Monday, January 29, 2007

Wust el Balad

Wust el Balad is the arabic way of saying 'downtown' and literally translates to 'waist of the country' (or city). It is also the name of the most popular 'pop' group here in Cairo today with thousands of people attending their concerts.

I went to see them play on Saturday night I went long to the Sawy Centre ( also known as the cultural wheel) which i just along the road from me and is a concert hall built under the bridge... so right by the banks of the Nile with the roof- the underneath of the bridge. It is a fabulous place and has all sorts of painting and photographic exhibitions and well and any local bands and musicians and poets who perform there. From Rock to Religious music from Jazz to African. All sorts of things.

Wust el Balad were fantastic- as was the atmosphere...... they have a very eclectic style and move between jazz and baladi, rock and funk, classical and traditional. It IS Cairo. A pure melting pot of many different influences! even if you don't watch the stage the audience is entertaining enough........... young people from all walks of life (well- the ones who can afford the 25le entrance fee anyway) singing along and dancing and shouting out the names of their favourite songs hoping the band will play them (which of course they do!) I have to say that with it all combined- I had tears in my eyes at some of the really sad songs (and thats without knowing all the lyrics!!) Next I would have a big smile on my face jumping up and down -dancing to the music - from one song to the next! The best night out you can have for 25le (just over £2!!!) and I recommend it fully to anyone who loves anytype of music- there really is something for everyone! One of the singers, Hany, (there are 3 male singers- all with very diferent styles of voices) even uses the computer and plays with his voice live on stage and does all sort of beat box stuff- great!

They have a huge following and what is most surprising is that they have never yet released an album that wasn't recorded live- although they were telling us that the studio recording is on the way.... I'll be buying that one for sure! They became big from giving their tracks away on the internet... I hope the get the rewards they deserve (and a good cut of the ticket sales!!!!!!!!!!) You can read more about them on their website


Friday, January 26, 2007

Burns Night

Do you know... in all my years in Scotland, I don't recall ever attending a Burns night supper. Yet last night- along with 60 other people I was in a friends house- eating haggis and listening to the words of the bard himself. It was bizzarre looking out over the Cairo night yet hearing scots and seeing men in kilts. OK so there was only one in a kilt- but never mind- you get the jist! Min you- the Scots let the side down somewhat with everyone going home really early- it ws only a few of us hardcore scots who coud even begin to keep up with the egyptians!!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Rhanda

well - how lucky am I? seeing Rhanda perform twice within 2 weeks! I went with Sara and Princess to the Maxim last night to see her strutt her stuff- and she did. Her performance was much stronger and more fun than last time- and it was really nice seeing her having a laugh with the audience and her musicians while she was on stage in a way that didn't distract from her strong stage presence at all. She did one move- really fast big hip circle to one side then low down and up fast o the other- that was so fast i couldn't work out how she did it- I think I said 'wow' out loud!! Her one hip shimmy (always on the R hip) was incredable powerful and at one point she did drops and shimmys on r hip- with R leg raised througout. I've never known anyone with such strong legs!!!

I had to laugh though- because , before Rhanda danced- the singer got me up to dance a little and the crowd seemed to be impresed- although I was for some reason really nervous..... but after a man from tunisia came up to proudly show me the camcorder film of me dancing- and you didn't see my face once in shot, not once- I wasn't sure if i should be glad of that or not really! I did laugh; what else could i do!!

After the cruise, we went into the bar next door to watch a band there for a while (covers- with a singer who worked in Lebanon for a while, seemingly). They were ok, and sara and i had a wee boogie which was fun. Rhanda popped in to say hi, and I saw the back of Asmahan as she left the room- but unfortuantly didn't get change to say hi. Sounds like a who's who of bellydance doesn't it!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I miss central heating!!!!!!!

in fact the only reason I am posting these 2 photos is so you can see how I dress myself to sit at the computer- INSIDE my flat!!! The fingerless gloves were a pressie from Khalid- sexy or what eh?!!!

A Different kind of Childcare altogether….

I thought some of you might like to hear about this and maybe even add your support to it.

One of the group who came from Scotland last week to see me had been sponsoring a child though 'Plan International' for years, here in Egypt. While she was here she went to visit the community that had been set up- visited the school, met the doctors etc etc and had a lovely time with the family and child she had been funding.

Often when you send money abroad to a charity there is a fear that the money isn't being used as you would wish… well Catherine found out, much to her delight, that it was all better than she expected! Plan focus on helping the community help themselves… and provide education, health care and special assistance for those with disabilities.

