Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas...

I Love my new garden!
I went to the 'garden centre' on the bank of the Nile at Kitkat with Ellie on tuesday and we bought lots of plants to celebrate christmas with some green around us! I have tried to chose plants which will be a bit hardier than the last lot which died when they were killed through over fertilising them (it wasnt me!). I was so so sad when all my plants died. Now i am very very happy to have a lovely garden to look out onto!

Second day of my new balcony garden and i have a new flower already! That was a lovely thing to wake up to today!

Nasturtiums! I have been wanting to get these on my blacony ever since my friend Sarannah mentioned growing them in Luxor. They make me think of my mum. She always loved having them in any garden we have ever had.

My first attempt at a cactus garden... they will hopefully survive the temperatures it reaches in sunny mohandiseen. It wasnt cheap to buy though. Thankfully the man at the plant place was so sad that all my previous plants had perished (especially when i explained how it happened so he knew I hadnt killed them myself!) that he gave me really good prices for these ones.

It was lovely chatting with him about the plants and he was asking the names of them in my country and I was asking them in arabic. Ellie was laughing at me 'nerding out' about plants! Not that I remember any of them though, apart from this one, the large cactus on the left is called 'kersha' which is the name in arabic of the stomach lining of an animal, ie tripe!

My happy turtle with his 'umbrella tree' shell...

This cactus type tree is going to be our substitute christmas tree this year. We have a gathering of 8 friends planned for christmas day, turkey and everything... really looking forward to it.

This is an attempt- I have never had any plants indoor here in Cairo for the fear that ants will follow them into the flat... but i am going to try with this one and see how it goes. Fingers crossed!

Happiness is easy to find when the simple things like my lovely plants make me smile. Wishing you lots of simple pleasures in your life too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mirror and Mozzies and Military..

Look what woke me with a jump at 7am this morning!!!

The hook just decided it had been there too long... and dropped the mirror to the floor for no reason.  7am... and 7 years bad luck..... ? I really hope not. This year has been bad enough! We certainly have been living through interesting times!

I am....

-          Wishing there were more tourists in town. Work is VERY slow. Hard on me, my band and their families, as well as the people who work at the pharaohs and I guess their suppliers too. Two of my band members just had revolution babies this month (a baby boom after all the ‘downtime’ caused by the revolution 9 months ago?!!). Times is hard.

-          Wishing my back didn’t hurt so badly still. A month of pain- It’s really getting to me. I have an appointment with a physiotherapist tomorrow.... I am hoping she can succeed where the massage hasn’t. I am not dancing enough, and due to this pain, I can’t even get to the gym to keep myself in shape- it’s driving me nuts! The other Hotel Bellylorna residents (Ellie and Laura) keep trying to get me to dance; they can see how it is getting me down being so stationary!

3rd wish (have decided that instead of 7 years bad luck, the broken mirror has released a genie who’ll grant these wishes!);

-          Wish there were fewer mosquitos around. They are driving us all crazy. Every evening you find me tracking them through the flat with a pillow to throw at them when they land on the ceiling! When we sit to watch TV, our eyes are scanning the ceilings and walls every 2 minutes! One will point; the other will grab the pillow. Our sport each evening! Where are they all coming from? We kill them all every evening, and there are still enough to bite us during the night! I have never known them so bad in all the time I have lived in this flat. I presume they have stopped spraying the streets around this area. I really hope they start again soon.  It’s beginning to resemble the set of Dexter with the blood splatters on the walls after each successful pillow fight!

I guess with the upheaval the country has been facing these past 11 months, a few extra mosquitoes are the least of most people’s problems. However, when you are at home more because of less work it does make a difference!

(Everyone due to come to stay with me in Hotel Bellylorna in the next few months- bring mozzie spray with you!!!  )

Oh, and the protesters in Tahrir have started to let the traffic flow there again. This was good, since I had to go to do my aids test today to renew my work papers for next year. All foreign workers, whatever their field, have to be tested. The hospital you go to do that is one of the streets off Tahrir square that saw a lot of the fighting. It looks still like a war zone. There are rolls and rolls of barbed wire, and soldiers and tanks. I have to say- that I was hugely relieved walking past that I got not one single comment. How rare and how refreshing! I guess there has been enough excitement to spend the testosterone on as of late! Everything was quiet. Long may that last! (It shows how bad things have got this past year, when its news that a group of men *don’t* make comments when a girl passes by!!!!)

Here’s to 7 good years... or at least those 3 wishes being granted for now!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The underdogs fight back, whilst others bite the hand that feeds them

I feel sick to my stomach.

It’s been a horrible week, following the news hour by hour in Tahrir. People being shot, gassed and run over by armoured trucks. The violence is sickening. Whether you agree with the reasons for the initial protest or not... you can't help but support the people who now are there demanding to be treated as human beings with a voice, rather than animals to be experimented on.

So my heart goes out to the Egyptian people who want to reclaim their dignity. Good on you.

This is why what I just had to do hurts me even more.

I just had to sack my new cleaner. She needs the money; she has a large family to provide for. I pay her well, and have her come twice a week, not because I really need that, but because its one way I can help the Egyptian economy, to help feed a few malnourished children.

Unfortunately some people have never been in relationships where if you are good to people they will be good to you. The regime they have been born into teaches them that honesty doesn't pay.

People in positions of status and authority often treat people who work for them as low lives, stripping them of any dignity, giving them no respect for what they do. Then of course the person treated in that way feels they are within their rights to treat anyone 'lower' than themselves in an even worse way and fight back in any way they can at the people who crush them. The victim becomes the abuser. I see it every day. The way the bowab shouts at his son, the electrician slapping his boy helper on the back of the head, the musicians talking down to the technicians, the managers yelling at the waiters. I can totally understand why the 'underdog' wants to fight back. In fact, in some ways that is exactly what is going on in Tahrir right now.... the people after being pushed down for so many years are refusing to stay down.

Then you have the issue that I had today, where because I have been nice to her, my cleaner thinks I am stupid, and does her utmost to take advantage. I try to do as I was always taught, treat others and you would want them to treat you, however, I am a foreigner, and a dancer, so for sure I can afford to 'lose' a few things. At least I presume that’s what went through her head.

This woman had, from the 1st time she came here, been squirreling away 'things' into a plastic bag under the sink... for removal out the house at some appropriate time. The omelette pan went missing last time, and this morning I discovered a bag with cleaning products, a door lock, a purse with spare change in it, taken from a wardrobe, and 4 expensive items of makeup (from UK- so not easily replaced!) taken from inside Ellie's make up bag, among other things.

The woman who had recommend her to me had suggested, when I told her about the omelette pan, to 'test' her honesty by leaving a 5 le note somewhere behind a sofa or something too. I did this today... and right enough... it was 'disappeared' too. Whatever else has already been taken out of the house will be discovered over the coming days I am sure. It makes me feel sick that I paid a thief to rob me.

