fwd then back on every step- and not just once or twice but enough to make you feel- 'how the heck can she do that and not fall over'!

So – both these dancers inspired me but in different ways. Nour for the control and balance and energy, and Lubna for grounding and power. So glad I went to these!

You Know You've Lived in Egypt Too Long When ...

I did not compose this- but so much of it is sooo true that I thought I would share it with you all...I added some of my own in italics..

- You're not surprised to see a goat in the passenger seat
- (you're not suprised when the taxi driver lights up a cigarette- in fact the opposite it true)
- You expect the confirmation on your airline ticket to read "insha'allah"
- You don't expect to eat dinner before 10:30 p.m. (mine was 1 am last night!)
- You need a sweater when it's 80 degrees outside (oh yes- I am there!!!)
- You believe that speed limits are only advisory (since I don't drive in Egypt I can't give first hand info on these ones- but it gives you a sense of the road 'system' )
-You have no problem with tractors driving 40kph on the highway
- You fully expect to go to jail when a local national hits the back of your car at a stop sign
- You know which end of a shawarma to unwrap first
- You think that the further you inch into the middle of an intersection, the faster the light will turn green
- You consider it normal for the same section of the road to be dug up three times by contractors in the space of a few weeks (I got used to this happening in Edinburgh!!)
- You understand that the true definition of a nanosecond is the time interval between the light turning green and the guy behind youhonking his horn
- You can receive every TV station crystal clear except the local one
- You get used to using the cold water tap to get hot water during the summer ( and when your electricity socket flashes blue whenever you put in a plug)
- You make left turns from the far right lane without a second thought
- You expect gold for every birthday
- You think Pepsi begins with a "B" (and Blease!!)
- You think that a box of kleenex belongs on every dinner table (and in every car)
- You think water only comes in bottles
- You understand that when someone says "Bukra (tomorrow), Insha'Allah" to you it really means "Sometime during this calendar year"...if you're lucky!
- When you don't bat an eyelid to see Dad, Mum sitting side-saddle holding babe in arms on a scooter. (or indeed- someone holding a goat on a scooter- I have seen this!!!)
- Opening a bank account with the air -con guy working in the background, his mate brings in his lunch and they sit there eating. (security???)
- when 5 people turn up to change a tap washer, but they havent got a washer, and the only tool they've got is a hammer, and they want you to give them lunch before they start. (they don't get it!!!)
- you don't think anything of phoning the chemist to send you some antibiotics that you have prescribed to yourself- ie not via doctor
- you expect to have a fight with a taxi driver about the fare,and are suprised if you don't.
- you want past an Egyptian male friend in the street, who is calling to you, because you have effectivly switched your horn tooting and comment hearing radar off.

I am sure I could make up a few more- but that will do for now! more reviews of dance workshops and dancers I have seen later...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

workshop 1- leeza laziza

well yesterday I did Liza (leeza?) 's workshop..... considering she had been in the hospital on a drip the day before you would never have guessed it from her class! (nothing serious- she's fine now) anyway- what was interesting about her workshop was that it was quite unlike a lot of the Egyptian dancers classes because She didn't teach a choreography- which is fine by me cos I can never remember them anyway! She did technique.... how to get really loose gentle shimmys, elegant arabesques, earthy egyptian walk, big hip drops (keeping the back leg straight all the time) one hip circles, cross points, shoulder shimmys- fifi abdou style.... lots of stuff, then we just danced....... I always find it hard- I guess cos have been a teacher so long now too, following another dancer- hard not to interpert the music as you would normally choose too- but always good practise for me... I was really worried about how I'd cope with a 3 hour class after being ill for weeks- but it was fine.

Best bit- exercises for loosening up shimmys......... worst bit- have had people like Raqia saying do this, dont do this, then going to Liza and being told the opposite is the right way- guess all I can do it take the best of both......... but if I did figure 8's with my legs wide apart the way liza does them in front of Raqia she would kill me, not to mention doing loose big hip drops that follow through into the opposite hip (sore!!)!!!!! Always interesting to see different teachers styles.... and I liked how aware Liza was about what everyone in her class was doing all the time, and very friendly with it (impressive language skills too!!!) ... although practising moves with music on quiet in the background- but trying to not dance to that music was near impossible for me- I can't count 1234 if the music is going 12AND34.... too hard. In all- glad i went.... good initial workshop for a festival for me but go again? not sure.....too many conflicting ways to do each move!

on a different note entirely- went to my first ever thanksgiving dinner this evening. there were about 40 people at this womans house (a lot of them kids) and they all seemed lovely. The turkey was the biggest thing I have ever seen!!! I'm sure they just chopped the legs off an orstrich!!!! And there was american pumkin pie which I had for the first time and a beautiful egyptian style pumkin pie which was to die for!!! Going to bed with a very full , happy tummy!

