Monday, February 25, 2008

What a weekend- phew!!!


its been non stop ever since I arrived in Edinburgh.

I spent all day friday completing the script for Hannah for the show on sunday ( i know i know- my own fault for leaving it so damn late!!!)- then I performed on friday night. That was a tough show- but then it always is- the 1st time with CD again after being too used to having a band backing me up! That and my back having decided it would punish me for making it sit for so long in airports, planes and in front of the comupter!!! grr and ouch!

Saturday morning, I taught a FREE complete beginners workshopat macdonald library- which had about 30 people in it (I have to say there were quite a few who were NOT beginners!) but we had a lot of fun and laughs and it really was a nice vibe. Its amazing how this dance form has the power to really touch women from all walks of life. i love it.

My 'fancy footwork' was sold out on sat afternoon- and the 3 hours of walking and exploring foot patterns and freeing up how we use our feet in bellydance really seemed to appeal to a lot of people. They were dancing some pretty mean drum solo's by the end of it all anyway!!!

Sat night- back in Morocco. The restaurant that is, not the country! Getting a chance to practise my arabic on some Egyptians who came in and also some Syrians. It was a lovely night, very busy with a relaxed amosphere. Alys brought 15 girls in from Perth and they were the best audience a performer could hope for- thanks girls- looking fwd to that masterclass next time!!!!!

Sunday (after another 2 hours finishing planning for the show at night!) i had 2 workshops. I usually dont teach choreography... but i decided to break my rule- and i really enjoyed it. A baladi/table piece that was cheeky and fun. Wish we had had 3 hours for it instead of 2 though.......

The alchemy workshop was the one that surprised me- and the girls in the class too. I was holding back the tears by the end of 2 hours, as were a few girls in the class......... lets just say we spent 2 hours getting in touch with all the different aspects of bellydance including the spiritual side! I dont do 'new agey' type things usually- but this one really worked........ the difference in peoples dancing by the end was phenomenal- iike I said- it produced tears! Thanks for sharing the love girls!!!

In fact- it even helped me at night- i felt much calmer when i performed in the Bellydance Banquet last night that I do normally at these types of events... and i felt really connected with the audience.
I had some wonderful feedback from one dancer who told me she just realised lst night that when she watches me dance, she watches my face more than the moves or rest of me! I was really chuffed with that compliment since thats how i feel when i am watching a dancer i really admire!

So wonderful when i feel i have learned as much from teaching a workshop as my students did from being in it!!!!!

Oh- if anyone is reading this from elsewhere in the UK and are interested- I lan on being home in UK for the whole of September (for Ramadan, when all Bellydancing is Banned in Cairo because it is considered to be 'Haram' ie forbidden by Allah) so if you are interested in hosting workshops in your area on the topics i mentioned above, or any others... then please feel free to contact me asap since I'd love to dance and teach in new places too!

anyway- back to work now after all the excitement of last night- I have a week full of private classes... its nice getting the time to catch up one to one with some lovely dancers....

looking forward to the workshops in Dundee and Glasgow this weekend too!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Going 'home'

This was written yesterday in heathrow airport.........

Home is where the heart is , or so they say….

And for the 1st time ever I feel I am leaving home to come to Edinburgh for a visit!

I have had a hellish morning……….. after one hour of sleep I headed to Cairo airport- and there was traffic queues- at 7am! So I was stressed, tired and late. I just made check in- which as a chaotic event since they were checking in ALL Egypt air flights at the same time…..

Then I got to passport control where they gave me a really hard time, cos my 'tourist visa' had expired 2 months ago. I tried to explain about my working there- with a paid visa all that time- but when the mogamma offices return my passport to me, when I hand in my ID card, they don't mark it to that effect- so I had to pay a fine and be treated like a criminal for ages, even though I had apid every month for the privialge of being and working in cairo, and of course being eyed up and down by all these police men wanting a look at the 'dancer' before I was allowed to run to the gate to catch the flight before it closed….

I did however manage a quick stop at duty free to buy a pressie for my sister……….
Flight was a good half hour late, and when I got to Heathrow they of course confiscated the bottle of vodka. I was gutted. It's ok to bring in stuff from EU, but not from outside, seemingly. So, it looks like Cairo airport duty free shop had lied to me when I asked if it was ok- just to make even more money out of me.

At Heathrow, they hadn't put the gate number up yet- when they did and I walked all the way there- it was closed, due to service faults… so they sent me somewhere else, who sent me back, who sent me back and basically on the 5th try to find where I should be , I eventually found the new gate, in tears, liteally, and after the flight had left.

I sat for next half hour while they checked me onto the next flight, 2 and a half hours later, crying my heart out. The girl had sat me down in the special needs section while she sorted it for me and everyone avoided all eye contact or anything with me- I guess not sure what sort of special needs I had and frightened by my tears!!!

2 precious hours of time wasted when it should have been spent with my nephew Sam.
NOT a good journey. I am praying that when I finally arrive in Edinburgh that things start to go a little more smoothly!

