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

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. 

Though I had already been contracted at the Semiramis two months earlier, my working papers were cancelled because of a problem that involved me not “indulging” the manager.  Even if they were still valid, it would have been illegal for me to perform daily anywhere else but the Semiramis. 
So when I exited the stage one Thursday evening and went to change into my Saidi costume, I found 2 belly dance police officers waiting for me in my changing room.  They were extremely hostile, treating me like I had just committed some major atrocity.  All the while, they wouldn’t let me change out of my belly dance costume into my clothes.  I didn’t understand this at the time, but they wanted to bring me to the police precinct wearing my costume to prove that I violated yet another law—the one that requires dancers to completely cover their stomachs with fabric.  Any type of fabric, even if it’s transparent (this is how Egyptian authorities fool themselves into thinking they’ve paid homage to religious values of female modesty).  And here I stood, wearing THE sexiest belly dance costume on the planet!  Not only was my tummy showing, but there were all kinds of sexy stripper-esque cutouts on the top of the skirt. 
So here I was, guilty on 2 counts: dancing without working papers, and not covering my stomach.  For the first time in a long while, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  And then my manager burst in the door in full rage.  Oh no, I thought.  This is getting worse.  I pleaded with my manger not to anger the police, that that would only land him in jail with me.  My manager then told me to go to the bathroom and change into my clothes.  I promptly obeyed, even though the police had instructed me otherwise.  No sooner had I changed out of my costume than my manager demanded that I wrap my costume in a garbage bag and toss it in the Nile!

“Wait, WHAT?!?” I shrieked?  “Throw my costume in the Nile? What for?”  “So they can’t take it with them to the precinct and prove that the costume doesn’t have a stomach covering,” he answered.  “But that’s illegal,” I retorted.  “That’s like, tampering with evidence!”  “So what,” he said.  “This way the officers will have to prove that you were wearing this costume and that I threw it in the Nile.  They won’t be able to do it.  It’ll be their word against ours.” 
Luckily for me, things didn’t escalate to that level, and I got to keep my costume.  For while I was changing my clothes, the boat management calmed down the belly dance officers and convinced them not to arrest or deport me.  But it was a close call.  The funny part is that after all that commotion, the officers admitted that they watched the first part of my show and were totally impressed by my dancing.  They even told my manager that I dance better than the Egyptians.  “I know,” my manager told them.  “That’s why we’ve been hiring her this whole time!  And she comes to work on time and doesn’t cause us any headaches!” 
The officers apologized for the drama they had caused and promised that they wouldn’t report me.  They did have one request, however.  I was to appear at their office first thing Sunday morning to be lectured about the wrongness of belly dancing without papers.  Of course, I sat there taking it all in, thinking all the while of the serious problems that plague Egypt—problems more worthy of government attention than my belly dancing booty.  But that would require Egypt getting its priorities straight. 
Oh well.  One MORE experience in a long list of things that have happened to me in Cairo. :)


  1. omg,i never knew this really can happen..I heard about getting work papers and I think in that french documentary there was said something about covered belly,i guess (when the manager-husband of that egyptian low dancer showed her costumes)..

  2. Yes covering your belly with a "shabaka," or net, is the law, but they only enforce it when they want to... like if they want to get someone in trouble. It's really silly.