I am so sad. She doesn't realise that if she just did her job well and turned up when she said she would etc then I would end up giving her things which probably would have been of much more use and value to her than anything she has already, or could have, stolen. She had already had a 'gift' of lots of old clothes and various bits and pieces I no longer wanted, plus a galabeya from me... and she had only been working for me for 3 weeks.

Times are hard, I see that, but really- biting the hand that feeds you? This is low and stupid and very, very sad.

My last words to her, I never want to see you again, and God be with you. I doubt that she will appreciate how much I actually mean that. If she treats people who are good to her like that... she must really have a miserable existence. Really, God be with her, and her children. I can only guess at the morals they will grow up with.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Revolution 2?

Cairo is a mess, again. Well, Tahrir is, and it is completely localised to Tahrir and streets leading to it- so please don’t worry about me... all is quiet at Hotel Bellylorna (well, as quiet as it ever is with singers and dancers living together!)

Everyone I speak to has a completely different take on the last 2 days of unrest in Tahrir.

Some strongly believe that the young people in Tahrir who have been arrested and shot at deserved everything they got, saying they were told not to protest and they chose to put themselves in that place, therefore they want trouble.

Some believe that the protests themselves are mistimed and everyone should wait until the elections to see what happens. However, they are unhappy about the strong arm response by the police and their methods of clearing the square, and therefore although they might not have supported initial protests, now they strongly believe in supporting anyone who wants to put their voice across in a peaceful manner without fear of being shot at.

There are those who say the police have been guilty of horrific attacks on the protesters. Firing tear gas, rubber bullets and bird shot into people’s faces. I know of at least two who have lost eyes due to this. There are others who believe that the protesters went armed with rocks etc ready for a fight and with intent to create chaos and burn police vehicles.

I quite honestly don’t know.

My sources of information are local TV and news, which does seem biased in supporting the police. Then there is twitter and face book, which is 100% in favour of what the activists are doing and very anti the military. Then there are various other independent news channels and online papers which seem to be on the side of the protesters.

I can understand if the nation is frightened of being ruled by the army. There have been too many military trials of civilians this year, and I can see that will only continue if the army stay in power.

I can also see why many people are frightened of the Islamist parties winning the votes. They certainly know how to campaign, dishing out gifts and educating supported in how to vote etc. However, they could potentially threaten the way of live for many of us involved in music, dance and tourism. I don’t have any evidence of this , but am sure that one of the first things they would limited is venues serving alcohol, for example, which would seriously affect tourism and entertainment in Cairo. I know many Egyptian Copts who are very scared how their life might change for the worst if a fundamentalist type government get into power.

Who knows what will happen in the future for Egypt? One friend said to me today, what happens the parties who are actually set up by the army actually win the votes to maintain power? If that happens then people will accuse the elections of being rigged, no? But it could happen. I have spoken to a few people who miss Mubarak and wish he was still in power. Someone else just now said of course there won’t be peace, not yet. The army need to stay in control until Mubarak dies at least... otherwise all the heads of the army will share the blame with the big man. If he dies, then all the blame for the last 30 years can be placed on him and the country can move on. Who knows? As I say, everyone I speak to has a different take on it all.

God be with those fighting for what they truly believe is right.

No-body knows what will happen next. Those speaking against the protesters said the same things back in January, and then when they ‘won’ the revolution they supported and backed them. It seems very deja vu to me.

I understand people who just want people in Tahrir to go home, they want peace. Peace might be easier, businesses can run more smoothly on a day to day basis, but peace doesn’t ever bring change. And Egypt needs to move forward in so many ways. Change really is needed!

Are we in revolution 2? NO... personally I think we are still in the first one... except that in round one people gave up too easily. The activists in January had many demands... but the main one that everyone knew was they wanted Mubarak out. However, He was only the figurehead for the regime and what they really wanted, but couldn’t push for once Mubarak left, was to rid the country of the regime that was running it.

We can only hope that in the political unrest which is sure to follow the next few months that what is best for the long term good for Egypt is what happens, and that those who have suffered greatly, and those who have died, since January 25th won’t have done that in vain.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Libyan Joy v's Lumber Pain.

I am fed up having a never ending cold- and just in case that wasn't hard enough to perform with, I managed to pull something in my lower back too.

I have been resting all week, hoping it would get better by itself, and yesterday I accepted defeat and started phoning round to find a good physiotherapist.I managed to get an appointment for Saturday, so my plan for Friday was lots of socialising... but no dancing. By the time I finished lunch with friends I was dizzy from the pain, despite (or maybe because of!) all the ibuprofen so took myself home to bed.

I had called the Pharaohs at 1pm and been told the Nile boat wasn’t sailing, so I knew I could have an evening to myself... but at 5.15pm I got a call from a manager there saying I had to be therefore 7.30, that it was sailing after all. I won’t type here what I said to myself as I hung up from that call!
2 hours notice... ok, if it’s just for me ok, but I have to get together my 6 piece band in that time, and not all of them live close to the boat. Eventually, at 6pm I had confirmation that my band would be there.... a stressful 45mins? Yes- you could say that! Added to the stress I already had wondering how to dance with a back that made me dizzy just sitting!

I arrived to the Pharaoh in record time; thank god the roads are so clear on a Friday. Today they were even more so since so many thousands of people were in Tahrir square today protesting against military court trails for civilians and to get a fixed date when the army would hand over power to the voted in government. Many believe that the army are turning the revolution into a coup. The Islamist groups were protesting today because some of the guidelines mean that even if they are voted in, then they will not have full powers to rule.

Anyway... I arrived at the Pharaohs at the same time as the National Libyan football team. Lots of very excited young men in tracks suits with far more energy than required for a Nile cruise.

I have to say that I survived tonight due to them. The energy was immense. They were all loving the show, but at the same time were very respectful to me. I heard none of the usual rude comments that I might overhear from a group of Egyptians of about the same age. I tried to get some up to dance but they wouldn’t dance. I think perhaps they had been warned not to do anything that might bring down the image of their country. That wasnt a worry for Zidane dancing with me a couple of weeks ago when the management for the Zamalek club brought him to my boat.. He was shaking his stuff with the rest of them! Mind you, that particular night there was also a large group of bellydancers in from UK, and they overshadowed him somewhat! To be honest, I didn't even know who he was, until i saw him a couple of days later on the addidas advert on TV here!

Tonight, after my show finished I went back at the end to watch the singer, and she sang waka waka. Wow, what a great music choice. These Libyan boys just went totally mental. Everyone was up dancing and loving it. Guests from other tables jumped up and joined in too. It was a fun night and the team were lining up to have their photograph taken with me before they headed off in their bus.

