Tuesday, July 31, 2007

more ramblings of a scottish bellydancer in Cairo....

last night was the first time I actually felt a breeze- and that was about 4am!!! really- I know many home in UK would have been glad of some sun after all the rain there has been there- but its been a heat wave here.... the weather forecasts said around 40 deg- but the measurements are taken out at the airport- not in the heart of the city where all the buildings are which trap the heat- not to mention the cozy blanket of pollution which keeps it in! So I have spent the last 2 weeks simply melting. really. Sitting in the flat I would be typing at the computer and having to make sure the sweat didn't drip on the keys- sexy image eh?!!!!

I have had a few days off, since there are 4 dancers on the pharoah boats - so we have to share the rota between us- Me (scotland), Doaa (egypt), Otti - aka Donya (finland), and Joanna (portugal). So the europeans are cornering the market bellydance wise- by the looks of our boats anyway! I am hoping that next time I get a few days off in a row it'll be over a weekend so i can go up to the north coast and swim in that fabulous sea- but I guess summer season as a bellydancer thats just one of the sacrifices you have to make!

I am beginning to feel that mohandiseen was maybe not the best choice of areas to live in. I love my flat, and my street... and the fact that if I want to shop/eat out it no problem at all- just a short walk... BUT for taxis to and from work- never mind anywhere else... fighting the arab traffic on the streets is a nightmare. SOOOOO busy. Being stuck in a traffic jam anywhere is never pleasant- but imagine all dressed up- full make up, false eyelashes,wig the works....... sitting in an oven for over half an hour- You melt!!!!!!!!! I have taken to trying to arrive at work early and doing all that there- so i arrive looking like Lorna the tourist and leave Lorna the bellydancer!!!

On Saturday night at work i had one sailing with a bride and groom- they joined me on the dancefloor- but I had to leave them to it- her dress was such a big white merangue number that it took up the entire dancefloor!!!!!!!!!!!!! There was a young boy in with his family the same night (obviously with special needs) and he saw the bride and groom dancing together holding hands on the dancefloor and rushed up to me, took my hands to mimic them- it was so sweet! Then there was the night before where I would say over 50% of the audience was under 12 years old..... probably one of my most receptive audience yet!!! was fabulous atmosphere and clapping and singing and cheering- I felt like a magician at a party though!!!! What else? you know each deck, on each sail, has some story of other- and since I do at least 2 sails per day (ie 4 shows) they all roll into one. But I love it... if I feel I haven't done my best on one deck I have a chance to rectify it on the 2nd! Oh and my band and I are gelling more and more... we have been trying out some new numbers and it is going really well.

There is a new club on the top of the Nile Hilton. Called Mojito. they play a wide range of music, from arabic pop, to salsa, to r+b to 80's style oldies... its great fun. They also have nice food, drinks and the best mint sheesha around. been really enjoying heading over there after i finish work of an evening! you can see the whole of Cairo and all the traffic from that high up looks like fairy lights on a christmas tree. The only crash to reality is when the music stops at the end of the night and you can actually hear all those car horns!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe festival at Morocco restaurant

ok- so I wont be there since I'll still be in Cairo- but I wanted you all to know about the fact that there will be a dancer performing 7 nights per week throughout August in Morocco restaurant, dundas st edinburgh (you can see who is on when by checking the restaurant Blog- details below) AND Hannah- one of my good friends (and top students- now a teacher in her own right) will be teaching some workshops there so you can dance through the summer... here's want she says about them....

'' I’m (Hannah) running open level workshops at Morocco Restaurant during the festival. There is so much to watch during the festival I felt it would be nice to be able to join in for a change, then sit down and have a fabulous meal afterwards.
These workshops are aimed at being FUN and keeping your hips going through that long summer break. There is something for every level.

When: Sundays 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th August
Time: 10am til noon
Cost: Workshop only - £10 / £8 conc
Workshop and 2 course Lunch with Performance - £15 / £13
2 course Lunch only - £6.95

to Book: Hannah 07815 305 065 (phone or text) or simply reply to this email Morocco Restaurant 0131 652 3764 or moroccorestaurant@hotmail.co.uk If you are a student of mine (Hannah) you automatically qualify for the concession price.

