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! bellylorna@hotmail.com

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 bellylorna@hotmail.com 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 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/flood/deluge.html

Aactually- if you are really interested in this subject- here's another website 'lecture'!! http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/dees/U4735/lectures/06.html

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…….

Saturday, October 14, 2006

That man...

Well, since I know all of you will have been holding your breathe for this- I now know what the A4 poster outside the iftar tent was all about. It could have been a license for the tent. It could have been the person who had donated the tent/food ( although that would have gone against the teachings of the Koran since when giving to charity the left hand is not supposed to know what the right hand is doing). It could have been the family of someone who had died donating food in his honour. However, it was a missing person... not seen in over a week and people obvioulsy getting worried about him (either that or it was the authorities after him and posing as the worried family!!!) anyway- I know you'll be so relieved to know what it was all about.

The friend who read the poster for me (since my arabic script reading has not improved any!) also then told me a story about a British man, out drinking with his friends in Cairo.... gets completely drunk, walks home , along the autostrad (motorway) on his own and doesn't turn up for the following night of drinking. They don't start to worry until he doesn't show for work 3 days later and which point they call round all the hospitals , morgues etc etc no trace. After searching non stop for a week, they recheck a morgue they had asked on the first day and sure enough- there he was, and had been the whole time (don't you love Egyptian efficiency!). Since he had no ID on him at the time of the accident- whatever happen- likely he stumbled out infront of some truck, no-one knew who he was. Just as well his friend took such an interest!

moral of the story- don't walk drunk along the motorway, and if you do- make sure you have some ID on you and most importantly make sure you have friends in your life who would care enough to notice if you disappeared!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bellydance classes in Cairo

In case anyone reading this is in Cairo and wants to attend classes I am currently teaching- heres the details- some of the times have changed due to Ramadan.

Maadi - Studio in the sky. rd215, Digla. Drop in class. Tel- 010 1500 902
Tues 11am and Sun 5.30pm

Dokki Giza- Golds Gym (must be member of Golds) Tel- 748 0003
Thurs 1.30pm and Mon 3.30pm.

of course...... I'm available for private classes too if you can't make the times and places above..........!

Back in Cairo...

I've not been back 24hrs yet….. It feels like I never left! I forgot how hot it is here. Just existing, never mind achieving anything is an accomplishment in these temperatures! I felt proud of myself because I managed to get to the exchange place and also to the supermarket- wow- small goals!!! Mind you- have spent the whole evening cooking- chopping vegetables while you are sitting on a balcony watching the sunset just doesn't seem like a chore!!! Hopefully a couple of days resting after my manic home visit last week will shift this cold- Cairo colds are officially worse than Scottish ones- this is 2 and half weeks now of sniffles and aches- bah humbug!

2 out of the 3 local money exchange offices were shut- wonder if this is a Ramadan effect or not…… oh and just along the street from me a whole huge section of the pavement has been sectioned off with tenting style material….. There are pictures of a mosque all along it, and just at the entrance there is a photo of a man's face on an A4 poster. They were obviously setting up to serve Iftar, with big industrial sized pans at the ready and tables all laid . On the area of grass just beside it a small gathering of men were all sitting trying to look like they weren't waiting for the food to start…………… Who the man in the picture is, I don't know, its reminds me of the funeral tents where people go to sit and remember and pray for the person who has just died… but perhaps that was the man who had sponsored that particular tent or food for that day. I don't know- but I'll ask around!!!

As for the traffic……. It did seem to get distinctly busier in the hours approaching sunset, and 10 minutes after the sun had set there wasn't a single car on the street outside my house! Walking home just as the sun was getting low in the sky I could see deliveries being made, of canteens of food, to all the policemen sitting on watch outside the embassies/banks etc. They were organizing them, sharing them out and guarding them as if they were little pots of gold.

I want to dance…….. I'm desperate to dance. Maybe because I want what I can't have- i.e. 'no performing in Ramadan'- so that’s exactly what I want to do! I can't remember ever dancing around my flat quite as much as I have done this evening. However, nothing gives me that excitement and satisfaction that I get from performance adrenaline. 2 weeks of dancing 4 nights per week at Morocco Walima has increased the levels of adrenaline in my body and I have withdrawal symptoms already!

Off to boogie about some more…………………!

Monday, October 02, 2006


Oops- well- I have done it half a dozen times now- whilst talking with Khalid, my parents and my sister I have on numerous occasions called Cairo 'home'. It didn't go down well. I guess it's because i know i am only here for 2 weeks (only one left now too!) so this is the holiday and that is the getting on with it place.

It really is wonderful seeing everyone here again. Baby Sam is a delight, growing up very fast and clapping his hands together for the first time yesterday in front of the whole family at Alisons surprise birthday party. I'm not sure whether i prefered seeing him do that- or watching my sisters face as she proudly watched him!

I miss the space of my apartment in Cairo, there just seems to be so much stuff here in my flat- but then i don't miss the waking up alone, thats not so good. I miss the sunshine, and the music- and sitting on my balcony listening to the sounds of Cairo. Was getting used to the call to prayer timing my day.

Dancing in Edinburgh is wonderful when so many of my friends and students come along to see me. Thats lovely. However i really miss the build up in excitment levels in the audience in Egypt when you go from either the 'baladi' or 'melody' section in the music into the saaidi section- where everyone knows whats coming up in the music, as well as you do, and they are already either up on their feet or clapping - and all you have to do is keep the hip drop heavy and in time to the beat for them to be 100% on your side. I miss that. But I love chatting with my audience in Edinburgh the way i am not yet free to chat , due to my limited arabic, in Cairo.

So - halfway through my visit home from 'home'........... strange to feel such a strong bond with a city, especially when you know no matter what you do, you could live there your whole life and never really fit in. However there is something in the air there ( or maybe the lack of something- oxygen!) that makes me feel so alive. I'll be going back for more next week!!! All this fresh air here in sunny/rainy/warm/cold (all at the same moment) Scotland is going to my head!