The adrenaline of it all kept the pain away until I sat in my taxi to head home. It was an unexpected night... but a good one. Let’s hope I wake up still able to move in the morning!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Helwa Awee....

Egypt has among the highest obesity and diabetes rates in the Middle East, and indeed in the world (14th and 4th respectively). (

This problem, it seems to me, is that, besides most people sheer disbelief that physical exercise is valuable to their health and well being (there is huge popular support still for diet pills and instant ‘cures’  rather than diet and exercise) ... they make such yummy things from sugar.

Sweet pastries, milk and fruit dishes, not to mention the honey and nuts. Oh, I’m drooling at the thought; Fateer filled with honey, nuts, cream, icing sugar.... or with banana and chocolate... filo pastry with cream, and honey, covered with sugar....

Sorry... drifted off into sweet dreams there.....

I decided I would try to make one of the many Egyptian deserts, Lo’met Al-Ady.

No, I am not getting adventurous in my cooking skills... that would never do... rather I spotted this box of pre-mixed mix in my local sunshine supermarket... and when I saw the 5 min's logo on it, decided – why not?

First thing to note... you mix up the ingredients and leave the yeast to rise for an hour. (Somehow this doesn’t affect the 5min’s promise on the box?). I think it’s pretty much the same as do-nut dough for those who can’t find a ‘ready to make’ pack at their local corner shop.

Then you drop teaspoons of batter into hot oil. At first I didn’t make the portion sizes small enough, and I think the oil was too hot (if it can be ??) so the majority of my results were misshapen, stuck together and treacle coloured....

Mine looked like this....

I can, however, vouch that they still tasted fabulous!
Then you douse said balls in syrup or honey or coat with sugar. Anything which might shoot your blood sugar levels through the roof in fact.

It ‘might’ be discovered that if you soak them in a liqueur of your choice (such as Cointreau, for example) before coating them in honey, that you get a very strong 'kick' when you eat them...... I would imagine anyway! This is not part of the original Egyptian recipe, I hasten to add, especially since this is a dish usually found at Ramadan!

In fact, here's a nice blog article about ramadan sweets;
and I also found this video of how to make it,

Then ....after you have enjoyed your honey balls.....
..... you dance.

Of course.

You will have to do something to work off all that sugar and protect both your figure and health!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Emotions in motion. An Egyptian wedding.

I had an amazing time on Friday. I was performing at a friend’s wedding at the stunning Mena House Hotel, quite possible the most beautiful location in Cairo.

It’s always more nerve wracking dancing for friends... and lots more fun of course too, but the pressure feels greater since I want to do a really good job. Especially on this occasion since I had set myself the task of learning to dance with a shamadan (a chandelier you wear on top of your head) for the zaffa.

I spent ages trying the one I had... but eventually, 2 weeks ago, I accepted that it was just the wrong fit completely for me (turns out I have a very small head!) and it would never work. So I set off to Mahmoud’s in the Khan to buy myself a new shamadan. I found a lovely sparkly gold one with coins hanging from it that fits.

Then came the task of practising with it. Two weeks... I felt I could do this. I thought I would start simply... balancing the shamadan on my head as I sat at the computer. Wow. What a difference to my posture, instantly!!! Day 2 with it I was doing the housework, hanging up washing etc, all was going well until... I tried to lift a suitcase onto the top of a wardrobe. Ok, now it sounds like a very stupid thing to do with a chandelier on the top of one’s head... but at the time I felt I was doing so well with it up there that I was trying to ‘be normal’ with it. It wobbled; I jerked my neck so it wouldn’t fall off. Bad idea. I managed to pinch a nerve in my neck which lead to dizzy and nausea bouts for the next two days. Each day I would wake up, test my neck... could I get the shamadan back on... no still too sore... this continued for two weeks. Each day I got more and more stressed since I really wanted to dance shamadan for them... but everyday it became less and less likely that I was going to be able to.

The last few days before the wedding I had to admit defeat. My neck had beaten me. No shamadan for me on this occasion. I tried. And I will try again... It’s not my favourite prop by a long way, but Egyptians do really appreciate it when you do it at a wedding... so it’s on my ‘to do list’ ! As is finding a good physio in Cairo to help my neck build some strength to cope with it!!!

Anyway... the wedding was a hit, even without shamadan. When I met the family just as we were about to start the zaffa, the bride’s parents said hello to me, then as I unwrapped my veil and they saw I was in costume, they said, ‘ah, you’re Lorna!’ and hugged me full of smiles, well the mother did... and the father said he’d like to hug me to but would refrain!! I can't explain how soothing for the soul of a dancer it is for an Egyptian family to accept you, welcome you in fact, because of your profession! Instead of a zaffa band they had chosen to enter with their favourite zaffa songs on cd, which was quieter and less energetic than the normal zaffa’s- but the bride’s glowing face singing along with all the lyrics of the songs made up for that. Such a joy to see someone so lost in love... with the music and with her husband!

Everyone was lovely, it was an incredibly supportive audience, and not just the ones who were friends (!) ... my band did really well and I had the folkloric ‘boys’ in the show with their saaidi sticks too. They tried to persuade me to dance with a skinny little silver stick.... and seemed dubious when I refused, but when they saw the stick I use (which is much more like the one usually used by men) they were most impressed by it. I hadn’t worked before with these two men, but they wowed me by how well they followed me. I can be unpredictable at times, as anyone who has followed me in a class situation knows, but they did a great job. It looked almost choreographed! Then afterwards speaking to them, turns out one of them is already a facebook friend and teaches at some of the dance festivals in Cairo, Ahmed Helmy.

The dance floor was squares laid out on an uneven lawn, so as soon as anyone danced on it, the floor started to break up. By the time I performed it was like dancing on ground that is being split by an earthquake. I never dance in shoes, but I had no choice... this floor would have ripped my feet to shreds otherwise. I was glad too that I chose to wear flat shoes, since heels would have got stuck between the squares. The other obstacle of the night was the lighting. Moving spotlights that came from waist height from behind where my band were set up, which meant that I couldn’t see the band at all, let along make eye contact with any of them, which made the tabla solo more pot luck than usual. It also meant that I was very aware that the audience could see me, but often only in silhouette so I was trying to think of ways to make sure people could see all the moves, especially the small pops and locks and shimmies. Let’s just say, my brain was working as hard as my body was.... but I was in my element; Dancing under the pyramids, for friends, with a fabulous band, with backing dancers.....

So despite the setbacks (lighting, dance floor and lack of shamadan) it was a fabulous event that I feel honoured to have been a part of. Thanks to R and T (the bride and groom) for making me a part of your special day. I hope you both enjoyed it as much as I did!