Those of you who met 'the family' in the city of the dead on previous trips to Egypt with me will be able to imagine exactly what this kind of aid is trying to achieve, and eliminate.

Have a look at their website- maybe you can make a difference in a childs life here in Egypt too.


Just an observation. Labour is so cheap here... that most families who can afford to have someone (usually live in nanny) to help raise the children.

I find this bizarre. I can understand why someone would want help, of course- I am not suggesting otherwise... but I was out for a meal on friday night and a couple were there having a meal too- with their Philippine maid/nanny, who was rocking the child to sleep. She gave the parents a 'shot of the baby' then took him/her away again.... she even sat at a different table to eat her meal, with the babe in arms. Now i know that this girl probably has it good- she's getting to eat out in nice restaurants for a start....and its a fairly safe and secure job..... but It just felt very strange to watch.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


well- I have been in my flat for almost 10 months now here in Cairo- and today i switched on the television for the first time!!!!!!!!!!

It's got satelite- so I spent about 5 hours just checking out all the channels to see what there was (nearly 800- although a lot of them you have to pay more to view!)... and take a note of all the Egyptian ones- the plan being that if i have the TV on while i am in the flat then I am hearing more arabic than usual... so hopefully I'll get better at understanding what folk are saying to me!

What a bizarre mix.... CNN then some italian fashion, Music, then sex channels, then someone standing reciting the Koran, then a whole channel dedicated to sailing?, then all the God channels- of various religions, then oh- just so many things............ weird.

But the contrast from one channel to the other- as varied as it is- is not quite as strange as Egyptian Soap operas.................. I watched about 5 tonight (or as much as i could handle out of 5 anyway!). Wow- the acting is so melodramatic its entertaining in its own right (for all the wrong reasons). The make up is scary.... and the plots- bearing in mind I can't understand 98% of what is being said.... don't take a lot of guessing- but do tell you an awful lot about the culture. There is always an overbearing father who wants the son/daughter to behave in a respectable manner and marry the person they deem suitable.... and there is also some sort of financial corruption somewhere along the line, and lots and lots of angry shouting and manipulaing women! etc etc............ not sure how much of all this I'll handle....... but we'll see!!! Its an education even if my arabic doesn't improve from it!!!!!! Oh and ALL these channels have a thing along the bottom of the screen where people text in their messages to each other so there is a constant stream of usually arabic along the base of the scrren. I'll know my reading of arabic is up to scratch when i can keep up with the speed of those (not that I would necceserily be interested in the content and since I only know my arabic alphabet at this moment in time, there is a long way to go!!!!!!)

I also started private arabic classes with a new tutor who was recommended to me- he's very good (and affordable) so while I am not doing as much dancing as I'd like to, I'm going to make a concentrated effort to really improve my arabic! Inshallah!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Nancy was dancing at the Marriot hotel nightclub. A wonderful venue for dancers- huge stage with audience all around and lighting etc. Last dancer I saw there was Rhanda and I thought she was fantastic there. Nancy is very beautiful. Very sexy. Tiny costumes.

She as quite a variety of moves too, but for me there was something missing. Maybe it was to do with tottering around on such high heels. Maybe because you end up watching the costume more than the dance.
I couldn't fault her for anything at all- and in particular she had a lovely audience rapport and got Natalie and I up to dance and handled it very well. I felt she was a nice person. But I can't tell you anything specific about her dancing. I need to go back without the group there to watch more closely I think! It didn't help matter that she came on over an hour later than we had expected… so I was not at my most wakefulness whilst watching! I liked her when she performed at the Ahlan we Sahlan festival… and I'd be happy to go back to see her again….


Rhanda was dancing on the Nile Maxim when we went to see her last week. It was very busy… and the layout now there is that the dance floor is in the middle of the boat rather than at one end as it used to be. Rhanda is my personal favourite among the dancers here in Egypt and she is one of the very few where I would prefer to sit and watch than dance myself- so thats saying something!

