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!