After my show finished, everyone got up to party and later, when I had changed back into ‘normal’ clothes I did too. It’s a whole different thing, performing a show and then dancing with people who perhaps don’t know how to do more than one or two bellydance moves, but who ooze with joy and feeling when they dance.

When someone says that foreigners can’t dance like Egyptians... THAT is what they are talking about, not the technique (the foreigners are usually better at that than the Egyptians!) and not even understanding of the words, it’s that powerful combination of joy, love, flirting, challenging fun with fantastic attitude and timing that seemed to be about you, the dancer, being another instrument in the music, adding to it rather than just following it.

I am always flattered when someone says I dance like an Egyptian, that I ‘feel it’, and many told me this at the wedding. But when I get a chance to party with Egyptians... and I am not talking about the professional dancers here, just your average Egyptian man or woman, then I really start learning how to dance, how to be free.
This dance is much more about your emotions than your motion!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Bellydance TV

Tonights plans didn't quite work out as hoped for. We attempted to go to a cabaret downtown, but they were all shut because it is a dry night in Cairo, ie no alcohol can be served anywhere. They do this at many of the religious festivals, and the 'big' Eid is this weekend.

Since we couldn''t go into the cabaret we sat outside in a 'ahwa' (coffeshop) and had a cup of tea and a sheesha.

The TV was on the whole time with a fabulous TV channel I didn't know existed playing. It's called 'Al Tet' which means 'the best' in Egyptian slang and they play non-stop bellydance videos. Since it is pronounced al tit- you can imagine all the jokes we have been making tonight!!!

Most of the footage has been filmed abroad, in Russia and USA by the looks of it, but also some clips from the ahlan we sahlan dance festival in Cairo. It really does look like someone sits on youtube downloading any footage which is of good enough quality and sticks it straight onto the TV channel. I can only imagine how these dancers would feel knowing Egyptians were sitting at home watching them dance on the TV! There is some very high quality dancing to be found.

They just finished showing Sonya's drum solo from the Bellydance superstars show and now its Shahla from London! This is better than youtube! no more sitting waiting until clips download fully.

I have now programmed it onto my TV as channel no.1. For a girl who never switches her TV on at all normally... I suspect i am going to be rather glued to it from now on!

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Thursday night dilemma

How awful is my life when my biggest problem on a Thursday night is how to attend both of the best parties of the year, when they are both on at the same time, different locations and have horrible pre Eid traffic seperating them?!

Sara Farouk currently has a group of dancers over from the UK here on holiday, and last night she organised a party for them in her house. She had a band there to play for us all and they were phenomenal musicians. The band included some members who had played for me in Luxor last year when I performed at the farha festival. The singer was Randa Kamels singer... who, as well as being a lovely person, has one of the most fantastic voices, in Cairo, in my opinion! A night of chatting, dancing, eating kushery and rice pudding, and wallowing in the luxury of having such a band play just for our pleasure. I know I love dancing for my living, but there is a different joy altogether to be able to 'just'' dance too. That same joy was stamped on every face in the room.

It was physically painful to have to leave Sara's while the music was still playing in order jump in a cab to the next party, across town.

Ahmed Harfoush is the top Jazz singer in Cairo, and he had a party last night in his stylish apartment, to welcome a friend over from the UK. Everyone there was lovely, interesting, talented and entertaining. I really enjoyed the many conversations I had and wished I could have been there earlier (but of course without missing out on any of Sara's night either!) I was pressed to dance for everyone , and Ellie sang too. She was a star, her voice sounds more impressive every time I hear her. People said lots of complimentary things about my dancing too, which is always nice to hear. There was even some crispy bacon to be had!

When we came home Ellie and I sat and chatted with Laura, current guest in Hotel BellyLorna, til the wee small hours of the morning...

.... and now I am off to dance on the Nile for a coach load of tourists for whom I will become one of Egypt's touristic attractions!

I love my life!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is it safe to attend the Nile Group Festival in Cairo this November?

I just recieved an email from a dancer in Europe asking me whether Cairo was safe just now?

 She was trying to decide whether to attend the up coming Nile Group festival ( ) in November and said that the organisers said it was safe, but "they wouldn't, wouldn't they", she said. She asked me for my independant opinion.

I dont' know how independent my opinion can actually be. I live here. I work here. My work depends on tourism to a huge extent. I am biased to that extent. But i will try to explain how things are here just now....

There were recent problems when the copts (christians) demonstrated about the unfair laws concerning the building of new churches in Egypt. Tempers were sparked by a horrible recent attack on a church in Aswan where people died. The army dealt with the demonstration in a very heavy handed way which was very upsetting for us all, and in which people who were demonstrating died. Thats a very brief summary of the events, by no means meant to belittle what happened. This was 2 weeks ago now.

Since those events... Cairo has continued to have some demonstrations.... although they are usually small and very localised,  nothing compared to what we see from wall street and other world financial centres at the moment!

There has been no more violence or rioting since then. Yes there are elections coming up, and once the campaigning starts perhaps there will be a different atmosphere, who knows? Put it this way, i wouldn't recommend you stay in a hotel next to Tahrir...

There are still less police on the streets than would be ideal for a city of this size... so opportunist petty crimes are still occuring. In the streets you have to be careful of your bag (and of your backside!) However, within the last month, I had a dancer from Italy staying with me and hotel Bellylorna, and at the end of her month trip here, when asked what she thought of Cairo. She had loved her time here. A lot of which she spent on her own often wandering around areas just soaking in the atmosphere. She said she liked that she felt very safe to do so. In fact, she said she was much more concerned for her person and belongings while walking around Rome than she was in Cairo.

I avoid Tahrir on Fridays. I have done since January. I promised my family back home in Scotland that I would keep myself safe and that's how to manage that. If there are protests, whether these stay peaceful or escalate, they are almost all centered in Tahrir and you can be a 15 minute walk from Tahrir and not be aware of them.

I have changed my behaviour since January, in that I wouldn't walk in the streets alone at night anymore, and I wouldn't carry large sums of cash around with me. I also try to put distance between me and any men or boys in the street... just in case a hand reaches out. But, this is the worst of it, in my experience as a foreigner living here, and happens in many large cities all over the world.

I still work on the Pharoah boat on the Nile, and most dancers are still also performing. I still go out to cafes, bars, clubs. I still get taxi's everywhere. I still live a 'normal' life here. The only 'stressful' thing is the imagining how the elections might go and how Egypt will change in the upcoming years. Which isn't something which really would affect most dance tourists coming for a week or two to Cairo.

Is it safe to come to Cairo- I would say YES.
Can i guarentee that? No, of course not.
Would I 'risk' it to attend a dance festival - absolutely YES!

In fact i would go as far as to say, if you always dreamed of going to a festival in cairo but haven't yet, now is the PERFECT TIME to come. Some people are scared to come, so there are a lot less students in every class which means you get to see the teacher more! In fact, even if you came before and were put off due to high number in each class, i would encourage you to try again now. You get a lot more for your money!

