Wednesday, February 28, 2007

going back for more...

Well- I have booked the flight....... I am heading back to cairo AGAIN tomorrow morning!

This time I'll be there til end June (when I am coming back to perform and teach in the Raqs Britainnia festival in Blackpool) and then back to Cairo until probably October!

Rushing around packing now- so if i didn't get a chance to see you this trip apologies.......... you'll just have to plan a visit to Cairo before Oct!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sam's Birthday

It's Sam's 1st birthday today...........

Glad i am still in Edinburgh just now for it! Can't believe it was a whole year since i saw him come into the world....
oh, and for the record- since I have had a few people make this mistake after reading my blog- Sam is not my Son- he's my nephew, and a beautiful one at that! (as if i could have a baby and head off to Egypt to dance within a matter of months?!!!)

Oh- and since I am setting things straight here- Khalid (my partner) is from Morocco and lives in Scotland (not some guy I have met in Egypt!!!!)

There- all settled now!

What else- oh yes- I got the phone call I was waiting for and am heading back to Cairo this week! (Booking the flight right now in fact!!!) Watch this blog for breaking news of my work in Cairo! Been wating for this moment for 11 months- and now it is here I am almost nervous, or maybe thats just excitment tinged with the sadness of having to head back away from my family and friends here in Edinburgh....

Was great to get a chance to catch up with so many of you and I have really enjoyed the private classes especially..... Apologies to those of you at home I didn't get a chance to meet up with on this trip- hope to see you in October instead!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bellydance banquet

Wow - what a night last night!
We had a night of food and dance in Edinburgh last night and it was a huge success. The place was full and the atmosphere (esp considering the dreadful lighting) was fantastic.

I was very lucky to have Elspeth doing the MCing for the evening- she is such a good public speaker and considering I was awful and didn't get the script to her before noon the same day- ie 7 hours before the start of the night! she really impressed me along with the rest of the crowd. The script was all about the history of the dance- how different cultures and dance styles throughout history have influenced what we have today as bellydance. I learned a lot about the dance while i was researching it all, i tell you!

The Daughters of Isis opened the show and warmed up the crowd for us- thanks girls! The bedouin dance- in their words, confuses peolpe to start with.... but they soon warm to it! and as elspeth noted after- the egyptians walks had conviction of an ilk you seldom see! I did a stick dance and baladi- not the ideal way to make your entrance - should have been some big stage filler really- but i wanted the evening to make sense with regards the history of the dance- ie some folk dance- then some modern- but folk inspired dance. in general that plot went to plan and people appreciated it.

Saliha did a powerful Flamenco dance for us- such grace and presence. Then I did my bellydance with strong arms - inspired by Tahire Carioca thing. Was really a bit anxious about dance and perhaps doing what looked like a poor imitation of Saliha's beautiful dance... but all the feedback proved that i managed to achieve what I had intended- bellydance- but showing the hint of flamenco influence in both the music and the movements.

The buffet was well appreciated... Khalid put on a lovely spread (along with the rest of the Morocco restaurant staff of course!) - no one left hungry thats for sure (apart from him of course- but hard to eat when you have to prepare everything!)

The Classcal Indian dance group 'Dance Ihayami' performed next and wowed everyone - stunning costumes, beautiful movements, photogenic poses. A fabulous addition to the night. it was a shame Priya (their teacher) wasn't able to stay long enough to watch them dance- she would have been very proud of them! Laura Monteith then gave us a lovely tribal fusion dance.... control and precision. the only thing i felt was that the room was too big and too bright to really appreciate her fully- I like watching Laura dance in small , atmospheric spaces- it suits the mood of her dance more.

The African dancers went on next...... Bebe (not sure if thats spelt right!) who teaches dance at edinburgh university did a healing dance- our only male dancer of the night- but one who could move his hips as much as any female dancer on stage thats for sure! and talking about winding hips- Mara and Isla improvised a West African dance for us- full of circling hips and grace and fun - was really easy to see the close link between African and Arabic dance from watching them!

Then it was just me. I danced to 'alf Leila we leila' and it went down well. I really need to find a good recording of that song- so much easier to dance to live music- you can make them extend or shorten any song I felt i lost it in parts of the music just because it wasn't strong enough to move me!!! Then i donned the tartan costume and brought the style of the dance right up to modern day. My 'souk bene asda fih corniche' went down a storm and was definatly the high point of my night- I felt like i was flying. Everyone got up for a boogie and left with smiles on their faces.

The good news is that due to the generosity of the audience (and dancers- some of whom even donated their earnings for the night!!!) the charity ASIDD ( managed to make £411 over the course of the 2 events (11th and 18th Feb) Thank you everyone.

It was a stressful night to organise and put on- but before I went to bed Khalid and i were already talking about how we would do the 'next one' differently!!!!! so watch this space!