The first time I ever saw Rhanda dance- about 7 years ago… was on the Maxim and I loved her then. Now however- after seeing her dance in many other venues I realise that that just isn't the right space for her. She needs a proper stage and lighting…. To be dancing right next to tables just isn't the right setting to show off her talents. (In my opinion!)
My group loved her- and as always was amazed by her costumes and in particular how she manages to stay in them!!!! I have waxed lyrical about Rhanda dance before…. And all of that remains true now. She is still stunning. She still has amazing balance and power and stage presence. I would just like to see her in a venue that didn't seem too small for her. Not that the Maxim is a bad venue- quite the opposite… in fact I would love to dance there myself! However…. Rhanda is better on stage than too close- maybe she is just too powerful to be right next to!!!
Photo Credit: Michele Dillon


Doaa (hope I have spelt that correctly!) danced in the Nile Pharon. Very pretty, very elegant little dancer. I don’t know if she actually was little but I remember her that way- cute almost. Not powerful or striking with her moves or attitude (apart from when the waiter kept walking across her stage- and anyone can understand why she would rightly be upset about that!!!) A very pleasant dancer with beautiful costumes. There were 2 wedding parties in the night we were there and she handled them both very well. She also got our group up to dance and put Hamdi in the middle- much to his delight!!!


Hemis danced as usual at the Windows of the World restaurant at the top floor of the Ramsis Hilton. She does a very good line in entertaining her audience and got the girls up dancing a lot which was fun for everyone! She also has 2 male backing dancers- and one of them was fantastic with a stick! Very impressive. Very smiley, very accommodating dancer although doesn't use a huge variety of moves… lovely spins and much better rapport with her drummer than I have seen in the past. I have to admit I didn't get to see most of the first half of her show- otherwise I'd give you a more detailed account!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The weeks schedule...

ok- so the running order of waht we did when last week has kinda got a bit mixed up as I put on photos as and when they came to me! so here is the itinery for our holiday last week....... just in case anyone out there fancies coming on one of my holidays in the future!

Sat night/sun morning- arrive at Hotel el Hussain at 4am- choose to go for cuppa til 5am as too excited!!!

Sun- Citadel, Mosques of Sultan Hassan and Rafai, lunch, wander through old Islamic Cairo- past Blue Mosque to tentmakers alley for a little shopping. Cairo Sheraton at night to see Suzie dance.

Mon- arabic lesson/ cultural exchange with Hoda in hotel. Egyptian Pancakes. Yassers and Mahmouds costumes shops. Party with lots of dancer and friends with live music at my flat!

Tues- Dance lesson with me (lorna) in Studio in the sky in Maadi. lunch, wander through Maadi. Metro ride downtown. More costume shopping in the Khan. Meal in Naguib Mahfouz restaurant in the Khan. Earlish night

Wed- Camel ride in desert,Pyramids at Giza, Saccara, lunch and Memphis. Sound and light show at Giza. Zar.

Thurs- Dance lesson in hotel with Sara, Museam with Hoda, Nile Maxim to see Rhanda. Ramsis Hilton to see Hemis.

Fri- watch the morning prayers from balcony. Coptic Cairo (churches of st. Sergius and st. Barbara, ben ezra synagogue, coptic museam, hanging church) back to the Khan and Kushery. Nile Pharon to see Doaa, Marriot hotel nightclub to see Nancy.

Sat- Shop..... Al Azhar park for some. shop.... some shopping... meal at Naguib Mahfouz. Head to airport!

ok girls- I am bound to have missed out something..... let me know!!!! Now all I still have to write up about is the dancing we saw. Lots of photos to come with that too....... but have spent too many hours in front of this computer already today... so you'll have to wait for them!!!

A Night at the Museam....

ok- so things didn't literally come alive as they do in the film.... but our guide, Hoda (same woman who had given us a language and cultural exchange on monday and far right in the photo!) certainly made the Egyptian Museam come alive with explainations and stories about some of the exhibits.
Photo Credit: Norma Bain- although obviously she didn't actually take the photo herself since thats her in the centre of the group in the orange scarf!!!

Zar photos

More photos from the Zar......... the night we went there were quite a few Sudanese women in the crowd and the hand clapping, shoulder shaking and ulilations around added to the excitement of the night! Esp when this guy started shaking his belt made from goats hooves!!!!
Photo Credit: Norma Bain

Cairo Scenes

Peek-a-boo!!!! You know- sometimes when you are in Cairo and being watched all the time- by everyone, it becomes very oppresive.... but this childs innocent curiosity was just charming!

Bab Zuweila- one of the gates of the old city walls.... if you walk accross the green bridge from khan el Khalili and straight through the egyptian side of the market you'll come to this gate and on the other side there is the tentmakers alley- where a couple of the group had very lovely things made for them!

Now we all want to see what photo Sarah and Mags were looking at there don't we!!!!!!!!!!

Photo Credit:Norma Bain

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Lost in music- Sara; my mentor and good friend. (photo by Michele.)

And here's a photo taken by Norma of Sara's husband, Sherif- also 'lost in the music' at my party last week (it is Sara on the other end of that stick in case you were wondering!!!)