Now its friday morning- after an evening, last night with my sister and nephew, a good meal, half a bottle of non- Egyptian wine and a great sleep.....................

Its good to be back in Scotland!

- even if the weather is horrific- windy, grey, wet, and cold. Looking forward to dancing in Morocco restaurant tonight and am sitting now putting together the show for sunday night- which is sold out!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

value of food

In a culture where so many are soooo poor they really do not have enough to eat a tradition has developed which gives food a very high status.

In a way it reminds me of when my mum used to give me a row when i didn't want to eat all my dinner- that was to think about all those starving kids in Africa............ meaning I shoud take what i was given and not complain since I was lucky enough to be born in Scotland rather than in lands of famine........

What I couldn't understand then was how was the food I had left on my plate going to make a jot of difference to anyone starving anywhere- unless they were sitting next to me then in which case they would have been welcome to it.

Of course the whole idea was to teach a respect for food and reduce wastefulness.

Here the respect for food is so great that last night when I drop a few crisps on the ground by accident last night- and went to kick them off the boat into the Nile, my girl shouted at me... 'Haram' (ie- it is forbidden by Allah)- you can't treat food like that- so she lovingly picked up each crisp by hand and then flung it into the Nile anyway since no one would eat it when it had been on the ground......

It's something to do with food being from Allah- therefore its wrong both to drop it on the ground, throw it away or touch it with your feet................ even if you are only about to put in the rubbish bin..............

which is all fine, well and good..............


where does that respect come in when you see Egyptians at a buffet meal with their plates heaped up so high that 4 people couldn't even finish it- then leaving it all on the plate at the end of the meal........?

do the kitchen staff get it? do they want it? what????? do they put it all in a big box and give it to the other starving people in Africa?!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


It's something most people (esp in the UK) take for granted. the freedom of having a passport, not only that but the power to travel almost anywhere with that passport.

The majority of Egyptians dont have a passport and wouldn't be able to get one. To travel you have to have done your national service (or have proof that you are exempt) , you need money in the bank or property (so they know you are going to come back), you need a reason to travel (a holiday generally isn't enough reason!) which therefore involves letters of invitation and guardians abroad who will vouch for you...........etc etc................ The Egyptians who do travel usually either have dual nationality, a lot of money or know people in high up places............

It's a subject I was forced to think about because for the majority of the time I spend in Cairo I have my passport taken off me. In order to obtain a 'green' card to work as a foreign dancer here in Cairo, you have to submit your passport. They hold it in mogamma (goverment offices) until you exchange the card again for it each time you travel. Thankfully so far I only had one flight I missed because the mogamma wouldn't release the passport in time.........

and today i got my 'burgandy freedom' in time for travelling on thursday morning, so the pressure is off! phew!

Monday, February 18, 2008


You would think, that even though I always improvise when i perform... that since I am dancing most days, it would get easier over the years to choreograph a routine. I'm teaching a fun baladi/tabla solo number this coming sunday in Edinburgh (sorry workshop fully booked!) and i chose a very short piece (2 mins) since we only have 2 hours.

Today I set aside part of the day to work out the routine........... I have been at it for over 5 hours and it's still not complete!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its only a 2 minute piece! Thats an hour for every 20 seconds!

I dont' understand- when i was teaching over 20 classes per week it would take me about one hour to choreograph one minute of a dance. So, either my standards and skills are slipping, or the more likely reason, because I dont teach as much as I used to i have a lot of moves that my body automatically does to the music- without processing the information via my brain! In a class I normally having to break things down to explain to others.... but now my body has had the freedom to speed ahead on its own. It's hard to rein it back in!!!

I am giving up on it for today and will finish off the last 20 sec's tomorrow with a fresh brain and body....

Actually- I like it so much I might even include it in my Bellydance Banquet show this coming sunday in Morocco restaurant, Edinburgh (for which there are a handful of tickets left...... but going fast.....)

I have enjoyed it today though..... very theraputic...... and probably very good for my dancing too....... we'll see if i end up doing anything differently from normal on the stage tonight!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Last week

The whole last week has been a busy and strange one............

Oh- I had it confirmed .... as a foreign dancer I am ONLY allowed to work in ONE VENUE. Which is frustrating as an artist anyway- but especially when you are working enough to 'maybe' pay the rent, and not much else. Bloody stupid system. I can see why so many of the foreign dancers get married just to get an Egyptian passport!

I had an audition in a nice place last week (no more details -sorry!!!)... I was really nervous, and felt i didn't do anywhere near my best, but they liked me.... or so they appeared- but not yet heard anything thing... so , we'll see.........

Valentines day here is HUGE!!!! every shop window is FULL of huge hearts and flowers- Cairo is painted red! What I found more strange was that EVERYONE wishes you happy valentines!!! from my cleaner, to the manager, to friends... all of them! They call it 'Eid el Hob' - meaning 'festival of love', and its TOTALLY over the top. Saying that- I did have a lovely day- so I am not complaining!!!

