Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Randa Kamel of course...

This has been the longest break without updating my blog. I'd love to say because I have been so busy with work, but unfortunalty Cairo is still quiet- despite all the restriction on travel etc being lifted from abroad. seems people are still a little scared to venture back. I hope they come soon..... Cairo is calm now.... and has been for some time..........

no- The reason I've been away from my blog can be blamed on 2 other bellydancers; Eshta and Randa!

Eshta (of Saqarah fame)  arrived from London a couple of weeks ago to join me here in Cairo- living the dream! She's hoping to find her fame singing here (since the dancing world is so competitive and difficult for foreign dancers)

 Hotel Bellylorna should be renamed Hotel EllieLorna!!!

It's been fun helping Eshta settle in and lovely to be sharing my place with such a fabulous woman. I think staying in Cairo just got 10 times more crazy! (come stay with us and party!! There are still the 2 large rooms available for renting out to visiting dancers- email me to reserve yours now!  bellylorna@hotmail.com !)

Then, this last week Eshta and i both attended an amazing new dance festival here in Cairo called 'Randa kamel of Course'. It was a whole week of JUST Randa (apart from the hour warm up /balance/posture/ reda training every day taught by former member of the reda troupe). Randa was so giving and professional.. we really felt that she desperatly wanted people to really learn as much as possible and she shared many personal experiences as well as her music and technique. All her classes had a selection of her musicians playing live for us too. I loved it! I have always loved Randa's dancing... and now after my complete immersion in her style for a whole week i admire her strength and discipline even more! I feel drilled... and inspired! (and just a teeny bit exhausted too!!!) Looking forward to the next one!

Wonder what this week will bring.....

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Imbaba's rage

I just got off the phone to a friend... she lives on the same street as the current fighting in Imbaba that have seen 6 killed and 94 injured today and 2 churches burned.

Seemingly a christian woman went to the church with her family... and the church held her there against her will. This woman had expressed interest in converting to Islam (she is married to a Muslim man) and this was how her family and church responded to it- to lock her up! Seemingly, the husband tried to rescue her..but wasn't able to.... and then it all got ugly with the 2 largest churches in the area being set ablaze and fighting between christians and muslims in the street. The police and army were called in... and my friend was telling me that the TV's all say the army are all there and its under control but she said that wasn't that case, that they had come and the people were fighting them and they left. Although right now there are reports of special army forces being in there and a massive gun battle going on with one particular building....

Imbaba is a relatively poor, local area (not so far from Mohandiseen - but there has been no troubles anywhere else in the city) where many Muslims and Christians normally live peacefully side by side. Even if you look at the story which started all this... the Christian woman was actually married to a Muslim man in the first place... and the problems only arose when she wanted to convert. My friend was most frightened for her brothers, in case they were tempted to go and see what was going on and got involved in anyway. She also felt that the official death toll doesn't even come close to the actual one, although i guess time will tell on that one.

Its a sad sad day in Egypt. The overwhelming ignorance needs to be educated. As one of my facebook friends here just wrote as his status;
 " Tear gas, black smoke and the smell of burning wood & construction material fill the sky of one of the blackest nights. What happened and continue to happen is further proof to one thing and one thing alone: Education is the solution, not Islam or a revolution..."

The majority of people i know happily socialise with others no matter what their religion... but those are mainly the educated ones... and these problems of course are more likely to get out of hand when no one really is in control... not the police or the army. At the moment, everywhere else in Cairo is safe and quiet- although sad and angry at these recent events... what the next few days will bring we dont yet know. 'God willing' inshallah- it will be calmed by tomorrow and remain in the one small area it has been in today... without more people being injured in the process.

As a foreigner... I can honestly say i have at times been picked on because of my job, beacuse of my gender, and because of my nationality(if they know i am 'British' that is - being Scottish has always bridged any divide!)... but ALWAYS the religion has been actually a point which has pulled me together with Muslims here. If you believe in the 'one God' then you're ok is kind of how it goes... (although that is not extending to jews unfortunately!).

As the fighting continues tonight, Lets hope people tonight can remember the 'love your neighbour' (literally) aspect of their religions rather than the 'eye for an eye' ......... too many people already have suffered....

praying for peace in imbaba tonight....

Friday, May 06, 2011

on the roof...

Last night I went to an open stage night run by my friend, a poet, Linda Cleary. It was held (as the name suggests, up ‘on the roof’ of the Darb 17/18 art centre which is a fabulous art gallery space in Fustat. It is situated in a very local area and the night was punctuated with zaghreets, gunshots and shaabi music- all celebrating a wedding nearby.

When we arrived to set up, it started to rain. RAIN... the reason events like this would rarely be held ‘on the roof’ in UK and indeed the reason why most buildings in UK do not even have a roof space that could be used! Anyway- thankfully the rain didn’t stick around, but the wind did (which created sound issues with feedback from the mic's, and blew peoples papers around when they were trying to recite from them!). It was still warm though!

The night had a range of performers from stand up comedians to ‘folk’ singers to poetry recitals and article readings to rapping.