Nile Group Festival- opening

Well- this week is the Nile Group Festival week at the Movenpick hotel, Haram. Still full of the flu I went along to the opening night on monday night. At the start if the evening, they had a saadi band playing in the entrance hall of the hotel, with tannouras (whirling dervishes) and then 8 girls with shamadan (candelabra) on their heads! The processions made its way- for about an hour in total into the main hall and then we waited for the shows to begin.

Tito was first, with his group. He performs in hotels in Sharm, so he has a group of 4 girls and 4 boys who are backing dancers for him... but they also do various routines including pharonic style ones...... Tito himself performed his amazing stick dance- with 4 sticks!!!! Swinging them round and stopping them just inces away from Mahmoud Reda's face (he was sitting in the audience with Farida Fahmy, Aida Nour, Feres, Nour, Leila, Khaled Mahmoud........... all the other dancers and teachers for the festival in fact!) So- amazing stick dance. Then a bit of floating about......... very nice.... then he came out with a sheesha balanced on his head- smoking it and dancing- fifi abdul style!! VERY good- the crowd went wild and he stood on the table where all the teachers were and that was fun.... lots of attitude and power.... and very strange to see a man squatting down and wiggling his rear end in another mans face............... what can I say!!! He did his famous drum solo- where he dances on a tabla and walks balanced on it across the stage- impressive esp on a carpeted stage! All in all a good show.... although I was a bit disappointed cos so many of the dances, esp his groups dances, were exactly the same as at the Nile Group festival in June this year.

After the Buffet (very good food!!!!) we waited for ages , it felt like....... and at midnight Lucy performed. She performed in all for about an hour and a half. well- to be honest I felt she was in the changing room the majority of the time.......... but excuse me being critical- she did have lots of costume changes........ and if I can get the photos onto the blog later today I will! She did an omm khaltoum number which was well received... and a nubian number with a line up of bongo drums etc in front of her already massive orchestra... a little khaleegy... and finished with the thing I think she is best at- dancing through the audience with a stick to saadi- getting onto tables/chairs- dancing with the audience....... very nicely done. I spoke to people who hadnt seen her dance before and they were impressed- I have seen her a few times before- and I find she either blows me away... or I get bored. In my mind this was not one of her best performances.....

Then ( at 1,30am) there was a singer........... and I am ashamed to say I don't know his name, but I'll try to find out- Ahmed someone- shaabi- very good.... lots of attitude and fun and really danceable music- he got lots of the dancers from the audience up onto stage with him... that was fun to watch.

The the announcement- the final dancer of the night was supposed to be Nour (Russian dancer- very good, married to Yasser- a syrian singer)- but she is 3 months pregnant! Much congratulations to them.

So instead of Nour it was to be Hanadi. I have seem Hanadi perform numerous times and it was already 2.30 am by this point, and I was still feeling ill, so I have to admit- I left and can't tell you what she was like!!!

So that was opening night!!!! The Nile Group Festival is really nice because it is much smaller than Ahlan we sahlan, and also much cheaper to attend the shows and the workshops......... ( I paid $200 for 5 , 3 hr workshops and that includes the opening and closing night shows which have a buffet- you can also attend at least 2 party nights for free in that price too!) however I have to say - the shows at Mena house are generally better value for money, with more dancers in one evening- and I felt this was the case this year here.

More to follow later about workshops attended!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Outside emotions

I was mooching around the flat today- still feeling low and sorry for myself when I heard really loud music and lots of hand clapping going on outside my front window... I stepped onto the balcony, looked down, and there was a large boat, with it's top deck crammed with people all dancing and singing, having the time of their lives. Every colour in the rainbow was represented in their clothing and the sunset was made special for me by seeing them enjoy it all so much.
Even now I can still hear music filtering out of a variety of venues along the Nile, and car horns tooting some happy couple along to their engagement or wedding party.

Cairo always seems so alive. So bursting with all aspects of live. And it just struck me why. You have wonderful celebrations and sad commemerative ones every where in the world, but usually there are large enough 'appropriate' venues for people to go and do these things in private- ie just with their own family and friends... but here, with so many people in one city, there couldn't possible be enough function halls to hold the all the weddings etc etc so everything is outside. The good stuff, and the bad stuff, in your life is shared with so many other people, outside.