Friday, February 16, 2007

dancing in edinburgh

so good to be home. ok- loving being in cairo too- but its not been the easiest time out there, so this trip home is very welcome!
danced last night in Morocco restaurant (dundas street) and really enjoyed myself.... love dancing there- its such a friendly atmosphere and fun. Like dancing for friends in your own living room!
Looking forward to a busy dance weekend... fully booked tonight, workshops on saturday (mcdonald library- drop in - no booking required!) busy sat night then the big show sun night........ lots of dance and food and chat.... what fun!
happy happy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cairo Airport

I have been in and out of Cairo airport SO many times over he last year- and I only just realised that it really is worth a blog entry of its own!
Cairo International airport has 2 terminals- 1 and 2. So far not confusing at all. HOWEVER, Terminal 2 is the new one and terminal 1 the old. Still- makes sense. BUT terminal 1 was refurbished within the last couple of years and is stunning… mosaics, clean, wi-fi, etc. In fact- New looking. Whereas terminal 2 – the 'new' one- looks, well, old! They are beginning the refurbishment of terminal 2 now as well- so once competed that should make things a lot less complicated!
On the way into to Cairo- if you haven't purchased your visa before you arrive (and you don’t need to if you have a British passport, then you can line up at any of the windows which are small banks and exchange money and buy your visa. This option is much cheaper than buying the visa in the UK so it's what I normally do. Then the queue for passport control. I have to say that this year so far I haven't had any problems so far up to this stage… the problem before that is the queue itself!! Some how- I don’t know how… even if I sprint off the plane and run to the bank to get the visa and choose the shortest queue- STILL I am one of the last through (how come?!!!) I thought I had really cracked it the last time- I was literally about the 5th person through- Hurray- I had learned to crack the system………… BUT then my suitcase didn't arrive- so I had to wait until all the bags were through then stand in- you guessed it- another queues to fill in forms re where they could send my bag. Grr!!!
The other thing about queuing in Egypt is that – well they just don’t do it….. at the airport they kind of have to- so it's not SO bad. You just need to watch the traffic in the sharia (street) for 2mins to realise that the Egyptian way of 'queuing' is to wheedle your way to the front by which ever means possible….. waiting your turn is almost unheard off. I do think that this system works really well on the roads- if there was that much traffic on a road in UK then it would be at a standstill for hours- here however slow you are going- you are very rarely at a standstill!!! Unfortunately for me this system works best for you if you are well practiced in it- and not too polite- so from Brits abroad it is definitely one of the challenges!!
Anyway- back to the airport…. You have the same occurrences as you have in most countries where jobs are scare and labour is cheap…. You get out your bus/taxi whatever and porter rush to grab your bags- anxious for a tip…. Then once you are through security a different porter tries to do the same thing……….fine if you have a lot of small change on you!!! The of course there are the toilet attendants who are after a tip for handing you some toilet paper (this is common all over Cairo – not just reserved for the airport!)
And the shops…. Not a place to buy your favourite perfume- well not terminal 2 anyway (the terminal which deals with British Airways) the selection is sparse! And duty free is very good- on your way into Cairo…. You can bring in whatever the actual allowance is (most books say 1litre spirits) but then you can go with your boarding card to a shop at the airport itself and buy up to 4 more litres! Worth knowing if you have people to influence with presents here- or plan on staying a while since outside of the duty free shops you can only buy Egyptian brands- hmm. Anyway- the shops. Most of the things you can by in the bizarre at Khan el Khalili you can buy here…. But if it is likely to cost you 5le at the souk it'll set you back at least $5 at the airport- however still worth it if your bags are heavy and you are prepared to carry your onyx or whatever on as hand luggage as you have already passed the weighing in stage by this point! (I have a couple of lovely alabaster candle holders at home which I brought back via this method without incurring extra baggage costs!)
Otherwise- an airport is an airport……….. and Cairo seems to function as efficiently as any other. The only major problems I have discovered is if you come from certain countries- even if you hold a British passport….. One girl in a group with me once was held for over 3 hours on arrival (very scary!) because although she was British and born and lived there all her life, both her parents were from Pakistan, no other reason. I guess it's always, in this political climate, better to be safe than sorry. But it is really no fun at all if you are the person who is stopped. Khalid was stopped too (Moroccan passport) for no reason….. and I was worried sick- you hear such stories…. But they let him through eventually!!! Since there doesn't seem to be a way round this problem then I recommend if you have any qualms about coming into Cairo, come in to terminal 1, not 2 (ie not British Airways) since all the main info re passport control seems to be held at terminal 1 and that was the reason we were given both times for the 3 hour delay at terminal 2!!!
The worst thing to happen at Cairo airport (after those waits) is getting to the wrong terminal! I did this one time in error with a group of mine- what a nightmare- I felt so stupid! Thankfully we realised before the bus went off and left us stranded. But you can imagine- 12 women- heavily laden with Cairo shopping, unloading from the bus- then having to reload in order to drive to the other terminal!!! Daft so and so that I felt!! Oh – and now at terminal 2 you have to park in a car park miles away and get the free bus to the terminal if you are collecting anyone (taxi's can still drop off at departures).
And of course there is all the stories about carrying sticks back…. And coin belts and drums- the usual bellydancer stuff….. the security staff got really quite agitated one time when I had stuffed a tabla full of cygats and coin belts to bring home…… looked very dodgy seemingly- we had quite a laugh in the end though when they realised what it all was!
Anyway……….. I have been typing this as I sit in departures……. And we'll be boarding any second now…. So unless I think of any more stories about Cairo airport to add at Heathrow… then that’s it for now! (el hamdu lelah I hear you say!!!)
P.S- word of advice….. it is NOT a good idea to sit in the cafĂ© and type whilst listening to your ipod……although it does make the time fly by much quicker- too quick in fact!……….. this is a very good way of missing the boarding call- and having the pleasure of eventually hearing your name called out over the tannoy- oops!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

learning to read.........

