Wednesday, February 29, 2012

sunshine versus sandstorms

I hear the weather reports from Cairo today are cold, windy and sandstorms. Someone must be looking out for me because today i am in Scotland were the sun is shining and the skies are blue! Although by tomorrow I will be in (hopefully sunny) London.

I have had a few very packed days so far in UK. No dancing yet, but much dancing related chat! Its amazing how much we can talk about dance isnt it? unfortunately often the talk is about the various people in dance, rather than the dance, music and culture they come from itself. I wonder if every field is like this? I know salsa dancing is but haven't experienced many other 'hobbies' so dont know if this is a dance related trait or not?!! Do stamp collectors get together and talk about other people who collect stamps more than about the stamps themselves? or is it that dance is about expressing feeling and personality- and therefore has a wealth of things to talk about?  Anyway, its all very interesting...

I had a very strange moment today when one of my dance friends here in Edinburgh was talking about something and in the middle of the cafe stood up and did some hip drops to demonstrate what we were discussing.... I swear my heart stopped. Not just because of the beauty of her dance (of ocurse!)  but because she was bellydancing in public!!! I couldnt' stop myself quickly scanning the room in case of any problems. The idea of dancing in a public place in Cairo is so alien to me that it fills me with panic!!! I dread to think what would have happened if she had done the same thing in Cairo. I had to keep reminding myself that we were in UK and that it was ok!!!

I love coming back here and seeing how the dance scene has progressed in the 6 years since i left. All the people who are now teaching. All the various styles of dance that have developed. I am looking forward to the Bellydance Trophies event this coming sunday to see the girls perform there too. Oh, and I am very excited to see Liza Laziza there too (she's performing and teaching at the same event as me) it will be lovely to catch up with each other outside of the Cairo scene. Liza and I are 2 out of the 3 British dancers to have ever worked in Cairo professionally (the 3rd being Yasmina).

I'm the only British dancer to be currently performing in Cairo (I'm writing that to remind myslef more than to inform readers. It still amazes me how far i have come and that still 6 years on i feel so lucky to be doing what i do!)

Back to packing... what to take to pass the time on a 9 hour overnight bus journey? Inshallah I'll be able to sleep! London here i come.....
 (Manchester and Glasgow the following weekend!!!)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Street sounds....

When I sit at home I hear many street noises..

Thankfully, my street is a quiet one, close to busy areas, but without the traffic of them. So I don’t have too much of the usual car horn pollution found in Cairo.

I sometimes, like now as I write this, have bird song too.
The call to prayer form the local mosque is beautiful. We are lucky to have a talented muezzin.

Then there are all the travelling salesmen:

Common calls include 'Lemon'... 'na3 na3' (mint) ... 'Robba beekia' (any old iron type of thing).

You also get wandering fortune tellers, knife sharpeners, and donkey carts with various fruits and plants. The list goes on...

Then you get the occasional skirmish that breaks out between the street people, the bowabs and shop keepers, delivery boys and police. Usually the ruckus is due to someone trying to drive down the street but finding the gap left by the parked cars is too small. Everyone tries to help in these cases. It often hinders rather than helps. But they try.

Today I heard a very strange sound. A woman’s voice over a megaphone. She was crying, loudly. So much that I could barely make out the words. Someone (I think her brother or son) needed an operation and she didn’t have any money to pay for it and she didn’t know what she could do. Begging basically. Driving through the streets very slowly with a megaphone attached to the top of a beaten up old taxi. Many people went up to her window and handed in cash. Then one woman, covered in her abaya with a huge hood which hid most of her face as well as her hair, shouted down to the woman to have some respect and not go begging with a loudspeaker and to move on. She was really quite angry. I was surprised in this neighbourhood that someone had shouted down from a balcony. It’s common in more ‘local’ areas... but I have never seen it before here. Her complaint was taken on the chin and the taxi moved off in a far swifter manner than it had arrived.

What is really sad about the whole thing is that this does happen. People do get to the point of desperation because they literally have nothing that people do die because they can’t afford the medication or operation to keep them alive. It’s horrific to imagine how desperate you must be to do something like that.

What is even sadder... is that me and my housemates had a discussion about it wondering if it was true or not, or if she was a very good actress who had hit on a very profitable way of making a living. It is hard to know. Cons are common, as they are around the world, especially in countries where poverty is so high.

Now I have a mental dilemma.

Do I wish that she’s for real- that he brother really is in such a state and she really can’t find any other way to keep him alive...  or do I pray that she is a smart con merchant and he is fine (if he exists).

Neither are very good measures of the state of this society just now.

It’s sad.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Lorna teaching and performing in UK March 2012

Here is some information about my upcoming uk tour. There are still some details to be added- but i thought I'd get this much out anyway, so you get make sure the dates are in your diary!!!

So far the dates are;

Sunday 4th March- London (workshops and performance)
Hosted by Bellydance Trophies.
For booking and info contact Farah via

Private classes in London area also available Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd and Monday 5th March. Contact me directly if you are interested in setting up a private class with me during those days in London.

Friday 9th March- Manchester (performance with The Nile Band) Venue TBC

Saturday 10th March- Manchester (workshops and private classes) The Dancehouse, 10 Oxford Road, Manchester. M1 5QA. Hosted by Taste of Cairo.

Morning- Private class slots- contact me or tracey if interested in booking your slot now!
2-4pm Playing with Basics
4-6pm Modern v's Golden Oldies

£25 per workshop, or £40 for both.