Check out the restaurant’s blog at http://moroccorestaurant.blogspot.com You’ll find information about the goings on at the Restaurant including the Dance Rota and wonderful Menu.

Alternatively, if you are a more advanced / experienced dancer and need a real challenge this summer don’t forget workshops with Maria D’Silva and Yasmina this August. Check out Caroline’s website http://www.bellydancingcaroline.com or email her on bellydancedivas@hotmail.com for booking and further details. You should also check out www.zafirah.net . Edinburgh’s Zafirah is a well respected and popular dancer on the scene here and is also holding summer workshops.

Of course- If you should happen to be in Cairo............. I'll be here (Lorna!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

mixed feelings- a day in the life of...

last night I got a call at 2am asking me to work 12.30 lunch shift on the boat the next day.... great- I had had 3 days off- so sounded like a good idea...

BUT the customers (just one deck worth unfortunatly) were from I don't know where- some Eastern European country I think... and they had obviously had quite a day of it , probably walking about in the 40 deg plus heat around the pyramids.... but they looked knackered and fed up. I had a hard time getting even the children to smile.

so I decided to cheer myslef up with a lunch from pizza hut- I fancied their salad bar- until I saw it... tomato, and cucumber- but other than that almost all pickles.... not exactly what I was hoping for. But it was cool and calm and I had a window seat watching the world go by- so still all good.

then I tried to get a taxi. No **** would stop for me! thats a lie- they would stop - but when they heard I only wanted to go a short distance then just sped off- its so demoralising.... or tried to charge 10le for a 2le journey! so I walked- in the intense heat, for about 25mins. And so of course attracted tooooooo much attention (did still have all performance make up on!) so was in a royal bad mood when I got home.

However the AC in my bedroom is good and I took my laptop and a DVD to my room and chilled for a couple of hours- very nice. Happy again.... Couldn't sleep though- my bowabs daughter is getting married- so all friends and family are gathered in essentially my driveway to celebrate........... much Zaghreeting goes on all day long...

Then i stand in my changing room getting ready to go on stage with the singer and my dresser discussing how I was looking fatter- I had out on weight....... ok , so its true- but WHAT woman wants to hear it just before a dance? After my performance ( not my best- obviously) I discovered that they meant it as a huge compliment- that I was looking more 'moza' (sexy). cultural differences eh?!

the rest of the night was wonderful-4 shows- fantastic audiences- lots of women and children , enough Egyptians to make up for the gulfies... and my band were on form..... a few women even got up to dance with me (one I discovered used to be a dancer when she was young and before she took to the veil- so her compliments meant lots too!) I got to hold a new born baby (still red and wrinkly!!!) and lots of mothers seemed to want photos of their sons alongside me- ah well. One young lad even got up to dance with me and was great- so cute when he came up later to shake my hand and say thank you!

Get home and find my bowab in an incrediably good mood and he even carried my bag for me (doesn't normally!!!) maybe of course (the cynic comes out here) he was expecting the 'wedding gift' he got from me, for his daughter, on the way to the lift!

.........and so to a cold shower- and a huge bowl of pasta (gotta keep that 'moza' thing going!!!!!)

so a good end to a mood swing of a day in the life of Lorna..................... don't worry- I won't do this full diary except everyday- just wanted to give you a flavour of my life here!

oh- and something from yesterday too......... I was leaving a pool and in the hotel lobby a group of gulfies walked past (huge family 2 men, about 6 women and god knows how many kids) then they sent back a small girl who was with them, to ask- 'are you the dancer we saw on the boat?' my first sign of being famous!!!!!!!( small steps but hey!!)!!!!!!!! (unfortuantly I was too stunned to think of the arabic to reply so I just nodded and smiled... not sure what she asked next!!!)

and so to bed........

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lorna in UK again...

I know this is very early... but want to get my dates in there before anyone else does...

I will be home in UK , from Cairo, in November 07 to do some workshops.

Birmingham-sat 10th and sun 11th Nov (and halfa on 10th) - for details and to book contact Nicola on birminghambellydancing@yahoo.co.uk

Edinburgh- sat 17th and sun 18th Nov- venue, times etc etc all yet to be arranged- just keep that weekend free!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

a few observations...