Cairo life

Learning rhythm from an early age!

Cauliflowers as big as........ well, huge anyway!

Street life- warming your feet by the fire in front of the telly.


photo credit: Michele Dillon

Zar revisited

After a long day at the pyramids, Saccara, Memphis and the sound and light show- what better evening event to unwind but the Zar performance at the Makan centre. Amazing vibe- fabulous voices and charisma. Many of us end up with tears in our eyes; overwhelmed by the whole day and the hypnotic music.

photo credit: Michele Dillon

Me- Day and Night!

Daytime- me relaxing with friends in the Mosque of Sultan Hassan. One of the most beautiful spaces to be in Cairo.

Nightime- me enjoying the music and lighting on the dancefloor at the Marriot hotel nightclub!

photo credit: Michele Dillon

Mohammed Ali

The mosque of Mohammed Ali in the Citadel.

photo credit: Michele Dillon

lunch time dancing

Hamdi did a good job finding the girls a place to eat and dance at lunchtime- in between looking at very old bits of stone!!!

Rosita giving it her all...

Louise and Annie entertaining the musicians!

Sarah- lost in music!

photo credit: Michele Dillon

A day at the pyramids.............

The group on Camels and infront of the pyramids... at the beginning of the day!

Fun at Saccara

Sarah- the desert queen

Its a hard job............ making sure the pyramids don't run away!

photo credit: Michele Dillon

And here's a lovely one of mags- taken by Norma at Saccara - looking to see if she can see the Giza pyramids from there!!!

Monday, January 15, 2007


My group from Scotland are all safely home and recovering from their non stop week......... we did so much... but I'll write some of that up soon- once I too have recovered from the week!!!! Today however the door bell rang and the girls had sent me this lovely bunch of flowers as a thank you for organising the holiday. I thought they and you might like to see the flowers- esp since its not often you get papyrus in your bouquet!! Thanks again girls!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Studio in the sky

It is wonderful having 2 professional photographers on this group! This is another of Norma Bain's shots- the studio liked the pic so much they bought it and are using it for their flyers!!!
This is one of the places I teach twice a week.It's in Maadi- although this is my group with me in the pic rather than Cairiens!!!

Arabic, Costumes and Party!

Monday was a day of many things…. I had a lovely girl- Hoda, come in to teach the group some basic Arabic for using in the street and shops…. Nothing I couldn't have done with them.. but its been my experience that it is really hard to meet and get to talk with Egyptian women- its all men in the hotels and shops and touristic places…. So this was the groups chance to ask questions they don't often get a chance to ask. So the Arabic lasted an hour- but the cultural exchange was another 2 on top of that!!! Very interesting. One question which had a few comments from it was, as a tour guide, what questions do her Egyptian relatives/friends ask about foreign women? Some of the things were a surprise- but others weren't!! It was also very interesting that before she had taught them yes or no, how are you, or many basic requirements- they knew how to say they were married and whether they had children or not! Different priorities!

After an Egyptian pancake (fateer) , we hit the costume shops…. Much fun was had by all (as you could see from the photos from the previous blog!!!) I had to leave early to go and teach a class so I didn't get to see all the purchases- but I am sure we will have a fashion parade at some point through the week!

The party was the best party I have ever thrown. I was very lucky that Romaya was able to cook for us… and Olivia did lots of shopping while I was out with the group, but what made it a pleasure was the guests- a real mix of interesting and social people. My group of course, my teacher, Sara, whose birthday it was and a couple other dancers- Yasmina and Caroline, some friends from salsa and from Arabic class too. Everyone just introduced themselves and got on with it. I didn't have to work hard as a hostess at all. Apart from organizing the musicians to come… who came eventually at 11.30- until 1.30am Great fun- everyone was up dancing…. Including the men. Sara and I danced together which was one of the main highlights of the night, for me anyway! That and my Salsa with Wael, and Saaidi with Waleed. It was good to see the whole group up and going for it, and to live music too- great! It was all good in fact. Got to bed at 5am (from 8pm) that’s a long, but very enjoyable night!!!!

