I love dance.
I love being a dancer.
I love being a dancer in Cairo.
I hate the prejudice that us dancers face here. The small-minded attitutes that even many eductated, westernised Egyptians unfortunately seem to share, never mind the uneducated majority.
The reason for this complaint? I've been thrown out my home of 6 years, purely because I bellydance.
In June, the doorbell rang, and one of ‘Hotel Bellylorna’s
house guests, answered it. It was the downstairs neighbour complaining about
the noise and asking what she was doing. She, innocently enough, replied, “but
we weren’t making any noise. We were just bellydancing.”
The woman went crazy, “that is inappropriate behaviour- what
do you mean you were ‘bellydancing’ ?”. The poor girl was confused why the
outburst against the artform she was practising... so the male folkloric dancer
went to the door and attempted to get the neighbour to calm down. That was it.
Red rag to a bull. Not only was this foreign girl ‘bellydancing’ but she was
alone in a room with an Egyptian man, they MUST be up to no good!
I stressed , and waited and waited... but it seems the
neighbours didn’t pass on their complaints to my landlady.
That is... not until 2 weeks later, as soon as Morsi had
been elected as president of Egypt. Then, and not before, I had an hour of abuse over the telephone with
my landlady calling me all sorts of names... accusing me of running the house
as a business and having ‘men there all times of day and night’ . Now EVERYONE
who knows me can verify just how far from the truth this statement is... but
the neighbour had decided to get her revenge- so she had made up all sort of
stories about me and seems like the landlady believed them all. Not surprising
I guess, since they are related, but I did feel incredibly hurt that the fact
that I had been a model tenant for nearly 6 years, always doing my own
maintanence for the flat, always paying not only on time but often early, never
causing any problems with neighbours etc, all that suddenly meant nothing at
The problem was, in some things the landlady was sort of
correct. I did run the place not just as my home, but as a semi-business- but
not the business that her sordid mind had imagined!
I have been renting
out my spare rooms to visiting (female) dancers for years now, and teaching
private classes too. The work of a bellydancer in Cairo, especially since the
‘revolution’, pays nowhere near enough to even cover the rent let alone food
and travel expenses! So when she accused me of ‘not’ being an English teacher,
as I had told her- well, she was right. But you can see why I said it! (Actually,
I never said I was an English teacher- but when I told her I was a ‘teacher’ ,
she just assumed it was English!).
Bless the bowab , who MUST have known all these years what I
actually do for a living (hard not to, with bags and sticks going in and out
the building!) but who had obviously never said anything to her.
Anyway, to cut a long story short.... I was on TV.
The Ramadan TV
drama by Adel Emam came out 2 weeks ago (see my previous blog entry for the
whole story and to view the clip!). It's a show that EVERYONE watches, especially
old women who stay at home all day. It features me as a dancer in a cabaret in
Syria, and was it was shown on all channels in Egypt and my face is clearly shown...
The truth was out. I
knew there was no way I was going to be able to continue with my story that no of course was not a dancer! ( I had already done a google search just for 'lorna' and was at the same time very chuffed that I came up so early in the search- and worried that the landlady's son or neighbour might think to do the same search and find out my ocupation) what a way to live huh? frightened to tell anyone what you proudly do for a living.
The landlady had made it painfully clear that she did not approve
of entertainment work, waxing lyrical about this ‘singer’ that i had staying
with me (who she hadn’t even met but had managed to make up all sort of
interesting, hair raising stories about!), But then, to find out that her
tenant of 6 years was a bellydancer. You can but imagine!
I returned to Cairo on august 20th. I had paid my
rent until 26th, and I knew I had no option but to leave by then..
What a hellish week.
In 6 years living somewhere, discounting the memories, you
also collect a lot of things around you. ‘Stuff’. Not to mention about 50
The past 6 days have been full of boxes and bags, tears and
tantrums, stress and sleepless nights.
Thankfully Ellie had returned to Cairo the same day as I had,
and she was an immense help with packing and organising, and the running for
the tissues everytime the weight of it all broke me down again and again. It was hard on her too. Ellie has been living in Cairo for over a year now working successfully as a singer, and she loved the flat too!
‘Hotel BellyLorna’ had so many guests over the years... so
many fabulous memories... so much care put into it, I kept – keep - feeling the
enormity of how unfair it all is.
The upside of it was I was able to give so much of the
‘stuff’ away to people who really needed it and who also find scraping together
a living in Egypt a trying task at times. The popular idea that us foreigners
are ‘made of money’ is so false it is laughable! All the left overs completely disappeared, my cleaner and her brother came round and took away things that to people in the UK would have been seen as rubbish, used shower curtains, coathangers, shoes, clothes, half used toiletries. They took the lot. If they couldn't use it themselves, they knew people who could. Recycling here at its best!
I love dance.
I love dancing in
I am gutted that my
job is viewed in such a negative way by so many people. That my personal
character is slated because i am an artist.
People who would happily hire me to dance at their son’s
weddings or watch me as they eat their meal on the Nile... but who would never
allow me to be any part of their personal life, to the extent of even renting
out their apartment. The worry about what other people think here is so very
strong. Much stronger now that Morsi is ‘in charge’ !
When she came over to collect my house key, and make sure I
really left, the landlady was still horrible to me. Still accusing me of a lot of
things that I almost wish now I had done! I can only feel sorry for someone who
acts like that when out of fear of what others may think. As long as she got
her money, and people didn’t think badly of her, she was very happy to take my
One of the things that really upset me was the Bowab’s
reaction to my news that i was leaving. He actually slumped and his eyes welled
up. Only people who have ever met my bowab can know how unlikely it is that he
would ever cry in front of a woman especially. He is the top dog of the street,
the head bowab. The saaidi man on the street, to be feared and respected. But I
swear, he had to hold back his tears. I couldn’t. I stood blubbing on my
doorstep. He assured me that they would never find someone as good as me.
Because above all, I was a good person. God bless him. I know it. But it was
really what i needed to hear to stop myself from hating everyone around me!
I am staying with a lovely Scottish friend, in her spare
room. She is very welcoming and I really appreciate her putting me (and Ellie)
up at a moments notice. At times like these I am even more grateful to my
Also a huge thank you for all the many many messages of
support I have had from around the world, with lots of what I affectionally
would call ‘things my granny would say’ ; “everything happens for a reason” and
“what’s for you will not go by you” etc.
It really does help to know people care , and to think of my granny sending me
her support somehow!
However, I miss my
place already, although it’s only been 3 days. Maybe it is wrong to become so
very attached to a flat, but I can’t help it.
I still cry when I
think about all those lovely evenings with friends coming over to visit.
Being able to open my house to interesting, fun, talented
girls coming to stay with me from all over the world.
All those hours spent teaching and dancing in my very own
All those nights
sitting in my ‘internet cafe’, my house guests and me all sitting round the
giant dining room table each interacting to the leggy internet spider that spans
Those nights when rather than go out, we would all go into
the studio, dim the lights, pour a drink, and just dance the night away.
Following the ever changing news of Egypt from my living
room, and watching it live from my balcony.
The love and tears that went into making that flat a real
home, for me and my guests. The
It’s always sad to leave a place you have been happy in, but
usually you have some time to get used to the idea, Time to sort your things
and pack. Usually you want to move on.
I didn’t and the only
way I can really fully express how I feel about it all is to stamp my feet,
fold my arms, knit my brow, stick out my lower lip and sulkily shout;
“IT’S NOT FAIR" !!!!
.... and quietly hope that the next tenants are wild party
throwers and enjoy living there as much as I did... whilst making the nosy
neighbours and narrow-minded landlady’s life miserable!!