1) Its hot... very. the BBC website says 36- but I KNOW its over 40deg here downtown- I am going to invest in a themometer.... just so I can complain accuratly.

2) Arabs don't smile.... or clap much either- unless you play Khaleegy music then they are happy. GRRRR. Oh- and for those of you who don't know- egyptians don't call themselves arabs..... that term is reserved for people from around the gulf. Who are here in their droves... jamming the streets and throwing their money around. Some people call them buffalo (their grazing patterns seem to be alike!)

3) Watermelon if really ripe only needs to be cut in half and shaken for most of the black pips to fall out- that was an amazingly wonderful discovery of mine yesterday! (oh and ginger and cinammon are really lovely sprinkled over watermelon too!)

4) I have aquired a water palette- half way through our meal last night (went out with friends and ate tons!!!) the waiters changed the type of water they were serving us- and i could tell by the smell of it! How bizarre is that???

5) it's hot........ oh, sorry....... said that one already

6) pizza hut delivers 24/7 in the summer- thank god!

7) one person cannot, and should not, consume an entire watermelon herself- no matter if it seems like a good idea at the time................no matter what you add to it....

8) blowing kisses over MSN to a very young nephew is really not as satisfying as getting a real hug from him.

9) the song 'i will survive' has a direct, actual arabic translation of it- word for word. And it recently won some award- scary.

10) its hot... very... sticky, sweaty, melting, draining heat............

11) I am the most untidy person I know- I have become so lazy since moving here... my flat is a pigsty and rain would be nice even if it was just to wash the balcony for me! I miss my cleaner (who's sick). Amazing what you get used to!

12) it is common knowledge here in Cairo that sleeping under the AC or a fan at night will give you a 'cold' in your stomach.... ??????????

13) a letter from Uk only took 6 days to arrive- I was pretty impressed by this!

14) when you are sick, or someone around you is, you 'Thank God'...... at least it proves you are still alive!!!!

15) dancing in front of women all wearing burkas can be the most depressing thing (if they shu , yes literally shu, you away as if you are a stray animal) or the most wonderful thing- when you see that twinkle in their eyes and the nod of the head to show appreciation and the aknowledgment that you are good at what you do and they wish they could be dancing too..... oh and when they stop you after the performance to ask for private lessons!!

16) The heat has stripped me of all motivated activity, I feel proud of myself when i have made the massive achievement of successfully showering, dressing and leaving the house (haven't managed that yet today- 9pm now!) ............ did I mention it's hot?

17) as much as I love this flat, and know it'll be a godsend in winter, I need somewhere cooler to live next summer! living on the top floor means the sun bakes me from above and from the sides everyday- thankfully i have to be most active at night - which is just as well!

18) Flies don't even live long in this weather.............. thank god

19) Oh - and I have made the decision.... that I will be here in Cairo til end of summer season next year at least......... unless something happens to change anything- so if people want to plan holidays I'll be here til sept 08 ....................................maybe longer........ who knows.....

20) found a new pool...... near me. Small but cheap...... fabbie.. except that seemingly uv rays are at danger levels this week across North Africa so I guess sunbathing is not wise til next week- went yesterday and spent the entire time putting on suncream then reappling it staight away- so it wasn't very relaxing!!!

21) I started writing this thinking I had only about 3 things to say and discovered 20..... hmmm- I observe the fact that I am a waffler!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Photoshoot on the beach

Portobello Beach... here are some of the photos taken by the fabulous Kate (katechandler.com) when she came to do the photoshoot for the evening news article..... All copyrights reserved! This next one I have included just so you can see how the wrong pose and angle can give you a HUGE belly!!!!!!!!!!!!! where did THAT come from????

Thats better.............

Last shots before the clouds break!..............

all these photos by katechandler.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rota at Pharoah boat til end July

If you are in Cairo... You can see me dancing on the

Nile Pharoah 16th- 20th July

and at the

Golden Pharaoh 24th- 28th July

Bizarre rules...and waffle

Do you know- every foreign worker here in Egypt has to take an HIV test , at a specified govermental building, before they can get their work visa... and .... they have to re-do this test EVERYTIME they return from abroad. Bizarre huh? As though it isn't possible to catch that in Egypt!!!!