Tuesday- Shattered!!!!!!!!!!!! What a shocker eh?!!!! The whole group came with me to Maadi and we had a couple of hours dance class in the beautiful studio I teach at there, and after a light lunch in Cilantros (the full ex-pat experience!!!) a wander down to the metro. It's always a nice experience for the group to travel in the women's only carriage. So we get back early- to have a rest before going out… but then the 3, nearly 4 hours of costume shopping started! Yasser and Mahmoud are 2 very happy men after all these girls are buying!!! Since they have an early start to their pyramids day, we spent a quiet evening having a lovely meal in the Nagib Mahfouz restaurant in Khan el Khalili. Was relieved to see they were all as shattered as me by this time. We'll just have to go see a dancer another night.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Beautiful Women

some costume shopping- well- some trying on anyway!!!

Margaret- looking like a star!

Sarah and Annie- 'oh- this old thing? I've had it at the back of the wardrobe for ages....'

Louise and Rosita- 'well........... hello!'

Thanks as usual to one of our resident photographers- Norma!

The party....

some photos (again by Norma- which Say it all......So no need for the story!!!)

The Birthday girl (Sara!) .... SO surprised at receiving a birthday cake!!!

Lorna with Hasan.. Charles looking on...

Zain and Aly-our musicians for the evening...

Saaidi.......... Lorna with Waleed (Shams!)

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Group arrived!

What a photo eh? headscarves, bellydance costumes and al Azhar mosque... all in one!

I'm just in from a very different but also wonderful night. My group from Scotland arrived last night- 10 girls…all interested in Bellydance (mainly dance students of mine from around Edinburgh) and out for a week of seeing the sights, and dancing and shopping madness. And what a lively fun bunch they are. Even though they didn't get through passport control, and baggage reclaim and all the hotel checking in business etc until 4am- they all still wanted to go out for a coffee!!!! Thankfully, they are staying in the El Hussain- then that was possible- and we popped down to El Fishawy for a sheesha, cuppa, and chat until 5am!!!

Never one to let anyone rest- breakfast at 9.30- with all the exchanging money etc etc…. then taxi's off up to the citadel.
( photo- from right to left- since we are doing it the arabic way... Sarah, Lorna, Michelle, Norma, Annie, Louise, Catherine, Margaret, Rosita, Sara, Olivia and Natalie)

It was a clear day so there was a lovely view of the pyramids. Then- walking round to the coffee shop for lunch- it started to rain…(Yes- rain!!!!!!!! Not much- just spotting really- but still- their first day in cairo and it rains!!!!) so we postponed lunch til after 2 more mosques- where we had a really good guide who had a lovely singing voice too!! By the time we'd had a rest and tasted the foul (pronounced 'fool' and far tastier than they sound!) and taamia sandwiches… the sun was low and bright in the sky and we had a wonderful wander down through Islamic Cairo- past the blue mosque and started on some shopping!!! The green robes in the citadel- for those 'naughty' 'indecent' women!!!

Found a lovely wee shop where you give your name- this guy, Ashraf writes it in Arabic then designs a fantastic piece of artwork out of it- a bird and fish… whatever. Very talented. We walked back to the khan after buying some scarves…. Seeing how the fez is made and being amazed at everything- even though almost al the shops were shut because it was Coptic Christmas day!!!!

The evenings entertainment as the Aladin restaurant in the Cairo Sheraton hotel…. To see an Egyptian dancer, I believe her name is Suzie. She had a very engaging smile, beautiful tight shimmys, and was very eager to please us (esp. Catherine!!) and the other table who were in (a large Christian family with lots of children who were up dancing most of the time- in to celebrate Christmas day!). She wasn't a bad dancer at all- needed (I felt) more strength in her balance, and arms ( but the balance may have been efected by the high heels she was dancing in!!!!). With training- she could be very entertaining. As she was; a pleasent evening's accompianment to a lovely mezze! Not a striking or powerful dancer- but seemed like she was a fun and nice person. It must be really hard to dance in that space... without PA for the band (who were very good when they wanted to be... but occasionally lacked enthusiasm when playing for her which was a great shame fo her) and for such a small audience.

We all had a dance… it felt so good to be dancing to live music again- it's been a wee while and I forgot what a buzz I got from it- talk about adrenaline rush- wonderful. Really glad they are here…. A teacher can never have a better audience than their own students. 'The encouragement' they gave me when I danced, which was hugely appreciated I have to say, was more like Hysteria!!! Thank god it was while the dancer was doing her costume change!
So good to share an evening with these girls and looking forward to the party we have planned for tomorrow night!

And that............... plus whatever adventures they had on the way home in taxi's which I'll hear about tomorrow no doubt- was their first day in Cairo. After only 4 hours sleep the night before, all that activity and senses overload- Walking zombies doesn’t quite cover it- more like stumbling!!!

Photos by Norma!

Merry Coptic Christmas to everyone!