A few really stood out for me, a comedian talking in Arabic, where I could understand only a fraction of the words but from his fabulous delivery had me in stitches. Another comedian , talking in English, who also brought tears to my eyes in a good way, joking about passing around the ‘unemployment’ (the Arabic word for a joint is ‘job’, which he pointed out was strange because if you smoke that stuff often you don’t have a job!) . What amazed me was the open talk about drugs, bodily functions etc which are common place on the comedy circuit in UK but I haven’t ever heard here. Most Egyptian humour I had previous heard was all about sex (mainly about people cheating on their wife/husband) or about stupidity- the ‘saaidi’ jokes in Egypt equate to the ‘Irish’ jokes at home. ( I wrote ‘at home’ there, then had an instant urge to delete it and write ‘in UK’ again, since Egypt is now my home... but left it to prove that you have take a girl out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out the girl!!!

There was one poet who read his word in Fus’ha, i.e. classical Arabic, and the sound of it was fabulously beautiful, but as admitted by the Egyptian man next to me, understood by very few. Even though most of the audience were highly educated with many of the performers being doctors in the ‘real’ world. This poet then read a translation of his work in English and it was still so deep that I couldn’t get a lot of it. Proving some minds have to be admired even when they can’t be understood in either language!

The acts I didn’t enjoy so much were rarely about content and more about delivery. The difference between those who had memorised their work and performed for the audience compared to those who were reading was massive. Even the best reader’s words get lost when the wind is blowing the paper about wildly and when they struggle to read everything in the dim lighting! And many were reading from their mobiles or laptops, which also had the effect of distancing me from what they had to say.

The highlights of the night for me were 2 Egyptian rap artists. One tried to perform something he had written as a rap but in poem form... and on forgetting the words had to go back and put it to a beat to bring back the words to his mind. Proving the power of music! The other, who performed twice, worked with a variety of backings. He had a guitar backing him, then a sound track he had obviously created for the piece played from his iPod, and then... on not having a backing track for his last piece, asked if there was anyone ‘in the house’ who could do beat box..... And there was- and it was amazing!!! The spontaneity of that and the professionalism of the result really impressed me.

Oh and I must mention the guy who’s poetry didn’t get me as much as his actions did. On his last poem, he turned to his mobile which was on a chair... and making a call, put the phone back on the chair and apologised on the mic saying that the next one was written for his ‘girl’ and he wanted her to hear it! His face went all soft as he almost whispered his last poem- about love. When he finished he grabbed the phone talking with his girl will a soppy grin all over his face as he walked but through the crowd. THAT is Egyptian!

It was an amazing event with about 100 people in attendance and it happens every month. I was nervous about going, knowing that at least half of the 20 the acts would be in Arabic, which I might not understand, and not being so into poetry... but I was entertained totally throughout. I recommend it as an educational and fun night out surrounded by talented and interesting young Egyptians, up on the roof!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

blogging from work...

Thankfully work seems to be slowly picking up.... The tourists are steadily venturing back to Cairo, and most main streets and squares, especially downtown have stalls selling Egyptian flags, car stickers, pendants, sweat bands... you name it- it’s got a flag on it and is available to help you and the rest of the world celebrate the New Egypt!

In fact... you need to be careful to get the right flag... they also sell ‘new Libya’, Syria, Tunisia etc too! I bought myself a new handbag which IS the Egyptian Flag and its fabulous... I walk down the street, and as usual there is the various comments that the boys (let us not call them men, despite their often advanced years) cannot help themselves from uttering.... but then... as I walk past.. instead of the usual comments- which can be ruder and cruder when they get confidence at calling to your back.... instead of those i get ‘Allam Masr’ ‘The Egyptian flag!’ or even some nationalistic song sung to me... I cannot tell you what an improvement that is compared to the usual!!! My Flag bag saves me many frustrating angry moments!

Tonight in the taxi on the way to work, the taxi driver gave a group of youths some money... i couldn’t understand why these young fit boys were begging... so i asked.. and was told they were making Egypt more beautiful... they were painting the kerb stones and asking for help to buy more paint!

I’ve been attending the gym this past week or so... trying get rid of the ‘revolution’ belly as we in Cairo affectionately call the weight almost everyone in Cairo put on over those months.. with no work and imposed curfews.. all there was to do was sit at home, worry, and watch the news... and eat! Of course, i have the studio, so I could have been working out at home... but i am just not good at self motivation at all... In fact- that’s what’s been so great about the gym... I have a personal trainer who pushes me to work out harder and do the exercises i would for sure ignore, because they are hard, if he wasn’t there! Dance is usually enough for my fitness levels... and this is the 1st time ever since I started dancing 16 years ago that i have felt I really needed extra help... although if, sorry no WHEN, my work load increases (inshallah) then I wont be able to do both, and indeed wont have to! It amazes me how I can dance non stop for hours, literally... and be soaked with sweat, but not tired however 5 mins on a stepper machine in the gym has me fit to drop- I think the gym just aren’t playing the right music!!!

So today gym, work... and now.. i think I’ll go home, change and go out to salsa... maybe... although by the time the taxi gets me home there is the risk that the adrenaline created during my show may turn to tiredness, or hunger!!!

Summer is coming....... but before that the Randa course... so if i am not fit enough by the time that starts on the 21st May... then I am guessing I will be by the end of it!!!!!! Or dead! 