by Luna

by Luna



Blog Intro

Hello, I'm Luna, and I'd like to welcome you to "Kisses from Kairo,"* my blog about living and working as an American belly dancer in Cairo.

Life in Cairo isn't easy for dancers, foreigners, women, or even Egyptians. It is, however, always exciting. That’s why after living here for seven years, I've decided to share my experiences with the world. From being contracted at the Semiramis Hotel to almost being deported, not a day has gone by without something odd or magical happening. I will therefore fill these pages with bits of my history in Cairo—my experiences, successes, mistakes, and observations. Admittedly, my time here has been rather unique, so I want to stress that while everything I write is true, my experiences do not necessarily reflect the lives of other dancers.

In addition to my life as a belly dancer, I will write about developments in costuming, performances, festivals, and, of course, the dance itself. I will also make frequent references to Egyptian culture. I should note that I have a love/hate relationship with Egypt. If I make any criticisms about the country, please keep in mind that I do so with the utmost love, respect, and most of all, honesty. Egypt has become my home, so I want to avoid romanticizing and apologizing for social maladies, as most foreigners tend to do. Nothing could be more misguided, patronizing, or insulting.

I hope you find this blog informative, insightful and entertaining, and that we can make this as interactive as possible. That means I'd love to hear from you. Send me your comments, questions, complaints, suggestions, pics, doctoral dissertations, money, etc., and I will get back to you. Promise. :)~

My Videos

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Birthday Blog

Today is my birthday.  In fact, it’s my third consecutive birthday spent in Cairo.  And yet, if you ask me where home is, I’ll probably answer “America.”  
I’m not sure how many years you have to spend in a place before you consider it your home, but the truth is, Cairo is as much my home as New York.  I’ve been living and working here for almost three years now.  I’ve sweat an entire Nile.  I’ve made friends, enemies, and relationships to last a lifetime. I’ve laughed and made others laugh, cried and made others cry, lied and made others lie. :) I speak Arabic fluently.  I’ve helped and been helped, encouraged and been encouraged, fought and been fought, loved and been loved.  I’ve been fooled, cheated, robbed and evicted.  I’ve been supported and cheered on.  I’ve had fits of laughter and fits of rage.  I’ve almost been arrested, deported, and killed on several occasions. I’ve even experienced a revolution.  In short, I’ve grown up here. And I have a few grey hairs to show for it.  If none of this makes a place your home, I don’t know what does. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Showdown @ The Semiramis

You know that hackneyed cliché, “everything happens for a reason,” that people like to say when misfortune knocks at your door?  Well, it’s true.  At the time, I probably would have pelted anyone who told me that there was a reason I got kicked out of the Semiramis Hotel.  Looking back on it, however, I now understand why, in the larger scheme of things, this was a blessing in disguise.

The circumstances of my being contracted and de-contracted at the Semiramis were rather odd.  One typical Cairo evening, I found myself sitting in the Semiramis’ disco with a dancer friend and the two managers of the nightclub where Egypt's most famous dancer performs every week.  Embarrassingly enough, it took me a whole hour to realize that the man sitting across from me conversing with me was THE big shot manager who hires talent at the Semiramis Hotel.  In my defense, I wasn’t told who this man was.  I was simply asked by my dancer friend to accompany her to a party with some artists at the Semiramis disco, and “by the way I’m auditioning here tomorrow.”  

Huh, ok.  We’re going to a party with artists and she was scheduled to audition at the Semiramis tomorrow.  Fair enough.  As the night when on and the conversation got deeper, however, I realized that the man sitting across from me was, in fact, THE manager of the Semiramis nightclub.  Figured.  That’s why he knew so much about that famous dancer! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The $6.78¢ CondunDRUM

After 6 months of changing drummers like I change my underwear, I FINALLY found the perfect drummer to join my band. He’s skilled, powerful, properly translates my moves, and isn’t lazy or greedy. He’s everything I’ve been looking for in a drummer, and I couldn’t be happier. But, as always, there’s a problem. The other members of the band don’t like him. They say he’s arrogant and makes funny faces and gestures at them. And they want him out.

