Monday, August 25, 2008

Video Clip from Bedouin Night Dinner

This is a short video clip of the Saiidi dance we saw at dinner. This show was really nice, there were 3 female, and 3 male dancers. They did 4 sets, with 6 costume changes, it was soo awesome! There was also a Sufi dancer who spun for at least 10 minutes, it was beautiful. I will write more when I have time...I just posted the video, so it may be a little while before it is processed - so be patient!

Photos from Zamalek!

Here is a slide show of the activities I've been doing with the residence halls of the American University of Cairo, I may be able to fill in the details later but some of the activities include:

- My dad dropping me off at the dorm
- My dorm room in Zamalek
- Another trip to Khan el Khalili
- A falluca ride on the Nile
- Dinner and dance show with Nubian, Sudanese, Saiidi, Alexandrian, and Sufi dancing

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Cabaret and some disapointment...

I survived! I guess it was inevitable to not be sick when traveling to another country...Before leaving, the health center at Georgia Tech prescribed me some ‘traveler’s medicine’ for situations like this. That was my lifeline!

After a day and a half of staying in bed, I was finally well enough to go out again. We had initially made reservations at the Semeramis, but we called and they said Dina (nor any other dancer) was dancing tonight. For LE1000 per seat, I wasn’t about to pay that much and not see some dancing. So after calling around we finally settled on going to el-Leil.

El-Leil is one of Cairo’s oldest nightclubs. It used to be a hub for the stars of dance such as my idol, Soheir Zeki. Tonight, it had a more modest line up although fun nonetheless. I have no photos from el-Leil because photography was not allowed here, and the club had many bouncers to make sure that no photos were taken. It basically had the same set up as the other club we went to, with about 6 acts progressing in size, sound, and talent throughout the night.

This organization of entertainment gave me a thought. Cairo nightlife has it right! Why should the paying customers have to hop from club to club paying to get in each time, trying to find a new place to sit, and when we can pay one price and have the entertainment hop from club to club? Think about it!

So what about the dancer? She was horrible. First of all, let me say that this new style of bra that Eman Zaki started is horrible. The style I am referring to is a demi cub that seems to get smaller and smaller, with the connection of the two cups getting wider and wider apart. Dancers look more like porn stars than dancers – and this dancer was not an exception. Maybe the real reason why she didn’t dance was fear that she would loose her top. Never mind the fact that she oiled her chest up to look very tacky. Otherwise she was very beautiful in her liquid silver and pearl costume, perfectly done hair and make up, and she knew when the song ended and where all the Saudis were in the audience.

I’ve recently just begun to understand something. Let me tell the American belly dance community why a lot of people go on a rant about why this dance should be called ‘oriental dance’ and not cabaret dance. An Egyptian cabaret dancer, a dancer who dances at a cabaret in Cairo, does not hold in her best interest to actually interpret the music or actually pay the slightest bit of attention to dance as an artform. Her number one priority is to flirt and socialize with the audience to get tips for her and her band. She will walk around, chew and smack gum, fix her hair, lip sync to the music, and rarely move around stage while she is ‘performing’. I can only imagine the intricate steps, gestures, and interpretations Dina or Randa Kamel exude while they become the physical embodiment of the dance. I haven’t seen a real oriental show yet, and I hope someone can change my mind about what Cairo has to offer because as of right now, I am disappointed.

Anywhoo, these are my thoughts and opinions as I am experiencing them in the moment…next blog will be about our trip to the pyramids complete with pictures!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't drink the water!

Eating Egyptian food finally caught up with me...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Khan el-Khalili


Birthday day. After a fun evening/ early morning partying, my dad and I hit Khan el-Khalili – the largest market for shopping in Cairo. I’ll be visiting this area often, although always with an Arabic speaker! I let my dad wheel and deal for most of the time. Khan el-Khalili is full of merchants selling mostly gift items. Any belly dance or musical instrument on the street seemed to be low quality. We did however find some jewels. Our first purchase was from a man who collected photos of Egypt and Egyptian culture. I picked up about 6 5x7’s of my favorite Egyptian raqs stars. The merchant was genuine and friendly, and loved to tell us the stories behind each of the photos. You could tell who was just trying to get you into their shop, and who was a little more genuine. Our next stop was what made my mouth water. We found a Bedouin jewelry shop – there were multiple pieces of Egyptian, Yemeni, Afghani, Rajisthani, and Moroccan items. Each piece is priced by how much silver is in the metallic blend of the bits that make up the jewelry. The first pice I go for was an Egyptian necklace priced at LE 1480 (~$300)…go figure!

Our last stop was at a very nice caftan shop. We had been beckoned into many, but none were as nice or ornate as these. I must have spent and hour trying on different caftans and finally came down to two that I liked. After which the bargaining began – what an art that was.
1. Salesman throws a number, my dad counter offers.
2. I try on more caftans.
3. Salesman offers again, my dad counter offers.
4. I see another one to try.
5. Salesman then offers some coffee for my dad, and Pepsi for me.
6. He goes to get both.
7. I try more caftans.
8. My dad sees a pale yellow caftan for my mom, the lady in the shop goes to take it down to see if it will fit my mom.
9. New round of negotiations
10. By this point, I voice that I don’t want the burgundy one - this worries the salesman.
11. My dad says not to worry, and I say we shouldn’t get mama one because she won’t wear it.
12. Salesman throws a number and breaks out the calculator, my dad counter offers.
13. Salesman gawkes and we start to leave the store (Haha! The day is won!)
14. Salesman beckons us back in, okay he says.
15. My dad thanks him for his business.