I look forward to' welcoming you 'in' Egypt' soon!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My multiple 'jobs' in Cairo...

Yes, i am a professional Bellydancer in Cairo... But that's not all I do.....

This week Ellie of London (my flatmate) has been busy with a lot of singing gigs, so i have been following her around being her ‘assistant’. She is always so supportive of me in my work and often comes to the pharaoh to be my labisa (dresser) so it’s nice to be able to return the favour ...helping each other and a fun night out too!

At her work, I advise in the sound check (and continue to do this throughout the evening), liaise with the management and the staff and sound engineer. I translate where necessary too. Of course, I also keep her supplied with drinks through the night and I take seriously the ‘crowd whipper upper’ element of the job, applauding loudly, getting people on the dance floor and generally agreeing with everyone how wonderful she is (especially if management are within earshot!) I take song requests from the audience for her, also take photos and video for use for promotional stuff and generally be a PA so that she can do her job of singing and entertaining the audience without those worries.

At first it was weird for Ellie to think of me as her PA. She has always known me as a dancer in Cairo, and often helped me in various aspects of my work, so it felt weird for her to introduce me to anyone was her ‘assistant’.In UK a singer wouldn’t need anyone with her. In Egypt it would be unwise for a woman to go alone anywhere, and since artists (not only dancers) are often seen as having dubious morals then people often tend to think they can take advantage when they see a woman alone. In fact, not a single person at any event has ever questioned ‘why’ she might need me there, which again shows how normal it is here. At last night’s venue the staff just took to calling me ‘the beautiful assistant’. It’s a fun job for me when I am not dancing.

I also think it is useful as a performer to do the assistant job from time to time. As a solo artist it is easy to feel lonely. You are on stage alone thinking no one else can fully understand what you are doing or how it feels up there. From helping Ellie, I know that I am imaging how she feels, what she might need and therefore putting myself a hundred times a night in her shoes. I realise that my assistants have always done that too (the good ones anyway!!) thinking what i might need before i get up on stage and as soon as I come back to the changing room. I feel less like it’s a one woman show, and much more like it’s a team effort now. (and that’s without the dynamics of working with a live band!)

Performing is my passion, and 'artist' is the job title printed on my work visa.

I love teaching too, whether it’s workshops , or private classes.

Managing ‘Hotel Bellylorna’ is always entertaining playing ‘mummy’to all the dancers from all round the world that end up coming to stay with me in Cairo. Often it involves a fair amount of tour guiding and cultural advising!

Tonight a friend said to Ellie, “but, what I’d really like to do with my life is what Lorna does”. Ellie was rather surprised as this man did not strike her as belly dancer material as such. He laughed and said, “oh no, I wasn’t thinking about that... I mean her writing, the blog, you know. I’d like to be a writer too”. I felt honoured that someone saw me in that light before even the dance. That’s a first for me. Even i see myself as dancer first and everything else after. I guess i am a writer too, which was actually my dream job if anyone ever asked me when I was a little girl what i wanted to be when i grew up. I always answered a writer, or one of ‘Pans People’ (a dance troupe who performed on the TV show ‘Top of the Pops’ !!!

Here I am living more than one of my dreams. Dancer, Teacher, Manager/Tour Guide/'Mum', PA to a star and Writer!

My many jobs here in Cairo keep me busy, keep a roof over my head, keep me sane and connect me with some fabulous people. I love all of my jobs! Life is good.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Damn JD for being right!

In this context, JD stands for Jim Davidson, who, when i met him, was hosting the BBC TV series ‘The Generation Game’. I was called in a couple of years running to be their ‘expert’ in Belly dance and performed (with my 2 lovely friends Hannah and Elspeth) and then judged the contestants with marks out of 10 for how well they did. It was a fun experience both times and the first time I had ever had a professional make up artist work her magic, which was an eye opener too. ( Yes it was back in the days when i was blond too!!!) 

Why was he right? Because Jim’s words of wisdom for me were, “Lorna, you’re never going to be famous or make money from belly dance, you know that don’t you?”. I replied that others had, but actually that wasn’t my goal anyway. I loved dance and it made me happy and no employer can pay you in happiness the way dance does for me. If most of my waking hours of my life are going to be spent at work, why have a job that makes me miserable? All I want is enough. Thankfully this is exactly what i have actually always been given, enough. And it is , enough.

 Jim’s reaction, when he was trying to get his head around the idea that it wasn’t all about the money, was that I “wouldn’t make money because I loved what i did too much”. When i asked him to explain he told me that when you don’t like doing something, people have to pay you a lot to make it worth your while, or you don’t do it. If you love it, often you end up doing it for free, or for less than it’s worth, even if you didn’t mean to.

Last night saw a perfect example of JD’s prediction come true.

Ellie of London, the newest singer in Cairo, had a gig on a private yacht last night. I went along as her chaperone, bodyguard, assistant, whatever you want to call it- actually i just went along because i was nosey and wanted a night on a yacht – is that so bad? No seriously, it is never wise for a woman, singer or dancer, to go alone to a gig unaccompanied and although the people turned out to be very decent and lovely, if Ellie had been out on the Nile on a yacht with people who were not that, it would be a potentially very difficult and dangerous situation for her. Anyway, it was the yacht owner’s party, to show off his new yacht to his friends and have a bit of a party, and they were lovely.

Ellie sounded amazing and sang songs from almost every genre you can think of. Some people danced , others they didn’t. When i saw women bopping in their seats but embarrassed to get up to dance i went over and got them onto the dance floor. Not because it was my job, or anyone asked or expected me to, but because I wanted the night to go well and everyone to have fun. That’s just what i do, play hostess even when it’s not my party! Maybe that is a line of business i should go into- party whipper upper...  with a more suitable job title of course.  Anyway, I was dancing with a group of about 5 Egyptian women to the shoop shoop song, or something of that ilk, when I heard one saying to the others, in arabic, “we should ask for baladi, I want to dance baladi”. I thought nothing more of it at the time, except that i understood and felt the same.

Later in the evening the yacht owner comes over and asks if he puts on baladi music would i do a show for them. I said “absolutely not, I am not working, you know I am not working tonight”.  He tried to persuade me, i wouldn’t be moved. Eventually i did agree that if baladi music came on, and others were dancing, i would of course dance with them, as I had been dancing with everyone all night, no different... but no show.

Can you guess what happened yet...?

So, he asks me to ask Ellie to put on some Egyptian music. I did, then I ran to the bar to hide. Around me the women start dancing, but again, just in their seats... I pull them up (doh! THATS when i made my ‘mistake’) so we dance together. I tone down my dancing too so i don’t scare them off but slowly one by one, they slink off the dance floor. The owner, then the owners son, come to dance with me too, but they too drift off.