Dealing with musicians is one of the most challenging aspects of my job. I do have someone to handle them for me (mainly because it’s not “prestigious” for a dancer to talk to her musicians), but I still feel the effects of their inflated egos and childishness. And last night, it really got to me. We were on stage, about to close the show with a drum solo, when all of a sudden, the band stopped playing. They left me hanging in front of my audience with no music to dance to! I turned around to see what the problem was, only to find them arguing with the drummer!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Finding Work in Cairo -- The Naked Truth

For many belly dancers around the world, dancing in Cairo is the dream of a lifetime.  Whether it’s the opportunity to perform every night to a live orchestra or the chance to earn recognition in the international belly dance community, belly dancing in Cairo brings hundreds of foreign women to Egypt each year. 

Although we all fantasize about it, the truth is that belly dancing in Cairo is not for everyone.  It takes a certain type of woman—physically, emotionally and intellectually—to succeed here as a dancer.  And it’s not always the woman who wants it.  As Layla Taj, a New York based dancer with some experience dancing in Egypt, says on her Web site, “Cairo picks you.  You don’t pick Cairo.”  From what I’ve seen thus far, this seems to be true.   Each year, hundreds of dancers flock to Cairo determined to make their dream of dancing here come true.  Some even sell their homes, life possessions, and leave loved ones behind.  Most go home disappointed and disillusioned.  Others remain in Cairo for years, hoping their dream will one day come true. With that in mind, I put together a SUPER REALISTIC guide about finding work in Cairo, in which we'll examine the characteristics of the foreign dancer who is likely to succeed.  Please keep in mind that the following comments are based on my personal experiences and observations over the past two and a half years.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dancing Deportation Drama

My Run-In with the Egyptian “Belly Dance Police”

At the time it was happening, it wasn’t funny, but now I look back on the day I almost got deported and laugh.  I mean, who would have thought that belly dancing on a Nile Cruise could land you in jail and get you kicked out of Egypt?  Do Egyptian authorities really have nothing better to do than arrest foreign belly dancers? 
It happened like this.  After auditioning on the Nile Memphis last August, the management had me performing every night.  Sometimes I performed 2 shows, sometimes 6, depending on how much business the boat had.  After 2 months of steady work, the Egyptian belly dancers who used to dance there previously started resenting the fact that they would only be called to work twice a week—on my days off.  Instead of coming to the boat to check out their competition and understand why I had virtually replaced them, they tried to terminate my dance career in Egypt.  With me gone, they thought they would then reclaim their positions on the boat.  So they called the “belly dance police” and told them I was dancing illegally without working papers. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Les danseuses du Caire" ­ - “The Belly Dancers of Cairo”

French TV channel TF1’s 2011 Documentary on the Cairo Belly Dance World

A few months ago, I had the privilege of being filmed for a French documentary on belly dancing in Cairo. Three French journalists from TF1 spent an entire day shadowing me from the minute I woke up (literally), to the minute I finished my last performance on the Nile Memphis.  Their goal was to document a typical day in the life of a Cairo belly dancer.  They also shadowed Brazilian dancer Sorayya Zayed, an Egyptian cabaret dancer, and famous costume designer Sahar Okasha.

The experience of being shadowed was nothing but fun and laughs from start to finish.  I am grateful to French belly dancer Maya Sarsa of Cairo for recommending me for this project.

The journalists quickly discovered that my life as a Cairo belly dancer is exciting, funny, and frustrating all at the same time.  Watching their reactions as I told them how I was kicked out of my apartment for being a belly dancer, kicked out of the Semiramis for not sleeping with manager, and almost deported for dancing without working papers, was priceless.  And it was exactly the kind of stuff they wanted to hear.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


So I received excellent news this morning! My work papers have been approved by the Egyptian government!  (Well, whatever remains of it :D). I'm now legally authorized to work as a belly dancer in Cairo.  Finally!  It only took, oh, 2 and half years and a revolution!  Well, not really.  I was contracted to dance at the Semiramis last year, but that ended sooner than it started (for reasons I’ll write about in my next post).  A week after that drama, I passed an audition at a Nile Cruise called Le Memphis, which then applied for a license to hire foreign dancers.  The next step was contracting me and processing the paperwork, which took much longer than it should have. 
First, the man whom I hired to process my papers has chronic sleep syndrome, or so I like to joke.  This was THE laziest man on the planet—the personification of sleep itself.  And even though he would have made good money doing my papers, he just couldn’t get around to doing it!  If he stood me up once, he stood me up a thousand times.  Months of rejecting my phone calls and making up lame excuses went by before this man even began to process my paperwork, and that only happened after I was about to get deported for performing without papers!  By the time I got fed up with this person and looked for someone else to do my papers, 8 months and a whole revolution had gone by!