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. :)~

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Case for Cairo

Why you should come to Cairo… Now.

Anyone who knows me knows that I complain about Cairo a lot.  That’s because I’m way past the infatuation phase in my relationship with this city.  I’ve said and continue to say that it’s dirty, crowded, chaotic, draining, dysfunctional and frustrating. But one thing I’ve never said about Cairo is that it’s dangerous. If it were dangerous, I wouldn’t live here. Plain and simple. Neither would thousands of other foreigners who live and work here alongside me.  Ok, ok, the first week of the uprising was pretty scary.  I’ll give you that.  But things calmed down dramatically soon after.  Sure, there’s no government, and there still aren’t as many police on the streets as there used to be, but I could think of much more dangerous places with governments and plenty of police.

Despite what you hear on the media, Cairo is safe.  The problem with the media is that it has a tendency to broadcast events from Tahrir Square and forget about the rest of the country.  This results in a very skewed version of reality. Uh, Newsflash! Tahrir is NOT Egypt.  It is a tiny sliver of Cairo that serves as a rallying point for political agitators.  Generally, what happens in Tahrir stays in Tahrir and doesn’t affect the country at large.  In fact, half of the time, Egyptians don’t even know what’s going on there!

Certain individuals are also responsible for perpetuating the myth that Cairo is a danger zone.  They are either prone to believing and spreading rumors, or are in the business of scaremongering.  I remember one Egyptian in particular trying to scare me out of returning to Cairo.  I was told that people were being mugged and murdered in broad daylight, and that girls were being raped left and right.  I was also told that I’d have to hire an armed driver to escort me absolutely everywhere, including the supermarket!  Shame on them!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While it’s always a good idea to take the normal precautions you would take in any big city, hiring an armed driver for your protection is simply out of the question.  

Spreading these types of rumors is unconscionable.  So is blindly believing them.  This myth that Cairo is dangerous has delivered a near death blow to tourism, the main pillar of the Egyptian economy.  Millions of Egyptians now find themselves un(der)employed because of the steep decline in tourism.  Among them are tour guides, taxi drivers, wait staff, artists, vendors… the list goes on.  Life was hard enough before the “revolution.”  Now it’s even harder.    

Two things prompted me to write this post.  The first was the very low attendance at both of Cairo’s belly dance festivals this summer.  In the past, both festivals had attracted well over 500 students each summer.  In 2006 alone, the number of students at one festival numbered more than 1,000!  This summer, however, the number of attendees at both festivals was under 200, due to the political situation in the country.  While I expected attendance to be lower this year, I didn’t think it would be that low.  I mean, it’s not like Cairo became a war zone!

The other thing making me announce that Cairo is safe is my (very) bleak prognosis for the future.  For reasons I’ll write about in a future post, I’m not too optimistic about the changes that Egypt is about to undergo.  So while the country might be safe and foreign-friendly today, there’s no guarantee that it will be tomorrow.  For this reason, I’m urging all of my readers not to take Egypt for granted.  Yes, it will always exist on the map, but it may be a very different Egypt than the one we all know and love.  Don’t put off your trip to Egypt until “things get better.”  They may very well get worse.  Don’t assume that Egypt will always be there, welcoming you with open arms.  There are powerful forces in this country that want that to stop.

Just last week, the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs said it would ban individual foreign tourists from buying tourist visas at the airport!  Only foreigners who purchased a tour package from a recognized tourism company in Egypt would be allowed to enter the country.  Realizing the economic catastrophe this would cause, the authorities promptly rescinded that decision.  But it goes to show that cracking down on tourism (including the thousands of “permanent tourists” that reside in Egypt) is an idea that is gaining wider currency these days.  For Heaven’s sake, we even have the Muslim Brotherhood declaring war on the “rotten culture” of the Pharaohs—you know, that same “rotten culture” that is the reason for tourism to Egypt!

(You can read more about the Brotherhood’s plan to cover the Sphinx’s face with wax here.  It’s a long article. Make sure you get to the bottom of it). 

Egypt needs you now more than ever.  Your presence and your dollars will help stimulate the Egyptian economy, employ thousands of people, and serve as a powerful reminder that Egypt CANNOT survive without tourism.  So think about spending your next vacation in Egypt.  You won’t regret it.  Egypt is a magical land with lots to offer.  Whether it’s the “rotten culture” of the Pharaohs, belly dance, Arabic language or Islamic history that you’re interested in, there’s something here for everyone.  Not to mention that Egyptians are some of the most hospitable and funniest people on the planet.  They alone are worth a visit to the Land of Prophets and Pharaohs. 


  1. I totally agree with your post.I really didn't realize how strong and devastating the movement of Salafi and muslim brotherhood in Egypt until right after the revolution. For once, half of my colleagues at work turned out to be members of the muslim brotherhood. They were all undercover and I was shocked by their numbers afterward.

    It is really sickening to me, although I am still optimistic that the majority of the Egyptian public will not accept them as a ruling force. But like you said sooner or later it might be a fact that we must deal with, well not for me to deal with anyway because I choose the highway.

    Whatever their motives and their strict and extreme religious background. No matter whether they will or will not be able to turn around this country into something better. I simply don't want my country to hold this ugly extreme religious face, because when that happens I will curse the day I ever thought of protesting and rising up against the tyranny and corruption of the very people that created these kind of maniacs in the first place.


  2. Thanks for your comment. I think the problem is that well-intentioned Egyptian liberals such as yourself are in denial of the reality on the ground. The Brotherhood and Salafists are indeed strong, as you say. Egyptians need to realize that and come up with an effective way of keeping them out of power, whatever that takes. The other issue is that they've been underground for so long that Egyptians are not used to seeing them so public, nor are they taking them seriously. I hope this revolution doesn't get hijacked the way so many other revolutions in history have. Only time will tell. In the meantime, sit tight!

  3. i just cannot see it happening Muslim brotherhood maybe i am wrong but they are not good business man they have to many things that will hurt the growth of anything good and i just know to many egyptian even the ones who so call cover but you can see all there body parts will do well with this brotherhood fashion , hair , nails , hahah woman things and let n ot talk about the night life all this freedom they alreay have will be gone , i am not writing this in a good context of things but it soo deep and so much and i just do not see it happening i see maybe the militray running the show but anyway let hope for the best but i surely will be gone if they get in power that is a fact .. Patricia Merry B....

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  6. Just curious as to how long you have lived in Cairo. I loved the time I spent there.

    1. It'll be 4 years in September. I must note that this post is no longer accurate. The security situation has deteriorated so much that it is not as safe as it used to be.