So very different from the British, keep yourselves to yourselves, type of lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


5 days of being trapped by the flu. At least my voice has returned now.... shame it didn't bring my energy back with it. Throughout my life I have had the cold, and the flu so often I couldn't say- but it seems wrong having it here in a 'warm' country. I have so many things I could be , and more importantly, should be doing... but I can't even sit at the computer for more than 10 mins at a time without being exhausted. A couple more days and all should hopefully (inshallah) be fine again.
Yesterday both Anna and Sara came round to visit- at the same time. see no one for days then 2 at once- it was like stimuli overdrive! and I was exhausted by the time I got to bed!
onto my 6th book since thursday. wow- just realised - thats a lot of reading!
my 10 mins at the computer are up now.......... hopefully by the time I write again I'll actually have stepped outside my apartment door so I'll have something else about Cairo to tell you all- not just self obsessed moaning!

Friday, November 10, 2006

feeling sorry for myself

I've got flu.

bones sore, voice gone, throat sore, continual coughing.... been awake for maybe 5 of the last 25 hours.... and heading back to bed again after this too! I haven't worked out if I was feeling so cold earlier this week because I was coming down with this- or if this is because I was so cold!

thats it- no pearls of wisdom re Cairo or dance today-just moaning!!! Bah Humbug. had to cancel 2 meetings tonight re jobs too- so that shows you just how rubbish I am really feeling!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

2 men

Here's a photo of the 2 most loved men in my life ........ I am missing them both dreadfully!!!

Shame Khalid has a phone growing out the top of his head........ but mind you... see what Sam has growing out of his!!! The wee devil (I'll leave you to guess which one I mean!!!)


well... bought the blanket last night- what a difference!!! It was hard to get out of bed from the warmth this morning- discovered my flat is actually colder inside than out- that explains why I didn't need my AC throughout august but it isn't any help when thinking about the months to come! Seemingly the temp dropped overnight on sat night by 10deg- so everyone is feeling it- not just me! Good- news - It is only supposed to last for 5 days!

Spent some time in the gym today- that was really good- mega stretching- forgot how much my body loves that!!! Back there tomorrow for more of the same. Of course- I don't need to go all the way to a fully equiped gym to do that- but I can't be distracted by emails and chocolate there so I'll be going back! Was nice- finally at the Gym the guys on reception know my name......... Bellydance has some benefits!

Also- talking about being known- a friend saw a dancer at an event recently and spoke to her manager on my behalf and he already knew my name and my story ie re problems finalising a contract- I still haven't decided if thats a good or a bad thing!!!

You know... you forget in an instant on returning to Edinburgh whats its like to walk down the street here in Cairo.... I don't really understand how I am so obviously 'agnabi'- 'foreign'. To get shouts from car windows.. people praising (or questioning?) God as I walk past............ Hmm. I had a conversation with a friend here last night who was saying that he didn't like the Egyptian film 'The Yacobrian Building' recently released here (which I thought was fantastic and got great reviews) because it makes out that Egyptian men are totally preoccupied with sex, with who ever they can get it........... He obviously doesn't get the same responses walking down the street as I do!!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Maybe it's the tiredness- but I feel COLD!!! officially is is still 21deg in daytime but down to 7 deg at night. And 7 is pretty cold if you are sleeping with only a sheet, no blanket and there is no central heating!!! off to buy a blanket now! How did it drop so much?- I was only in UK for 2 weeks! I am wishing I had brought hot water bottle with me!!! I think I have aclimatised to Cairo by the looks of things!!!
You know- it may be 21 in daytime but you should see everyone here- the thick winter jumpers and puffy jackets are out!!! wooly scarves round necks........ glad to see its not just me feeling it! It'll be interesting to go to the market and see how the tourists are dressed- whether they feel it cold or just us who live through the 40+ temps throughout August!

Arrival in Cairo

you know.... I cried all the way here.......... well nearly all the way ( the air hostess refused me drink at one point- i suspect she thought the tears were drink induced!!!!) ... It has been a really stressful few days (months!!!). Saying goodbye to Khalid and family and friends and knowing that if all goes well out here in Cairo then I won't be home at Christmas is bad enough... but not knowing what it going to happen out here over the next few weeks has got me spinning in my head!

