| by Andrea Nader
- “Life is like a ghaziya (an oriental dancer).She dances briefly
for each” - old Egyptian proverb.
Vitality and sensuality, fun and light-heartedness are at the
heart of the Egyptian oriental or bellydance (known in Arabic as
Raqs Sharqi). Giggling young toddlers first begin the dance listening
to the upbeat tunes which are heard in every Egyptian home. It
is not long before they have emulated the skill of their older
siblings or family members and can dance with amazing skill, moving
their body as if charged with electricity!
Foreign belly dancer dazzle Egyptians
Westerners know the dance as the “bellydance”, but this is a misnomer
and a term coined by the colonial British. It is danced with the
whole body, not only the stomach and is a dance of grace, of dignity
and of vitality in action. It is more than a kind of oriental striptease,
which is how it is often depicted in western films. True, it is
sensuous, but Egyptians dance as a way of celebrating life itself.
It is as a way of showing loved ones they are happy and they dance
also in order to show off their skill in this ancient art form.
It is quite common to see young men on a boat trip along the Nile,
dancing to the beat of a drum one of them has brought along for
the day. They dance for fun with their male friends-nothing to
do with women or the dating game. An old grandmother will dance
at a wedding party, alongside her blushing bride granddaughter.
She will dance to show the family what fun she is having and how
she is still young enough to “cut the mustard”. Young females may
dance to entrance the one they love.
Originally danced as a fertility ritual, the dance has been adopted
by Egyptians of all ages and sexes, shapes. If an Egyptian family
has a clever dancer among them, they will be invited to dance at
neighbourhood weddings and will become famous in their area. In
today's Egypt rich families hold wedding parties in top class hotels
and pay famous dancers hefty sums to demonstrate their skill to
Nightclubs along the Pyramids road in Giza hold wonderful performances
of these top-class dancers. Some of them are legendary, such as
Fifi Abdou. Now an entrancing–looking woman in her early forties,
Fifi left home at a tender age, after her mother remarried to a
man she did not like. She danced to feed herself and in order to
survive, although she soon became famous. Although she never learned
to read or write, she is arguably the richest woman in Egypt tales
abound of her armour -plated cars and a lift in the building where
she lives which takes her car up to her apartment (probably rubbish!).
Egyptians say she is so rich that if her money was stacked up
it would reach the top of the Cairo tower! Silly anecdotes aside,
Fifi has mastered the dance in a way that her mentor Taheyya
Carioca. Fifi is known the length and breadth of Egypt and even
if she tries to disguise herself she is detected by her low sensuous
voice, perfect figure and dark smouldering looks.
ut the dance is for everyone, in Egypt, not only the rich and
famous. If you take a stroll through Egypt's densely populated
neighbourhoods in the summer, you will probably see many wedding
parties. If the guests spy you are a stranger or a foreigner you
will be called over to join in the fun, whether you like it or
not, Egyptians don't take shyness seriously -you have been warned!