The original offer was LE1900 for two, we left with three caftans for LE750. Whoo hoo!

An Egyptian Cabaret


My birthday. Last night was truly an experience. Mahmoud, our driver, recommended a ‘mid-level’ cabaret for my dad and I to go to. The club was on a boat on the Nile that was permanently docked. In fact, we didn’t realize it was a boat until some waves made the whole place rock back and forth about 2 hours into our evening.

We saw 6 different acts that night, I can’t remember them all in detail, but I will list them. Each act had a different band, as the evening progressed, the bands became bigger, and the talent became better. With that said, by 5 AM my ears were going to bust from the headliners – 2 Arabic sisters singing and their band that took up almost the whole stage. The first act of the night was a single female singer, with a smaller band, a lot of duff players, and a single keyboard player for melody. Next, was a dancer, shaabi singer (who was my favorite of the night). After this act, a female singer with some male back ups came with a larger band. After her, a Saudi themed act came. I say themed because their entire repertoire was not strictly gulf. And finally after this act we saw a male singer and dancer combination. Both dancers of the night were more interested in mingling and making sure to look nice and lip sync the songs than actually dancing, which is what I expected from this level of cabaret.

People watching at this event was much more entertaining than the entertainment itself. My father and I were seated behind a Saudi who was in Western style. He seemed to be a regular as all of the singers and dancers greeted him before they performed. Directly behind us were two women completely veiled in abayas – both of which had a very hard time not staying in their seat for the Saudi pieces. To our left were a couple of women decked in full Arab fashion which includes – eyes, earrings, bracelets, and hair (if not covered by hijab). They were coolly smoking shisha all night lulled by the music and enjoying lip syncing to the songs as well. Apart from these tables, there was one more table across the way that was also a sight to see – a group of Saudi men. Dancers take notice – learn your gulf and Saudi dance and music! To the performers, knowing this music and dance was like knowing an ATM pin number. Sing a Saudi song – get showered in 100 Egyptian Pound notes. Quite simple. Get a Saudi to dance on stage with the music? More showers of money. It was like the money was confetti to these Saudi men. What a sight to see!

My dad and I seemed to get the VIP treatment, for every act that got on stage, there was a shout out to all the Saudis, and all of the Jordanians in the room (namely my dad and myself). The staff waited on us hand and foot – a little much for this American girl. At one point the waiter cut my fruit for me, which just made me laugh. Since it was my birthday, my dad ordered a cake for me and the two Arabic singer sister sang happy birthday in their loudest decibel possible. The hafla was great fun to watch, but a little torturous as I had to rein myself in from dancing. Good Arabic girls don’t get up to dance at the fall of a hat – a feeling I think I’m going to have to get used to as my stay progresses. I wanted nothing more than to rip that stage (and those stationary dancers) into a oblivion with just me, my zills, and my red scarf…but that was not an option. A little light dancing here or there, that’s it!

First day in Cairo!


First day in Cairo! I survived! I’m in another world so different than my own. We got into Cairo airport around 4 am. I had my visa already, and baba had to get one. Never the less, I was questioned if I were really American because of my name and of my family’s name. I’m not quite sure what I would do if my dad wasn’t there with me…

From what I can see, Egyptians have a complete lack of caring for any bureaucracy, my kind of people. If you know someone, or speak like you do, you can usually get what you want. This extends from bargaining, to getting a table at a restaurant, to getting by customs, to traffic – which is crazy! No one pays the slightest bit of attention to road signs or traffic lines, I just keep my head down and not look at where we are driving till we get there or else I’ll just have a heart attack.

My dad and I are staying in a 3 room flat in Cairo, it has all of these very old school touches to it, which you will see in the slide show below. The owner of the building, Mahmoud, is retired from the Egyptian Armed Forces. Most of his family occupies the complex, and also an English family, and a French family. The doorman, Mohammed, is a very sweet man and very diligent about getting things for us. Our driver, another Mahmoud, has been extremely helpful. He gets us wherever we want to go, and gives us inside info about everything. Tonight we’re going to a hafla where there will be a folk troupe performing Debke, Khaleeji, Shaabi, and Saidi styles. Can’t wait to see this, and I will post pictures! Tomorrow we will be going to one of the five star hotels to see a full oriental dance show, Mahmoud is going to see if he can find out where Dina is performing…if she’s even in the country right now!

Frankfurt and Heidelberg

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It’s 4:30 PM Frankfurt time…not sure when I slept last. Our flight left Atlanta on 6:30 PM on Friday; we arrived in Frankfurt around 9:30 AM, just in time for a tour to Heidelberg. The village and castle were lovely, my dad and I were just ridiculously tired. After the tour, we came back to the airport to wait yet another 6 hours before our connecting flight to Cairo, where we will land around 3:30 AM. My dad is with me for the first week for Cairo. We have a flat in New Cairo and a driver for the week. Hopefully we’ll be able to go to the pyramids before he leaves, so much to do and to straighten out with AUC. The new campus housing is not ready yet, so UC has contracted the Hotels of the Egyptian Armed Forces for us to stay in. The hotels are located at Heliopolis, which is next to the airport, but not next to our classes. My dad and I will decide whether or not I will stay with the on campus plan, or find alternative housing. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from Heidelberg!