Mind you- I'm here. And two friends, Ahmed and Sherif both came to meet me at the airport- I can't tell you how much that helped. Just to know someone actually gives a damn out here (or maybe it was just the vodka I was bringing????) no, really, it helped me (esp since I don't have to put up with cairo taxi drivers til tomorrow morning now- oh- in 5 hours I mean)

And the Good news- some of you have already commented about the Christmas Parties I usually do at Morocco Walima- well- I may be here in Cairo- but I have 6 wonderful dancers filling in for me back home, so if you fancy a meal, dancing and fun on Sunday 17th Dec, for only £25 (includes a 3 course Moroccan meal and a glass of wine!) then the tickets are now on sale- either directly from Khalid at Morocco Walima, or from Elspeth, Hannah and Moyra in classes.... only 51 places in total available- so get your order in quick!!! ( and I have to plug Christmas day at Morocco Walima, and also hogmony party there too- more on those soon!)

ok- now I am off to bed- it is 4am here......... just arrived, not even opened suitcase yet and the first thing I do is write in my blog... Hmmm guess you guys might be hearing a lot from me over the next few days!!! night night.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Oh- meant to tell you all- I have changed the settings on this blog now so it is really easy to place comments on it- I know some of you tried in the past and found it confusing or hard... so why not have another go.......


wow... Last time I came back to Edinburgh I was actually excited and looking forward to going 'home' to Cairo.
This time I am scared. I want so much to get the whole work situation sorted out- so i can truly live my dream out there and perform... and the last 7 months have been so tough, dealing with the, well, with the people really. Not knowing who to speak to about work, how to speak to them, how much to hassle them and how little to trust them etc etc. That and just getting to speak to the right people in the first place.
Within my last week out there 2 Egyptian men told me, seperately, that I would never perform in Cairo because I looked too honest and good- ie that i was not the sort of girl to do ANYTHING to get the job ( and no , it wasn't a line!) . I can't believe that it does come down to just that, or maybe I am being too naive and wishful. Its a hard business- and i guess there are many aspects to getting to the top......... but if everything were just to go on merit alone, i know my dancing is good enough and that i have what it takes........... so we shall see over the next couple of months how it goes. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Birmingham Workshops

I'm just back from teaching a couple of workshop in Birmingham, UK- and I had such a lovely time. The people were very welcoming and friendly and we had a lot of laughs in the workshop too. It was amazing how much technique we got though in a couple of hours and experimenting with drum solos was entertaining too! A small group of us went out at night to a moroccan restaurant to see a lovely dancer from syria- she was full of life and sparkle with some really solid strong technique too- lovely. I'll look forward to going back there next year!

I was really pleased with this email i got from one of the girls in the class, so i am going to blow my own trumpet and let you see it!

''I attended a workshop with you yesterday (Sun) in B'ham and i just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and took away from it. .... You move so easily & you shimmy like its the most natural thing in the world! i loved your friendly easy going approach to teaching the workshop, and you gave me a lot to think about & work on.Thankyou!''

I really hope I can do more work like this once I have 'served my time' in Cairo (still not sure how long that will take though!!!)- I feel i am learning so much being there and really enjoy passing it on

So... If you are a dancer reading this, from the UK or elsewhere, and are interested in me coming to your area to teach workshops and/or perform then drop me a line! If I am not performing in Cairo at the time- I'll be happy to come and share my love of dance with you too!

Workshop in Edinburgh 5th Nov

well......... I'm back in Edinburgh and enough people have expressed an interest so I am doing a workshop on

Sunday 5th Nov
at Morocco Walima, 3a1 Dundas street, Edinburgh.
11-1pm. £15.

Open level- we'll work on various techniques - and include making drum solos entertaining and fun! If you want to attend my workshop this sunday- please email me asap on and I'll send you a booking form (which I need back by end of the week please!- sorry for the short notice!!!) If there is a large demand I will do another workshop 1.30-3.30 rather than make the class too busy!

If anyone want a private class with me and is available through the day this week- I am booking in slots thoughout thursday and friday- daytime. let me know if interested.

Also- I am performing at Morocco Walima this friday 3rd and saturday 4th Nov. Maybe see you there....... call them on 0131 652 3764 to book a table!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eid Mabrook!

Eid Mabrook!!!!!!!!!!!! (congratulations on Eid- ie festival at end of Ramadan- today!)

'Kolla sena we intum Tayyib' - 'May every year be kind to you'

Today will be a day of eating cake and meeting up with friends- for most people anyway (after the Eid prayer for some- similar in importance to the special church service on christmas day)

I am teaching as usual!!! no stress though- back to Scotland for another flying visit tonight!!!