An annoying thing I have decided about Cairo- maybe the most annoying thing is, when you ask someone to do something- even if you are really specific about what it is you want...

they do exactly what THEY think is better for you................................

from the choice of colour to paint your nails, to the music the band play for you to dance, to what clothes/rooms need cleaned or left....... EVERYONE thinks they know better. When you are sick, they ALL have the 'only' solution or cure. It's hard to get angry at them cos you know they were really only trying to help, and only trying to get it right... but the concept of following a request to the letter just isn't known about here!!! GRRRRRR

Thats all for now- off to work now (on Nile Pharoah tonight, then Golden mon 18th, tues 19th and wed 20th) and then I fly home to Edinburgh for 2 weeks on the 21st- wow- still SOOOO much to do before now and then!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Egyptians 1-0

I know I have written about football before, but I am sitting at home listening to the sounds of Egyptians going wild whenever Egypt scores a goal. theres fireworks, drums, car horns, screaming, you name it..... and I am inside, with my windows and doors closed and my stereo playing- and I can still hear it all going on. Gameat el dowel street with me at a standstill this evening... with everyone taking to their cars to parade the egyptian flag with pride.

Tonight is the final of the African Cup, and I am guessing from the celebrations currently going on that Egypt just won!

They beat cameroon 1-0. happy happy folk!!!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Where to stay in Egypt

I have mentioned before about having a large flat in mohandiseen in Cairo in which I have 2 spare rooms (one double, one twin) which I am happy to rent out to anyone interested, esp suitable for dancers (since you have me on hand to question and advise re the costume shops, dancers etc etc ) on a per day or weekly basis.............. contact me if you are interested...

However I was thinking, that you would like to combine your trip to Cairo with some time out in Luxor doing the sites there (valley of the kings/queens, karnak temple etc etc )- then you might be interested in my friend Penny's flat in Luxor which she rents out. Her website has all the info and booking form too, and the price is very reasonable I think too....

Its possible to fly or get the train between cairo and luxor both quite cheaply. so you could have your main flight to Egypt either to Cairo, or to Luxor which might be cheaper from UK........

so hopefully we'll see you in Egypt soon!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Changes in Cairo Sheraton

On monday night I went with a fellow dancer ( Joana from portugal- works at same place as me ) to go to the Marriot Nightclub to see Suraya perform. We went looking for inspiration. Sometimes when you are performing all the time you need to take time out to watch others perform to make sure you are not getting stuck in a rut!

Suraya used to perform at the Casablanca restaurant in the Cairo Sheraton, but they have closed that down for some reason and so she can now be found 2 nights per week at the Marriot.
They have built a stage there...... It used to be that the musicians were on a stage at the back, but the dancer performed on the dancefloor area in front of them- now they have built the stage right out towards the tables- so the dancer is elevated. I like it. It gives more status to the dancer and you can see more. Prob is that if they wear a short skirt you can also see more than you bargained for!!!

They never used to have a minimum charge either there- but they forced one on us- so don't know if that will be the norm- or if it was just because of the people we were with! She started 1.30am.

Anyway- Suraya def has the best band in Cairo at the moment. I guess she was able to keep them since she used to have work everynight at the sheraton in addition to weddings etc... dont know what'll happen know that she isn't quite so regular.... anyway- her kanoun is to die for, her violin player makes you cry (in a good way) and her table is 100% by her side. Its a joy. As for the dancing- so be honest- I love her to bits- but I HATE tose damn shoes she wears!!!! I know she is little and has to- but I feel they take so much away from her art and make her look unsteady so much of the time. She was very good, although I have seen her dance better and wonder if its all the stress of a new stage, new venue etc etc... Her shimmys are to die for- and esp the earthquake one- amazing- i think my mouth fell open watching that one!!!!!!!!

As for costumes- cos I know you all love to hear about those. 1st she had a mini skirt one- its was white with red flowers and the skirt was a sarong style. Very girlie, cute. Please excuse the quality of the photos- I have a lovely wee nikon digital camera, thats supposed to be really good, but I just can't work out how to get good dancer shots on it- can anyway advise???? It has lots of scene settings etc that I just cant seem to get anything decent out of!!!
Next a more traditional style- I strongly suspect Eman Zaki design- turquoise, of the night, my favourite, and it seems I was so taken with it that I forgotten i was supposed to be photographing it too- so no record of that one.....
Last cossie of the night was a corker. Black- straight long skirt with red sparkly pattern on hip ,and it had two lengths of material which started at the skirt and came up over her chest- marilyn munroe style. Amazingly sexy, and not built for the average bust, she looked a million dollers in it, although I felt it hid some of her technique. But it showed off her other assets to a tee!!! Sorry again for the pic that makes her look bizarre, and its not very flattering (sorry suraya) but just to give you an idea of the cossie!

I recommend her any day (although that stage in my mind belongs to Rhanda- she's a hard one to beat- in my opinion!!!!!)