For booking and info on all Manchester events contact Tracey on

Sunday 11th March- Glasgow (workshops and talk)
Hosted by NADA AGM at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

workshop 1 higher level- Cairo-lorna style
workshop 2 open level- Make your accents stand out
For booking and more info contact;!/groups/11319949545/

Tuesday 13th March- Edinburgh (performance) details TBC
Hosted by Elspeth Swishandhips.
For booking and info contact Elspeth on

Saturday 17th March- Edinburgh (workshops)
Hosted by Elspeth Swishandhips
Venue- Edinburgh studios. Upper 19 Arthur Street, Edinburgh, EH6 5DA.

Workshop 1- 12.15-2.15
Workshop 2- 2.45-4.45
Workshop cost £24 each or £45 for both.
For booking and info contact Elspeth on

I will also be available in Edinburgh for Private Classes a large chunk of March, when i am not touring around! Contact me directly if you are interested

dance and drama..

This week sees Cairo clashes back in international news. First the horrific violence at the Port Said football match on Wednesday... then every day since then in Cairo, as people take to the streets to mourn for the dead from the match and demand SCAF (Supreme council of the armed forces) speed up the transfer of power to Egypt’s newly elected parliament.

There are so many conspiracy theories and stories and lies going around that it is really hard to work out the ‘truth’ of the situation, if there is one....

However most people (except SCAF) are in agreement that the violence in Port Said’s match with the Cairo team Al Ahly, was not your usual football hooliganism. This was orchestrated. Planned. The ‘thugs’ had weapons in the stadium. The security at the match certainly left much to be desired.

So, if it was organised, who set this up? State TV broadcast blamed America and Germany for instigating the violence!

Today I was talking about it all with my Egyptian cleaner, whose brother is in Tahrir now. Her entire family are against him going, and they are‘for’ the army. He goes anyway. In the revolution last year he went to Tahrir with 2 close friends, and came back alone. They were killed in front of him. He is involved on every level in what he sees as a fight needing to be fought, a fight for freedom for Egypt, to the death if need be. He is among the thousands who have been protesting downtown over the last 3 days.

My cleaner told me she blamed America for it all.... saying that they want to ‘break’ Egypt as they have done Iraq etc. This is what she said she learns from the local TV. She had heard that someone from al Qaeda was hiding out in Egypt and America was trying to bring Egypt to a state of civil war so it had an excuse to ‘invade’ and catch him. I tried to explain to her a bit about world politics. That although America hasn’t always been very wise in some of its global politics, it wasn’t as such in my opinion, ‘out to get’Egypt. It took a lot of persuasion to get her to even consider where might be a different way to think about this situation. She admitted that what she really wants is access to internet so she can read about it for herself, educate herself. And I have to agree with her. That is exactly the issue. Mubarak and his regime did not have any interest in promoting an educated population in the last 30 years, since once educated they might question his authority. In fact, you might say, exactly what is happening now. Egyptian people are very quickly educating themselves, and large amount of what they learn comes from the net.

So this is the Drama. And believe me, it is a ‘play’ where the scenes and characters change frequently. No-one yet knows the ending to this story. I only pray that between now and then, not too many innocent people lose their lives, and their livelihoods.

Which bring me to Dance.

My work is affected by the huge drop in tourism that any negative press bring to a country. I do understand people fear about Egypt just now. I strongly also believe that now IS a good time to visit Egypt. Come to Egypt! Help the economy of a people struggling to put enough food in their children’s mouths. Partly for selfish reasons of course, as I said my work has been severely affected this last year, but also for the other 22million Egyptians who depend on tourism for their livelihoods. It’s been a tough time. There are other reasons to visit. We don’t know what the future holds therefore there are things in the current Egypt which are really worth experiencing, and which might not survive the next years. Like dance.

Belly dance is already becoming harder and harder to find in Egypt. Less people have a dancer at their wedding, for financial and for religious reasons. People are going out less, due to the economic hardship which is affecting everyone in the world, and travelling less. So the nightclubs you find on Sharia Haram, for example, are often closing down or working limited days or hours. Some top 5 star hotels, which used to have a dance show every night of the week, are down to maybe one night per week, or special occasions only.

My boat, the Nile Pharaoh used to function with 2 boats, each working a minimum of 2 sails per evening (plus often lunch sails and late sails) and each of those sails had 2 decks open for business. The last year has seen the norm change down to one boat, one sail, and one deck per night. That is a massive drop, for us dancers who work there, but also for the rest of the employees. How long an employer can continue to function in these circumstances is anyone’s guess.
Everywhere in the world a sector of society which suffers greatly in any economic depression is entertainment. Restaurants, nightclubs, bars, theatre, dance. People stay at home when they need to tighten their belt.s This is happening here in Cairo too. Us artists are feeling it.

Dance festivals (for example, Nile Group and Ahlan we Sahlan festivals) although still being a fabulous way to immerse yourself in Egyptian dance for a week, are attracting less and less dancers from abroad who are scared to book a place, just in case things flair up.

This week I attended the opening festival of the Nile Group. The show was great with 2 stars of Egyptian dance; performing (Camelia and Tito) and one foreign dancer (Marguerite). But sadly, where only 18 months ago it was hard to find an empty seat at these events, the lowered attendance was notable. I do understand it is a risk some people are frightened to take... but I really wish people would come and support these amazing events which do so much for promoting and improving the level of Egyptian dance worldwide.

Come to Cairo-Dance here, watch dance here – while you can!!!!