I will be teaching in Birmingham - Sat 28th and Sun 29th Oct 06

I'm teaching workshops in Edinburgh on Sun 5th Oct 06- details TBC.

I'll be peforming in Morocco Walima, Edinburgh Fri 27th Oct, Fri 3rd Nov and Sat 4th Nov.

see you soon!

making headlines

well- inside story anyway!!!

check it out- I was in the Egyptian news today!!!

don't know how long this link will stay on- so check it out soon if you can!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Well…….. I know it's mainly down to the high pollution levels- but you do get some stunning sunsets here in Cairo. I took these snaps tonight.. in some you can almost see the fumes of the city reaching for the sky… especially now when all the kitchens in Cairo are working to their max- putting together the last minute touches to the main meal of the Ramadan day- Iftar.

You know…. It really is the most isolating lonely experience sitting down to a Christmas dinner alone- but here- Iftar is the time you gather with friends and relatives to eat together after a hard days fasting…. It's like Christmas everyday for a month.

Thanks God for the sunsets………

Dredging the Nile

I'm sure there is a proper name for this type of boat- but until I know it, it's the Dredger- what it pulls out the bottom of the Nile I dread to think….

Did a google search to come up with more dredging info about the Nile for you- this was the best I could manage-

The Egyptians have had a very different relationship with the Nile. For thousands of years, they referred to its annual flooding as the "Gift of the Nile." Each summer, like clockwork, the river would take possession of a strip of land on either side of its banks. When the water receded, a very thin, evenly spread layer of black mud was left behind. Farmers would immediately plant their crops -- never needing fertilizers because the flood soil was so rich.This narrow strip along the Nile, together with the delta at the river's northern mouth, is the only farm land Egypt has. Though it totals only three percent of the county's land, it has provided ample food for thousands of years. But recently, a population boom has forced Egyptians to increase their agricultural output. In 1970, they completed the Aswan High Dam, which stretches across the Nile 600 miles south of Cairo. The dam has effectively stopped the river's annual floods by trapping its waters in a reservoir that is slowly released during the dry season.Now farmers along the Nile plant crops year round. In fact, the area has become one of the most intensely cultivated pieces of land in the world. Because the Aswan Dam traps 98% of the river's rich sediments and prevents them from flowing downstream, farmers along the Nile must now use large amounts of artificial fertilizer. Another negative side-effect of the dam is that the Nile delta is no longer being built up by the river sediments. As a result, this important agricultural area is now struggling with erosion and dangerously high levels of soil salinity. Quote from

Aactually- if you are really interested in this subject- here's another website 'lecture'!!

So- I guess this wee dredger is just collecting the debris to make this vast river look prettier? Don't you love how excited the man at the front of the boat looks with his job? OK- shouldn't make fun- must be hard being out all day in the sun especially through Ramadan....

And what has all of this got to do with bellydancing??? hmm- well, nubian dance is inspired by the rocking of a felucca on the water, many moves are inspired by fluidity (eg the Maya!) and since the Nile has had central important throughout Egyptian history as a life source- what better expression of that life than dance?!!!


Photo taken from my balcony- Orange eat your heart out!!!

Middle Eastern geography

you know.......... I realised in conversation tonight, that my knowledge of the middle east and all the countries that make it up, is really pretty shody........... this website however is great fun- why not try it out- match the countries names to their locations on the map!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Giant cockroach

Not a real one thankfully... but this was just the moment I wished I'd had my camera on me.... I saw yesterday a van, for exterminators... but designed as a giant cockroach- really- molded metal work all round, a bit like an armadillo- you couldn't even see what model the van had been originally- it was orangey brown shades of paintwork and the wing mirrors were stuck on the end of long antenna which grew out the front of the windshield.... it looked more like a float for the Edinburgh festival cavalcade than a work vehicle!!! Bizarre.

And the other thing I noticed last night, was the poster for the missing man is no longer there. Has he been found? Did the poster fly off in the wind? Is there some other reason- maybe he took it down himself because he doesn't want to be found? I guess I'll never know.....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Scottish Music

I'm so glad to be here in Cairo and learning about my own culture- because everything that seems new here in Egypt reminds me of how we do things differently at home in Scotland.