I find I’m on my own on the dance floor. I SHOULD, if i had taken JD’s advice all those years ago, gone to sit down immediately. Business wise, that would have been the ‘smart’ plan. Don’t perform for free, especially in front of people who might employ you at a later event.

Could I sit? No I couldn’t.

Why? Because i felt tricked or pressurised into performing? No, that wasn’t it.

 It was because, quite frankly, i was loving dancing. I was blissfully happily lost in the music. I didn’t even ‘perform’, I just danced- for me. I loved it.

They applauded, they loved it too.

Ellie, bless her, was annoyed on my behalf, feeling I had essentially been pushed into having to work for free. The main thing that had annoyed her was that when she was booked for the gig she had recommended me to them in case they also wanted to hire a dancer. They had looked at her in disgust at the suggestion, saying oh no, we are not that sort of people. Their reaction to what she and i consider an art form,  I think it was perhaps her first encounter of the hypocrisy which surrounds belly dance in this country and the misperceptions people have of dancers. The country where they place their 3 year old on the table to dance for everyone, but would disown her or worse if at 30 she chose to do the same! Egyptians love the music and dance, they feel it is part of them, but at the same time most look down on anyone who might choose to dance for a living, then of course they ‘force’ me to dance for free. I totally understand her point and very much appreciate her concern for me, but I don’t feel bad about it. Maybe the people who talked to me, interested to find out more about this British expat in Cairo, will then, seeing me dance, alter even slightly their impressions of what a belly dancer is. Yes, I might have blown my chance to charge for a performance on the same boat on another occasion. But maybe not. Perhaps, someone will remember the Scottish belly dancer they saw at a private yacht party on the Nile and decide to hire me for a wedding or party. It’s not overly likely I agree, but do I care? No, I don’t.

I love dancing.


There are times when the dance has to be just that, just for dance. If it is always work i would lose the joy it gives me. If that happens, I may start making money, but I’d be better off sat behind a desk, working  9-5 with a pension plan and paid holidays. I don’t need to make money, I don’t need to be rich, or famous. Those things don’t make a person happy.

 I just hope that dance continues to do what it has always done for me... fills my soul, makes me happy and provides me with  ‘just enough money’ to continue dancing my life away!

So no JD, sorry, but you are wrong. You can’t see the results in material things. I don’t own houses or yachts or wear designer clothes (except for designer costumes that is!). i don’t drive sports cars or wear diamonds.

 However, love of dance actually makes me one of the richest people I know.

And it’s enough.

Nb- just for the record, I feel I should add here that I do NOT condone dancers undercutting others or dancing in restaurant for their meals or for tips or any of these horrible stories you hear of. That is a very different scenario than what I am discussing above. If you are working- treat your art, and other dancers, with respect and charge a fair rate for your work. Otherwise you undervalue us all along with yourself!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tonights violence in Cairo... return of the curfew

Tonight i was at a friends house, playing trivial pursuits. It was a lovely evening, until his mum called to warn us that there were troubles downtown and that a curfew had been put into place from 2-7am.

We left immediately and I got home to read all the news and see the heart breaking video footage of army trucks driving straight at protestors.

Seemingly there was a demonstration, by copts and supporting muslims against the burning of a church in Aswan last week. Armed thugs came and attacked them, and then in the fighting that ensued the army became involved and were shooting live ammo into the crowds and then driving at the people in tanks. The worst 'crowd management' you could imagine. Many are dead, even more are injured. It's horrific and sad and pointless.

Chaos in Cairo ( although at the moment its only in downtown area of Cairo.... We didn't see any problems at all on our way home to mohandiseen) .

This is not a fight about religion. Its a fight for human rights.

WHATEVER the argument- driving over civilians in armoured tanks cannot ever be acceptable?!!!

God/Allah- whatever you want to call him, be with the families of those injured and killed tonight............. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about it all and hope to God that there is peace by morning. The people of cairo have already had such a difficult year, and although i have always said I suspected it will get worse before it gets better, i really did not imagine the army would go to these extreme lengths to bring the people down. Either some peace treaty of sorts will have to be worked out tomorrow between the army and the christian protestors, or i suspect there will be more violence to come. I really hope its the former...

An Egyptian Journlist friend is just writing to me now and asking me to write that he believes the army want to please the Islamists. But wants you to know that only 5million out of 85 million Egyptians are Islamists. They gather support from the masses partly because they have always had it played that is is 'us or them'... ie if you are not with us you are against us. But now, due to recent behaviour, for example the burning of the church last week, less people are sympathing with the Islamists and more are wanting equality for all. Although it's not been polled, he believes the majority of Egyptians are against this sectarianism. Certainly everyone i know in Cairo is.

For friends and family reading this- Cairo is a big city- and i live very far from the troubles tonight which are very localised in the downtown area. I am home and safe and will stay that way- don't worry. Egypt is my home and i love it here. It's just going through a painful growing spurt right now, I hope she grows up soon.....

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Advice for female travellers to Cairo, Part2 - How smart women behave in Cairo.....

Do you have to behave differently depending on where you are?  No of course you don’t HAVE to... but you do already, even if you don’t realise it. Most women already act differently depending on who they are with at the time, their parents, their partners, their children, their bosses, strangers.  We do this for various reasons, conscious or unconscious.

 My blog entry here is my suggestions on how to adapt your behaviour in Cairo, based on my experiences, and those of my female friends, and are based on the assumption you want to reduce the amount of unwanted attention you receive especially in the streets.

 If, of course, you enjoy and want more attention (heaven forbid) then you can do the opposite of these things and God be with you!

-          Dress appropriately- see my previous blog entry;

-          Eye contact can be seen as an invitation. When walking in the street try not to look at people. Looking at the ground helps. Very dark or mirrored sunglasses also help so people can’t see you looking at them!

-          Touch is another no-no. Try to avoid touching men! I mean even from hand shaking or a touch on the shoulder or arm when talking. In many countries it is very normal to accentuate a point using a slight touch to the hand or whatever- but not in Egypt! Touching women is normal and good, if you are a woman, although not usually with strangers!

-          Kissing is illegal in public! Even if you are married. Just don’t do it. When meeting people, and saying goodbye, many countries  kiss on the cheek as a normal greeting. This is also normal in Cairo, but only men-men and women-women. Never between a man and a woman. Many ‘westernised’ Egyptian man will attempt this greeting form, but it is wise, especially in public to adopt a strong hand hold so they can’t. Even if it is just a friend. Most people will understand this response from you and not take offence.