After my test today I had a taxi journey like one I've not had in a while. I had my 'boy', Ahmed, with me- but it still happened.... the driver insisted on knowing where he was going, wouldn't listen to us- but drove the complete opposite direction from where he should have- and this was at 1pm at the hottest part of the day.... so a 15-20min taxi ride took an hour. GRRR

I had my first game of pool here today ( I played badly, but so did my friend, so it was a fun way to spent a couple of hours in the mid afternoon heat!) you could see the mosquitos landing on the table though- perfect place for them for them- obviously all the shots I missed were purely because I was bitten just as I was about to play my shot! (note to self- insect repellant next time I go there!!!!)

OH- and last night I performed on the Nile Pharaoh and saw a woman ( I am guessing Arab of some sort - but no idea from where exactly) in a black galabeya which had huge cut out patches of raw silk tarten in it!!!!!!!!! So no wonder the Egyptians like my tarten bellydance costumes- its something they see as a pretty pattern that has NO nationality significance!

To those of you in Bellydance scene in UK- Keep your eyes open for the next issue of the NADA magazine- I should be in it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Evening news article wed 11/7/07

well- Elspeth's suggestion that I let the Evening News know I was coming back from the real pyramids, to the ones on portobello beach worked- Thanks for the PR advice speth!!! while I was home they interviewed me and photographed me for this article which I have copied and pasted for those of you who missed the evening news on wedensday night.
I've also edited it slightly... (my comments are in brackets in this colour!!!)

Porty's Lorna wobbles way to Cairo fame (shaky intro me thinks!!!)

THE dancer casts her audience a sultry look from behind a sequin-edged veil as she gyrates barefoot on the Cairo restaurant boat's tiny dance floor. Her close-fitting gold Saaidi dress shows off her hourglass curves as she moves.

As she tosses her head seductively, the light reflects off her cascading dark locks. In a mesmerising movement, her hips circle to one side, then low down and up fast on the other side, and the audience of Arab diners is left spellbound.

Despite her skill, the dancer working on the Golden Pharaoh restaurant boat on the Nile is not an Egyptian who has been belly-dancing all her life. The stunning performer is (age missed out thank you very much!) Lorna Gow from Edinburgh, who has been wowing Egyptians with their own art form since she arrived in Cairo 15 months ago.

It's a world away from overcast Portobello, where she is staying this week on a visit home to see family and friends.

Born and bred in Edinburgh, Lorna became the first Scot to belly dance professionally in Cairo when she emigrated there just over a year ago - quite a feat for someone who had never tried any type of dance until she was 21, and only took up a belly dancing nightclass as a fun way to keep fit.

Lorna works on the Nile and Golden Pharaoh boats, cruising restaurants that cater for both tourists and Egyptians.

She says: "I love it, dancing on stage every night to an audience that, because of the culture, understands and appreciates what I'm doing. It's great working with Arabic musicians too. You are really interacting with them and the dancer plays a big part in creating the music."

Lorna was working for the Department of Work and Pensions (in my day it was called 'the benefits agency' - didn't realised it had changed?!!) in Wester Hailes when she began her journey into the exotic world of belly dancing.

Quickly realising she had an aptitude for it, before long she was called upon to begin teaching.
She became one of the main belly dance teachers in the area, taking around 20 classes across Scotland.

Her love affair with Cairo began on a dance holiday to the city ten years ago, and it cast such a spell over her that she returned around 20 times in 11 years, even organising trips for her students.

Then came the opportunity for a long-term stay. "When I was thinking about auditioning for the job I really wasn't sure I'd be good enough," she says.
"But numerous people I spoke to said I should go for it. I asked one of the top choreographers, Raqia Hassan, how long she thought it would take before I'd be capable, and she said I was good enough now, which gave me loads of confidence."

Despite having a fiance in Edinburgh, Lorna moved to Cairo in March last year, originally for six months. Those six months have grown into 15 but Lorna has been relishing the experience.
"It's a mad, chaotic, crazy, dirty city, bustling with life and passion," she says. "I love it. It feels real here. People are very hospitable and the weather is a heck of a lot better.