Even to the point of being in a Scottish wedding in St Andrews during my recent visit home, and seeing people up ceilidh dancing, which has never been my favourite thing. The energy and enthusiasm, not to mention the levels of skill, all reminded me of everyone up dancing at an Egyptian wedding- the style is different, and the music… but the enthusiasm is exactly the same. Its all about the socialising aspect of the dance and the fun of it. Not about the technique or the look of it all. Seeing it all from that Egyptian perspective, as it were, gave me a much greater appreciation of my own Scottish heritage…the dance and the music, to the point where I even listened to Scottish folk music on the radio one night while I was driving home to Edinburgh, rather than switching it off as I would have done normally. I even enjoyed it!

I guess you don't appreciate your own country, and what you have there, until you leave it!

Egyptian Funerals

Thankfully I haven't had to attend any of these yet…. But I have seen a few. Large tents are erected in public places- often next to a mosque and posters put up about who has died so you know where to attend. When I first arrived I found it difficult to tell the difference between these and the tents often erected for weddings and other festivities! All the men gather in this tent. In Rural Egypt this lasts for 3 days- but in Cairo only for 1. The next of kin sitting by the entrance way to receive the condolences as men arrive. Very little conversation goes on- although that will vary on the social class of the person who has died- it is more respectful to stay totally silent. The whole time the Sheik will read from the Koran and lead prayers….. And that’s it, no talking about the person who has died, or specific mention of him. After the body is washed and wrapped in a white cloth (you are supposed to exit the world exactly as you arrive in it) the men would carry the coffin to the cemetery. The body however is buried directly into the ground, without a coffin. The women would stay behind at home so as to not make a public show of the mourning.

As for the women- sometimes there will be a separate area in the tent for them, but usually they all pile round to the wife/ mother/ daughter of the deceased and make a lot of noise. If the house is not big enough they will all sit on the ground in front of the house (more in rural areas again!) They talk about the person who has died and cry and sometimes (depending on the family again) wail. Often they will sway and repeat over and over the name of the dead person, or 'I lost my brother' or whatever- making it sound more like some sort of tormented poetry (Khalids phrase, not mine). No Wake with drinks and sandwiches and chatting about the dead person. However, women will come round to the grieving woman's house with food and to help with childcare, cleaning etc. Then 15 days after the death often there will be another gathering especially of the women, and often the poor people in the area will be fed. This happens again after 40 days and the men and women all gather and feed everyone (again the men and women are separate) After the 40 days are up however, the dead is dead and you are supposed to move on with your own life... this is part of the reason why graves are supposed to be unmarked. Sometimes however, the family will return to the grave and leave food there for the poor in the area. One reason why it is 40 days is because by then, if it is a womans husband who has died... she by that time knows if she is pregnant or not- so that she doesn't remarry carrying another man's child. 40 days is also the length of time it rained through the great flood with Noah and his ark- Noah in arabic is the name of a person who wails or cries continually.

Most of the rituals of death are shortened and restricted in Cairo compared to outside of Cairo- partially due to the space issues, i.e. tents on every street for 3 days would hinder the traffic even more than normal, plus peoples houses tend to be bigger so the men and women can both fit inside rather than out. Also I am guessing that like any city, although the community spirit is stronger here than many cities in the world, there must also be a higher degree of individuality so not EVERYONE who knew that people would necessarily attend the funeral. Seemingly the people who live outside Cairo think that the people in Cairo have no soul- imagine only spending one day praying for your dead relative instead of 3- so disrespectful!

Who knows- I am still learning about all of this………. there are so many things you take totally for granted in your own culture , right down even to the correct procedure to mourn for someone who dies. It really makes you think about why we do the things we do, and why it may be different in a different country…. Why in Islam it is essential that a body be buried within 24 hrs after death? Well- it makes sense in a hot country doesn't it…. Etc. Not to mention all the differences within a culture- i.e. Cairo habits compared to those in Luxor etc… In Egyptian Black is the colour of mourning, but in Morocco it is white.

Seemingly the ritual is just the same if it is a child who dies. I can't imagine being in that situation where your child dies and then for the next 3 days you don't see your husband because he is sitting in a tent with all the other men. It shows just how huge the difference is between a community based society and our own individual based one in Scotland, where people would pay their respects, then leave the couple alone together to find solace in each other. Something which sometimes couples don't actually master. Perhaps there are strengths in this community based ritual...?

Oh and of course- the above tends to relate to Islamic finerals... but of course then there are the christian ones- which I'll need to ask around about before I can write about!

Why all morbid and talking about funerals? I don't know- maybe that missing man got me thinking…….