-          On  ‘taking offence’ , do not feel you have to be polite. Never get yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable just because you don’t want to say no. I have found I have had to almost be what i would consider rude in order to get my point across without misunderstandings and silliness. So if a shopkeeper takes your hand to shake it, and holds onto it, even if he is smiling and talking perfect English to you, remember he would NEVER do this to an Egyptian girl, he wouldn’t have even shaken her hand in the first place. You have every right to pull your hand away and talk sternly to him. Be strong. You will be respected for it.

-          Dancing in the street, in a Cafe, restaurant  etc is NOT a good idea. Egyptian women would NOT do this! (unless its somewhere like Bian cafe which actually operates salsa evenings!)

-          Laughing out loud can be seen as ‘easy’. Egyptians are drawn to ‘light-blooded’ people ie whose who laugh easily. Laughing will make you more desirable.

-          Smiling and giggling get the same reaction as laughing. Poker face is best in Cairo streets and when doing business.

-          When you walk limit how much bounce and sway you give your curves. A supportive bra is a must if you are blessed in that department!

-          When i walk i tend to swing my arm by my side... on more than one occasion i have by doing this managed to get my arm between a gropers hand and my rear end!

-          The other arm is holding onto the strap of my handbag. There has been an increase of bag snatching in Cairo since the revolution along with other petty crimes so just be on your guard. Although one recent guest from Rome commented on how much safer she felt in the streets of Cairo than at home!

-          Chatting in taxi’s is a tactic used by drivers to work out where you are from and therefore how much money you have and how they can best scam you out of it. Sometimes they just want to flirt. Don’t sit in the front of the taxi as a woman, especially if the driver asks you to and beware of roaming hands. If you are in this situation treat the driver as the child he is and get out the cab immediately. Also all taxi’s have a registration number- it’s hard to remember to do it but a good idea to take a note of the number if you can!

-          When you are in a car or taxi, don’t make eye contact with other drivers. By accident i have done this before and had to get the driver to drive a very long route to shake our follower off our tail!

-          As in most places – if you wander about, looking all around you as you go, then you will look like a tourist and be more likely to be approached. Walk wherever you are going in a determined manner. Actually- it’s wise to look at the pavement anyway since they are so uneven and you don’t want to trip!

-          Don’t walk in the street at night if you can help it. Two women together will attract double the attention! I have tried to walk the wrong way up a one way street before to avoid a curb crawler, but to no avail- he followed me up the road and then i was in a worse situation because there were less people about. ( I was shaken but ok, since he drove off when i threatened to scratch his lovely BMW with my keys- it’s a good idea to carry keys in your hand as self defence – just in case!)

-          If you are a Bellydancer- LIE when people ask you what you do! Unless they are in the same industry , you will always be considered ‘easy’ if you are a dancer! I always tell people that i ‘work in tourism’ when they ask.... well, it’s true too!

-          If you are being asked by a taxi driver, man in the street, in a shop wherever, it’s always best to say you are married , even if you aren’t.  Some single women travelling alone in Egypt even wear wedding bands to give them more confidence to do this. If you are travelling with a partner or boyfriend- LIE and say you are married. It just makes your life easier!

-          If you are lost, local shopkeepers know their area and are better to stop than policemen or passersby. The best place to ask is a chemist since they are on almost every street and to get your pharmacy degree you have to have good English!

-          Never feel pressurised to go anywhere or do anything you don’t want to do. Egyptians can be great salesmen and persuaders. Go with your gut instinct every time. Even if you feel you have to be ‘rude’ to get out of a situation. They will actually respect you more for this!

-          Try not to be alone with a man...... this need a lot more explanation so I am writing a separate blog entry about this one.... and will publish asap

Of course... all this is just advice. You do not have to follow it to the letter. You may feel safe in certain places, with certain people and there your behaviour will be more normal. Eventually, if you spend some time in Cairo, then you will learn where you can relax and where you can’t. Also if you master some of the language you are in a better position to understand the comments made at you in the street and know whether they are meant in a sleezy or friendly way.  Until you reach that point its wise just to make yourself stand out as little as possible!

I love living in Cairo. It’s my home now. There are many fabulous people here. The one things that all Foreign and Egyptian women alike ALL complain of is the hassle from men  on the streets, and nothing will ever stop it completely, unfortunately, but hopefully some of these behavioural suggestions will help reduce it somewhat, and help you enjoy your time in Cairo even more.

So, when walking in the streets of Cairo, enjoy, laugh, smile, dance, wonder at this crazy city- just keep it all inside- don’t let any of it show on your face or body language- get to work on that poker face!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Advice for female travellers to Cairo, Part1- What to wear in Cairo...

It always seems to be an issue... and to this day  i still have to double check every outfit before i leave the house to see how Cairo proof it is....

I googled ‘what to wear in Egypt’ and found this website which is very interesting.. . but many of the comments i don’t really agree with in regards to clothing suggestions. Here are my thoughts on the subject;

Lorna’s Guide for women regarding daytime clothing in Cairo!

-         The most common question- do I need to cover my hair? NO. You don’t, unless you are going to visit mosques. In which case a scarf/ shawl kept in your bag will do the job when you get there... In fact a blonde friend of mine said that she got even more unwanted attention when she wore a hijab, since the men seemed to think that a foreign muslim woman was an even greater ‘catch’. On the hair note- I have heard from various people ideas of wisdom of going outside with wet hair. It means you are just out the shower, and obviously you had sex just before that shower so obviously you want it again, with any man on the street that asks. I am not sure i totally agree with that pattern of thinking.... but if you are not feeling comfortable in your own skin it might be best not to risk it! I do however find a big difference if I go out with my hair down or pinned back. If you have long hair, especially if it is blonde or red, then its a good idea to clip it back when on the street. The swishing attracts more attention and some may feel they have the right to touch it (usually women who do this!)

-          Trousers- an obvious good choice? Yes, if they are not transparent.... beware especially of white cotton/linen! Remember that many materials which look opaque in a shop mirror may well be transparent under strong sunlight. These same items may be totally fine for wearing at night in Cairo. Jeans i always thought were the worst choice because they are heavy in the heat, but actually- assuming they are not too tight.. they often are my favourite choice since you look less like a tourist, and also because they don’t show the sweat!

-          Shorts- No.... unless you are in a holiday resort eg sharm or somewhere- Not for Cairo. In fact I wouldn’t wear cut off jeans or skirts that are above knee height at all. (actually not a good choice for men either unless very long shorts!!!)

-          Skirts- long- fine- but check for the see-through test!!! Knee length- great- but if they are full skirts beware since Cairo can be windy! Oh and be careful getting in and out of taxi’s in even below the knee skirts! If it is a wrap around skirt- pin it! The wind and getting into taxi’s etc could have you showing a lot more flesh that you intended- and believe me- it will be noticed!

-          Whether it’s a skirt or trousers, or jeans.... make sure if they sit low on your hips that your top is long enough to cover them..... exposed belly/hip/ lower back will attract unwanted attention from male and female! No bare bellies in Cairo (even us dancers and still supposed to wear the body stocking on stage remember!)