"They live the day during the night in Cairo, because of the heat. They do things during what we might think of as unsociable hours. For example, after a show at about 1.30am, I will phone a friend and arrange to go for a meal. Shops are open until midnight. It's a 24-hour city.
"It's so huge you can't have everyone rushing around at the same time, so I suppose they do kind of shift living.

"The hardest part has been learning the language. It's getting easier though. None of my musicians speaks (much) English so, for about six or seven hours each evening, I have to speak Arabic."

Lorna performs her half-hour show up to six times a night and the number of performances requires a high level of fitness.
"Physically it's very demanding and especially in the heat - it can be 30 degrees at one in the morning," she says.

"But I know I am very lucky, finding something I am good at and that I love so much."
She also credits one of her teachers, Sara Farooq, as having helped the credibility of her performances. "She is fabulous at helping me get into the heads of my Egyptian audiences and really understand what the songs and music are about," Lorna says.

As well as the boat tours, she also performs at weddings and private parties. With her brown hair (naturally blonde, she dyed it when she arrived in Egypt) and dark eyes, many people assume she is Egyptian.
However, she says it doesn't surprise people too much when they learn she's Scottish.
She explains: "Around half of the top belly dancers in Egypt are foreign. Egyptians have a feel for dance that you strive to get. But foreign dancers are generally better trained and perhaps have better technical skills."

Lorna says another obstacle apart from the language has been the bureaucracy and red tape she's encountered. "You really need to know people to get anything done, so obviously that is getting easier," she says.
"Another thing I find difficult is the hassle from men.
"Just walking along the road is like walking past about 20 building sites at once, and it is really wearing."

Lorna returns to Edinburgh every three months to see family and spend time with her fiance. She met Khalid, who owns the Moroccan Restaurant on Dundas Street, when she performed at the opening night.
So how does she cope with such a long-distance relationship? "Thank God for MSN!" she laughs. "We talk every night. He comes out to visit and I return to Edinburgh regularly.
"It can be trying for a relationship, but I think if we can survive this, we can survive anything."

As for the future, she is not making any set plans. "When I first came I meant to stay for a summer, and have now been here for 15 months," she says.
"So I don't want to make any promises about coming home. I've achieved what I set out to do, but there's always another step.
"First I wanted to dance in Cairo, then to get a work visa, then to dance with a band. I've done all those things, but now I want to dance with an orchestra - which would be amazing. You simply can't plan in a city like Cairo, it doesn't work like that, but that's partly what makes it such a special place because you just never know what's next."

BELLY dance is a Western name for an Arabic style of dance developed in the Middle East. It consists of percussive movements of the shoulders contrasted with slower fluid moves of the hips and torso.
It is big business in Egypt and the Middle East, where the top dancers have their own orchestras and limousines.
Dance teacher Hilary Thacker, who runs Hilary's Bazaar on George IV Bridge, which sells oriental clothes and dance costumes, is holding summer classes at Chi 36 on George Street and South Leith Parish Church, starting on July 24. Visit her website at www.hilarysbazaar.com or call 0131-556 7976 to book.
Dance Base in the Grassmarket, where Lorna Gow used to teach, also runs belly dancing classes. A new term will start in September. For more information call 0131-225 5525.
Participants should wear comfortable clothes and bring a scarf to tie around their hips.
This article: http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/features.cfm?id=1074972007

The article had a photo too.... although I have a few more from that photo shoot which I'll add later (literally just in the door from the airport just now!)

San Franciscan wedding….

Well…. I have known about this trip for quite a while, but couldn't write anything on the blog about it because I was booked to perform at a friends wedding, in San Francisco, by her mother, as a surprise gift to the bride and groom. I've never been a wedding present before!!!!

So Vanessa and Dave got married on 7.7.07. Lucky for some. It certainly seemed to be for them- the sun was shining, the fog stayed away and it was really one of the most beautiful weddings ever. The ceremony and reception were held in a field/ garden area on top of a 'mountain' with the most superb drive through the redwood forests to get there and stunning views that would compete with many Scotland has to offer (although less green!). It all took place in Sonoma County- ie the home of Californian wine; so much of the drive there was through vineyards (called wineries!!!) along winding country roads. It really was like a Scotland with sunshine and I can see why so many Scots have settled over there. The latest of course being Dave.

