Naimah’s Belly Dance Trip to Egypt…During Covid – 067
The nightclubs were open, famous Egyptian dancers including Randa Kamel and Aziza of Cairo performed, live bands played, and belly dance costume shopping continued. Hear about Naimah of Baltimore’s adventures on Black Cat Belly Dance Tour in 2021.
Alicia Free: Naimah is known for her mystique, theatrical performances and gothic flair. She is a drop-dead gorgeous Baltimore-based visual artist who started belly dancing back in 1999. She has performed at many festivals including Tribal Fest and Bellypalooza, and other events with great names like Belly Horror and Raven’s Night. She has judged and danced in competitions, and been featured in a music video, and also been on the news. She’s a very interesting dancer that you are going to love meeting virtually in this interview.
And Naimah helps organize the Art of the Belly dance festival in Ocean City Maryland!
When I first interviewed Naimah back May 2020, it was episode 43.
That’s where Naimah inspired me to start sewing big snaps to my costumes, dance with my kitchen knives, wear pencil eyeliner under my matte black liquid liner, and eat furikake. That reminds me to get back into working on my belly flutter too. I got so much out of that episode! And I hope you did too. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s worth scrolling down to past episodes and putting episode 43 in your listening queue.
And looking back at that interview I realize it was recorded just a couple months after Covid shutdown in the US first began, and also before the murder of George Floyd. So a hell of a lot has happened in the world and our lives since then, and it’s time to reconnect with Naimah. And Naimah recently took a trip to Egypt and she’s going to tell us all about it.
Belly Dance Tour of Egypt
I went with Shannon Bishop of Black Cat Belly Dance Tours of Egypt. When we were in Caira, we stayed with Yasmina of Cairo in her Dancers B&B. Yasmina also organizes belly dance tours in Egypt and offers belly dance classes in Cairo.
How did it feel to be in Egypt during Covid?
It felt very different than being in the United States during COVID. It was like COVID didn’t really. And they told us that going into it and we’re like, come on. But when we got there, we forgot that there was a pandemic happening. There were times where we went into buildings and we had to wear a mask, of course, but we were outside a lot and outside no one up.
And that surprised me, but it seemed fine. Everybody tested negative on the way back home. So it was fine. And then you come back to the cold climates where we have to keep going inside. Had you been to Egypt before? No, I had not. I went with Shannon Bishop’s group Black Cat. Black cat belly dance tours of Egypt.
Did you get to dance in Egypt?
Absolutely. There were a group shows where people who were part of the group got to perform with live music.
And that was fantastic. And we had parties where we got to dance. It was amazing. We went to clubs, but also they invited music and that’s what we danced to. We did go to clubs and we got to dance a little bit on the dance floor, but we mostly watched in the dance clubs.
There were lots of drums. Sometimes 10 drummers or more, it was just so amazing to watch and hear.
It was all live music. One band did some more electronic stuff, but they were the opening act for the bigger band.
there were points where the dancers would have us come up and dance and times where we just wanted to watch. So we just stood there and admired the dancer who was performing. And there were times where the dancer hadn’t come out yet, so the opening act would have us come up and dance we spent a lot of time watching the dancers. There were, I believe 19 of us.
What makes the Egyptian Dancers look Egyptian?
They feel the music more. The lyrics, the nuances. It was like a perfect bond. They emote. Like their body grabs the music and pulls it in.
Who are some of the most famous belly dancers in Cairo now?
Some of the dancers we saw were Aziza of Cairo and Randa Kamel.
I wanted to see Sharazad, but she was not in Cairo at the time. And I wanted to see Sahar. All of the dancers we saw were Egyptian.
Yasmina of Cairo was our host. We stayed in her B&B and she photographed us.
What are some of the dance styles in Egypt?
We saw different dance styles in different regions of Egypt.
We saw Nubian dance in Aswan.
Tanoura skirt dance
Men did this dance. It has whirling dervish connections. Some of these performances, it looked like the dancers were just doing their routine. Then we saw an amazing performance in Cairo, where the dancers did so much with their skirts.
Tahtib stick dance
Men did this dance too. Some of them used really long sticks. Sometimes their sticks are ornately carved. Sometimes they do interchanging formations.
Glamorous Belly Dance in Cairo
In the nightclubs of Cairo, you can see amazing belly dancers in glamorous costumes. Hollywood glamour. Many of the most famous belly dancers in the world are in Cairo.
This wasn’t part of the interview, but this Egyptian social dance can be like belly dance that people do together informally in groups at weddings, parties, etc. It’s also a dance style that is performed, and the dancer sometimes wears a dress instead of 2 piece bedlah.
This is often done to the saidi ryhthm (the double doum is in the center) and often danced with a cane. In Luxor we met Khyriyya Mazin, the last Ghawazee dancer. They were really into saidi there. Saidi style is earthier than what you see in the nightclubs of Cairo.
Is Belly Dance acceptable in Egypt?
In Egypt now, many people associate belly dance with sex work. Belly dancers are shoved in night clubs. They want to be out in their communities.
There are dancers working on making it acceptable to belly dance in Egypt.
Art of the Belly Dance Festival in Maryland
We are doing a hybrid version of Art of the Belly in 2022! There is an in-person component and a virtual component. So you can take workshops online and see an online show as well as coming in person to Ocean City Maryland.