Hmmm......... this challenge I have set myself is not so easy to achieve. I guess i really just need to put the hours in! I had decided before this trip home to scotland I would be able to read and write arabic (all my lessons before this month have been speaking only) and I guess i also can't expect miracles within 7 classes..... but I am doing better than I thought I would. I am incrediably slow- thank god my teacher is very patient with me!

However, I do have a problem when it is written without the vowels....

In arabic you put lines and squiggles above and below each letter to change the pronounciation of it- rather than adding vowels in amoungst the constanants- and generally- and in most typed arabic, the 'vowels' are removed. So you have to guess whether the b is pronounced 'be', 'bu', 'ba' or b or even 'bba' or 'bbe'- fine if you have a fairly good grasp on the language so 'know what sounds good or not'... but I feel like I am scrambling blindfolded through the maze that is arabic language!!! determined to get this!!!

An interesting aside about this is that seemingly the Koran was origanally written without any vowels- but as foreigners wanted to become muslim they needed to be able to read it correctly too- so the lines and squiggles method was adopted then (a long time ago! and obviously my own name for the vowel system!!) to help them. This is one reason some people give for some of the different interpretations you get for certain things said in the koran... one word could be written say 'ktb' but could mean katab, kutub, etc etc....

the laugh now is watching me sitting in the back of a taxi- trying to read signs over shops and billboards as we drive past them........... I usually get the first few letters but by the time I have even begun to discipher the rest we have driven past it and I have to look out for the next sign! I do feel like a 5 year old...... and I feel like this experience will make me much more patient if I ever have to teach a child how to read english!!!!


ok- so i know you dont all want to hear this- when there is snow in scotland as i write... but i spent an hour or so on my balcony this afternoon catching some sun- and it was bliss! I hate winter in cairo- but it seems that already the winter is losing its battle and spring is trying to take over. How refreshing - to actually see a difference between the seasons- we rarely get that in Scotland- not before april anyway! or as my granny would have said- 'ne'r change yer clout til may is oot' !!!
anyway- I'm be back in bonnie scotland the day after tomorrow.... so I am sure I will suffer the cold too (although looking forward to central heating amoung other things!)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lorna teaching in Edinburgh

Normally when i come home to Edinburgh from Cairo I do a dance workshop. This time its different as I am going to be also teaching a kids class and a beginners level one in addition to an intermediate class! Its also cheaper then the usual workshops to give more people to opportunity to attend! not only that- but its a larger venue than usual- so you dont need to prebook- just turn up. (mind you- I can see this might be fun and games if 100 folk suddenly turn up!!!)

Sat 17th Feb. McDonald Library, McDonald Road, Edinburgh.

10-11am - Kids beginners (ages 5-12)

11.15- 12.45- Adult COMPLETE beginners

1- 2.30pm- Intermediate

See you there! Some private class slots also available during the day of Thurs 15th Feb- so if interested please email me asap.

Moroccan charity events in Edinburgh

I just wanted to bring your attention to this Charity which is based in Morocco. They are helping build and strengthen a very poor community in the isolated viallages in the Atlas mountains where they have very little of anything.Very similar to the work 'plan international' do in Egypt and other areas- the charity I wrote about before. This project even offers educational in the arts! The website is in french.. but worth a look at the photos even if you can't read french!

So what can we do.....? In Edinburgh this month there are 2 events which will be giving all profits to this charity. We forget that Morocco has areas covered by snow and many of these kids do not have adequate clothing etc and this is our plan- to provide warm clothing directly to those who need it there.

These are Fun nights for a worthy cause..... Please go along and support them!

Sun 11th Feb - Moroccan charity night- Free entry (with be raffles etc- donations to ASSID very welcome!!) with LIVE MOROCCAN BAND!!!!! There will also be Moroccan goods for sale. hey- its FREE!!!!!!!! Just turn up enjoy the music and dance the night away! 7-10pm

Sun 18th Feb- Bellydance Banquet. 7-10.30pm. £25 (ok not free- but you do get a fabulous meal included too, not to mention lots of wonderful dancers to watch) There will be Indian dance, flamenco dance, tribal dance, African dance, folklorique dancers and of course 'bellydance'. I ( and others ) will be performing a few times throughout this event! To get your ticket contact Khalid at Morocco Restaurant on 0131 652 3764. I'll see you there!

Both these events are in the Thomas Morton Hall, 28 Ferry Road, Edinburgh.

If you have any queries about either event please contact Khalid on the number above or email him at