I had a very Californian moment the day before the wedding, being driven around by one of Vanessa's sisters in her convertible Mustang, with the music full blast and the wind knotting up my hair. I swear my jaws hurt from smiling so much!!!

It was also lovely meeting so many wonderful people. What a friendly bunch- and the Californians among them so much more real and genuine than the ones I have met in the past from LA. Friends of the bride put me up without having met me previously and really were wonderful hosts- cooking amazing breakfasts and driving me round some of the loveliest scenery. The Scots there were lovely too…… with many of Dave's family (including his gran who was in her 90's) having travelled from Scotland especially for the event.

I danced at the wedding during the meal.. Starting by being escorted onto stage with the bagpiper playing 'Scotland the Brave' (maybe a good choice for the 'wardrobe malfunction' that was to follow!) Thank god people in the audience had safety pins on them- that’s all I can say!!!!

Vanessa and Dave had their first dance as a bellydance- which I have to say they followed so well that it looked like we had practised and choreographed the whole thing- well done guys!!!. Then I had all the tartan (or plaid as they call it there) wearers join me on the dance floor and when that started being a bit too male orientated, I had all 10, yes 10, of the bridesmaids join us too. I must look to see if anyone has added it onto utube yet!!!

you can view some photos from the wedding on http://www.flickr.com/gp/14513449@N00/s521nf

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pyramids on Portobello beach

They have built the pyramids of Giza on portobello beach ( out of sandbags!) Each sandbag respresents each household in portobello. They look really realistic (from a distance!)

Khalid and i had great fun last night climbing them in the moonlight. Today I posed, in full costume, in front of them for the Evening News (so watch for that one- not sure when it will come out!)

I'll add photos soon!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bellydancing in Blackpool. Raqs Britannia!

It has been quite a whirlwind since I arrived back in UK.

Wed and Thurs nights I danced at Morocco Restaurant, Edinburgh. I really love dancing in Cairo for many reasons- but i was blown away by emotion from dancing to a restaurant packed with only my students- that 1st night, the cheers and applause after my 1st dance literally forced me to actually run from the stage in floods of tears.... What a welcome! Thank you to all of you who came along and made those 2 nights sooooo special for me. Maybe someone with a camera that night will have some good shots I can include in here....?

Then it was a train journey (on my birthday) down to Blackpool to attend the Raqs Britannia Festival. I had been asked to teach and perform. The 'Bellydance Superstars' were doing the performing on the sat night, and the bulk of the teaching over the weekend... but the friday night show was to be the 'best' of the UK performers and i had been asked to represent Scotland. It was lovely to see so many dancers perform who's names i had heard for years but whom I had never seen. I was very nervous about dancing, feeling i had chosen a piece of music that just wasn't strong enough... but in the end the audience went wild and i received a LOT of positive comments afterwards, so i guess i did ok. Would love to see a video of it, anyone out there film it?!!! Have to say though- I REALLY missed having my band with me. I have become spolit- CD is just not good enough anymore!!!! Oh- and Tracey (one of the organisers) even arranged a birthday cake for me which was very unexpected and very sweet. It was a lovely way to spend my birthday.

A whole weekend and I didn't fully attend one single workshop... I taught mine on saturday morning- 8.30am!!!!!!!!!!! positively unhumane time to be teaching, esp the morning after your birthday. Grr. Anyway- it went really well and I think my favourite comment from it was ' I was too tired to dance this morning, but now, after your class, I feel all ''Zingy'' and ready for the rest of the day!'

So I spent a lovely weekend networking (also known as chatting to all my bellydance friends!!!!) One wonderful surprise was seeing Emily (aka Shahla) perform an Iraqi dance. She was wonderful- really full of energy and fun. It was great to see her again after all these years (I was her 1st bellydance teacher, years ago) She has really come on and is the only dancer in the country who can perform Iraqi dance and is doing really well for herself in London. I felt very proud of her- she always was a good dancer- but she has come a long way. Beautiful.

Oh- and to read lots and lots more about this weekend- check out Annette's blog all about it on http://raqs-britannia.blogspot.com/