-          Cleavage is a no- no. Check all your tops.... what might be ok and normal amount of cleavage in uk or wherever is probably not in Cairo. If you can see any line, any bump on your chest that could distinguish you from a man, then have it covered! I often wear vest tops under lower cut tops to make sure this is kept under wraps. A little cropped top can also be worn so you cover the cleavage but don’t add to many layers onto an already warm outside for Cairo temperatures.  Remember the bending down to speak to taxi drivers test too.................!!!

-          Dresses are usually fine, assuming they have sleeves, no cleavage and below knee... which is often not the case. However – don’t panic – you can wear your summer dresses if you are ok wearing leggings underneath if they are a little short (or at risk of blowing up!) or a little bolero top to give you arms if it’s a strappy one.

-          Leggings- If it’s a tight mini dress that you wear with leggings- try to ensure that it really does cover your bum and you are not having to pull it down all the time- otherwise you will look like you are intentionally drawing eyes (and potentially hands) to that area! Leggings are seen by the majority of Egyptian women and therefore men as an item of underwear. They are not a substitute for trousers. They show too much detail!

-          Most of these suggestions are for the main areas in Cairo that I am in daily, Mohandiseen, Zamalek, Maadi. These areas have a large proportion of foreigners and ‘westernised’ Egyptians. If you are going to be downtown (where the museam is) or in more ‘local’ (baladi) areas, including el Hussain (where the khan el Khalili bazaar is) then i recommend less flesh on show... ie full length trousers/jeans/skirt rather then to the knee and maybe a long sleeve too.

-          This comment is for your own health and comfort rather than what others might think. Wear as much natural fibres as possible. It does get hot and sweaty in Cairo. Nylon is hotter to wear than cotton! This is another reason i like jeans!
-          T-shirts.... totally fine.... most places in Cairo. Even tightly fitted- as long as they cover armpits (which are frowned upon... but i suspect that has more to do with a lack of use of deodorant in Egypt than with the flesh itself!!!) and are long enough to cover the top of your jeans or whatever. Stappy tops are a no-no in public too (in Cairo remember- these things are fine places like sharm.)

-          A big baggy blouse is fine... as long as it’s not see-through.... bra straps on show are like wearing your bra in public. Not a good idea. Also check that the buttons don’t gape in any blouse you wear.... otherwise you’ll have some strange conversations while people, i mean men, try to see through the gaps!!!

-          Baggy verses tight. You would think that things which show off your curves more would get you more attention... you are right- but its attention the way Egyptian women get attention too. So it depends – if you want to look less like a tourist the tighter clothes are better! I have a wardrobe full of clothes i rarely wear now that i bought to come to Cairo on previous trips before I moved here,  linen trousers and tunic style tops that scream ‘agnabi ‘ (foreigner!).   I get less hassle in the streets here in Jeans and a t-shirt than if i wear baggy skirt and top. I might look sexier, but i also look more like I belong! It’s a fine balancing act!

-          Colour. Certain colours will draw the eye more. Red is used in advertising for that very reason. A tight black t- shirt will attract a lot less attention than a red one! Remember if you go for white that it should be thick enough cotton to mask the bra strap!!!!

-          A solution to see through skirts /trousers- a top or scarf tied round your hips....? NO!!!! This makes your hips and the hip movement more obvious and you will attract MORE comments. (that is why we tie something there when we bellydance!!!)

-          Skin on show..... a little is ok, ie arms is ok, lower legs is ok, upper chest is ok... but if you have all three on show... you’ll be commented on!

-          Shoes. High heels when you go out at night can be a liability. The streets are very uneven- so if you have any amount of walking to do, then wear a pair of ‘ship ship’ (flip flops)  to get you there and then change into your heels on arrival- this will also protect your shoes from damage!!! High heels lift you bum and make it swing- its why we wear them.... so if this brings extra attention it might not be a good idea for that reason too!

-          Make up. If you wear a lot of make up, you may stand out more, especially during the day. The heavier the make-up the looser the character of the girl wearing it..... or at least that’s how it seems to work in the minds of many here, unfortunately. Go light... or add the lipstick when you arrive at the club!

-          Body shape counts. In Cairo the curvy woman is the goddess. Showing off those curves or swinging them about will attract a lot of comments. In our lives we tend to try and dress to show off and accentuate our body shape. In Cairo during the day anyway, i try and do the opposite, and my curves aren’t big to begin with! I definitely dress down for Cairo streets... and it makes a difference!

Night time rules differ. If you are going to a westernised bar/club/ hotel/ restaurant you can wear whatever you want inside and you will often see very skimpy outfits. Just cover up to get there and home!!!

The best investments i ever made clothes wise in Cairo? Lots of large shawls and also very long, loose-fitting light cotton cardigan type tops which i usually pin onto me before i go out each night!

Tip for buying holiday clothes so you don't stick out so much- wear clothes you would normally wear at home- ie dont go out and buy a linen safari suit (unless thats your style in your own country of course!). Be mindful of sleeve length, body length of tops, neckline, and leg length of skirts , dresses and cropped trousers. Check material content (ie natural is better). Check transparency! Lacy/patterned bras that show through clothes are a bad idea too!

oh- and don't ever think you'll just buy important items here eg bikini or underwear- if you can find something you would be seen dead in and won't make your hair stand on end from static- chances are it has the 100% import tax on it!!
To attract a little less attention when you go out at night i know some women (Egyptians) who will remove chunky or shiny jewellery and only put it on once they arrive at their destination. If you are out and you see Egyptian girls dressed in a revealing, western manner- they probably came by car, they did not arrive by taxi!

A lot of what i read about for how to dress here comments on respecting people’s culture. There is an element to that of course. But really, for me its about reducing the hassle in the street. We will always get unwanted attention just because we are foreign, but you can reduce it by covering up somewhat. It goes to that same horrible WRONG argument you used to hear a lot in the west some years back that if a woman was wearing a mini skirt or something sexy like that, and attacked then she was 'asking for it' and somehow deserved it?  Also I notice if I cover, then the looks from women are usually admiring, but if i don’t they look at you like you are the devil herself. If anything bad was to happen, I’d like to think that the women at least would stand by me if I try to dress ‘normally’.  I hope i never have the occasion to test that theory!

Don’t panic if you are planning a trip to Cairo and this has worried you even more.... just think lots of layers!!! Oh and remember if you are coming in summer , although it may be 40deg in day and 30 at night... you will still need something to keep you warm in restaurants since they usually set their air conditioning units to 16 deg!!!!!

Like I said- i live in my jeans with a long length t-shirt. The same as I would probably wear in the UK. It might be Egypt- but you don’t have to mummify yourself!