by Luna

by Luna

Luna

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Condomonium

...yes, it says what you think it does  :) 

That Little Blue “Piece of Paper”
Here’s some heartfelt advice from your resident foreign belly dancer—NEVER carry condoms on you or anywhere near you while traveling in Egypt.  Same goes for tampons.  Most people don’t know what they are, and when their curiosity gets the better of them, things get awkward.  To say the least.  

It just so happened that while I was coming back to Cairo from a show in the Red Sea area last year, the security check-point officers decided they would stop our car and search our bags—me, the DJ, the whirling dervish, and the driver.  The 3 guys stepped out to be frisked by the officers.  I, being the only woman, was instructed to stay in the car until the search was over.  I felt the car bouncing up and down as the officers opened the trunk and rummaged through our bags.  And then, one by one, the guys climbed back into the vehicle, each one with a look of horror on his face. 

   


“What’s wrong? Did the officers find anything they weren’t supposed to?” I asked them.  “I’m not sure,” Mahmoud, the 20-old DJ replied.  “They took something from you bag.”  “What?! They stole something?  My jewelry?” I asked.  “No, they took a little blue piece of paper with writing on it,” he said.  “Huh?  What little blue piece of paper?  A supermarket receipt?  Why would they take that!?”  I asked.  “I don’t know what it was,” he said, “but the officer said it was very bad, and he wanted to arrest us.”  After thinking about it for a while, I realized that the little blue piece of paper Mahmoud was referring to was a condom!

Now, I had no recollection whatsoever of any condoms in my belly dance suitcase (it’s not like I need them for work or anything! :D), nor was I about to explain to 3 young  Egyptian men what that little blue “piece of paper” was.  Instead, I remained silent for the rest of the 2-hour ride, musing over what those officers must have thought when they found that condom in a car that contained 3 Egyptian males and one foreign female wearing way too much makeup!  So THAT’S why Mahmoud said the officers contemplated arresting us—they thought I was a prostitute and the guys were my customers!  How typical.  

“So why did they decide to let us go?” I asked Mahmoud at the end of the trip.  “Because you’re American,” he answered.  “What does that mean?” I asked.  “The officers were ready to arrest us until I told them you are American.  In Egypt, Americans are above the law.”  “That’s not really true,” I rebutted, but to no avail.  Mahmoud went on explaining how Egyptian people and authorities are afraid of Americans and generally avoid upsetting them at all costs.  I guess they suffer from Bush syndrome! :O)

Well then, I can’t argue with that, now can I?  

Saved by the Cockroaches
It’s no easier with tampons.  Now these I KNOW I placed in my belly dance bag, because they come in handy every now and then. :)  But the problem is that most Egyptian women don’t use tampons, let alone know what they are.  In Egypt, as in most other countries in this part of the world, tampons are taboo.  According to the Mainstream Macho Mentality (MMM!) endemic in these countries, tampons take away virginity.  But wait.  It gets worse.  MMM divides women who are not virgins into 2 categories:  wives and whores.   Well, I’m neither a wife nor a virgin, so I guess that makes me…

…one very embarrassed foreigner when the check-point officer searching my bag on another occasion pulls out a tampon and tries to open it out of curiosity!  Oh geez, could my life get ANY worse right now?  It’s not enough that I’m standing in front of Egyptian authorities with no passport, no working papers, wearing tons of makeup and glitter on my lips?  Now this man is going to open up my tampon? 

Beads of sweat started trickling down my reddened face as the officer twiddled with the yet unopened tampon.   How would I explain tampons to him!  Lipstick? No.  Extra large Q-tip? No.  Pen with invisible ink? NO!  

And then, just in the nick of time, a horde of flying cockroaches invaded the makeshift check-point kiosk and landed all over us.  No lie.  It was like a scene straight out of a horror flick, but it was a blessing in disguise.  My over-crazed reaction to the roaches, which consisted of me screaming, jumping, and slapping everything around me (including one of the officers), totally diverted the officers’ attention from the tampons!  None of this was calculated, mind you.  I really do have an uncontrollable phobia of cockroaches.  It’s so bad I moved out of my first apartment in Cairo on account of seeing literally one roach in the bathroom.  And that was only after one week of living in it!  I lost my rent, security deposit, AND paid an electricity bill that wasn’t even mine.  And I didn’t care!

As dysfunctional as Egypt is, things somehow have a way of working out for the best.  If it weren’t for those roaches, that officer would have opened the tampon and proceeded to interrogate me about it. That would NOT have been good.  Instead, the officers were amused by my reaction to the roaches, and to the fact that I spoke Arabic.  I think I screamed something like “Oh my God!  I’m going to die!  Get me away from these *&@!#! Cockroaches!” in Arabic.  They had a good laugh, and then told me they didn’t believe I’m American.  I swore to them that I was, but I didn’t have my passport with me to prove it.  Or any other form of ID (which was really stupid of me).  

In the end, we all made nice and the officers let me be on my way.  You’d think this experience would teach me to take the tampons OUT of my belly dance bag.  But NOOOO!  I have to make the same mistake over and over again.  Until…

...Thieves Steal my Money AND Open Up my Tampons!
This is really pathetic, but I’ve had money stolen from my belly dance bag on 3 occasions while performing in Cairo.  I know, it’s my fault for leaving the money in there.  But the funny part is that EACH TIME my money gets stolen, I find one of my tampons opened up! It never fails. 

This leads to all sorts of questions.  First, why would the thief want to leave any indication that my bag had been violated?  Second, was it really that important that he satisfy his curiosity by opening up a tampon rather than just taking the money and leaving?  Third, once he opened the tampon and still had no clue what it was, why didn’t he just throw it out so I wouldn’t know that my bag had been tampered with?  

I can’t answer any of these questions, but I can say that experiences such as these shed light on the extent to which people are generally un(der)informed about most things sexual.  My gut tells me this is not a good thing, but I’m not going to say anything about that.  I only hope that this country undergoes something of a “sexual revolution” in addition to the larger revolution that is supposedly underway. 

4 comments:

  1. I also hate cockroaches with a passion, and would very likely acted the same way as you did ... well I have to admit it. I did in my own home in Indonesia - having a shower and no lie a 2 to 2.5" fat thing crawled out of the plug hole and joined me in my shower well I leaped out of the shower screaming blue murder - hubby came running he truly thought I was being murdered and ran in with a truncheon we kept under the bed. He the horrible man burst out laughing, I was so unimpressed, that wasn't the last encounter with the creepy crawlies so dancing as if on hot coals and screaming happened several times a year.

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  2. Okay wait let me get this straight, you have tampons, but its frowned apon (almost illegal?)? are you buying them or having them sent out of state, or are they being provided for American tourists? So if its frowned upon carrying, and silly MMM people are curiose, would it only be advisable to carry the tampon when you know you are going to have/having your period? Have you thought of getting a little cigar case, and throwing the tampon in?

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  3. Tampons aren't illegal. The people who know about them frown upon them. But most people don't know what they are. Of course I hide mine (I stock up on them when I go to the States), but in the event of a search, everything will be found

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  4. well, some dont know about Tampons and i was one of them, a friend who cant speak arabic needed some and she had no other clue than to ask for my help as it was her first time in Egypt and after she told me i got that we need a third party advice :)))) in a previuos post u talked about being in Rome and act like a Roman, try to include the matter of Tampons as a Roman's bussiness :)
    Rgrds,
    Tamer

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