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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Interview with BellyDanceFinder!

Bellydancefinder: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background? What do you do when you aren’t dancing?
Luna: Three years ago, I won a Fulbright Scholarship to write a book about the history, development and decline of belly dance in Egypt. I had just graduated from Harvard University with a Masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies, and would soon be moving to Cairo. I originally planned to return home after 9 months upon terminating the scholarship. However the dance distracted me and I never finished my book! I kept taking classes and meeting new people, and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was performing regularly at all of the 5-star resorts along the Red Sea. Exactly one year later, I auditioned at the Semiramis Hotel and the Nile Memphis and was awarded contracts to dance at both. The Semiramis gig didn’t work out (for very ugly reasons), but I am happily dancing at the Nile Memphis every night. I also perform regularly at weddings and upscale corporate events with my band.

Though I spend most of my time performing, designing my costumes, training, choreographing and teaching, I use my down time to blog about my life as a belly dancer in Cairo. You can visit my blog, “Kisses from Kairo,” at I am also making progress on my book, slowly but surely. Both of these projects are my way of indulging my academic side, albeit in a less formal way.
Bellydancefinder: How did you become exposed to belly dance? How old were you
Luna: I became exposed to belly dance after seeing a beautiful belly dancer perform at a local Syrian restaurant in Brooklyn, New York (my home town!). I was blown away by the music as well as the dancer’s moves, grace, costumes, and beauty, and decided I wanted to learn how to belly dance. It turned out that that amazing dancer I was watching was a childhood friend from the Joffrey Ballet School, and she wound up giving me some of my first belly dance lessons! She is Zobeida of New York, and I am eternally grateful to her for getting me interested in this dance. :)
Bellydancefinder: Who is your belly dance role model?
Luna: There are so many belly dancers I admire, for different reasons. They include first and foremost Asmahan of Cairo. Asmahan is THE consummate performer. She has everything it takes to be an amazing belly dancer, and then some. No one combines belly dance and showmanship the way she does. I also like Dina, Randa, and Camelia, and of course Fifi Abdo!

Bellydancefinder: What kind of influences has shaped your dance?
Luna: All of my life experiences have shaped my dance. Everything from personal relationships to travel abroad to my studies to gazillions of ballet, jazz, and belly dance classes I’ve taken throughout my life.

Bellydancefinder: What drives you to teach belly dancing? How long have you been teaching?
Luna: I never thought I’d want to teach belly dance until a few foreign dancers started asking me for lessons. I gave it some thought and decided I would do it. I remembered what it was like studying belly dance in the States, and feeling that somehow, my Middle Eastern dance education was incomplete. Something was missing, and many things in my dance just weren’t right. When I came to Egypt and started studying with various teachers (foreign and Egyptian), I saw a major improvement in my dance—an improvement that can only come after living in or continuously visiting and studying in Cairo. My movement vocabulary expanded, my technique drastically improved, my musicality got better, etc. I am now in a position where I can share the knowledge of my transformation with others who are in the same position I was in 3 years ago. And I think that’s important. I’ve decided to teach because I believe I can help others begin to make that same transformation I did, and I know how fulfilling that feels.

Another factor driving me to teach is that there’s so much (con)fusion in the belly dance world. With all the silly props, acrobatics and circus acts that non-Egyptians have imposed on the dance, the true essence of belly dance is in danger of being extinguished. I’m a purist, and believe that Egyptian dance in all its simplicity is much more interesting, nuanced, artistic and authentic than all of the market-driven “creations” that are currently overwhelming the dance. Not to mention, Egyptian music is so instrumentally and lyrically rich. Props like wings, trays of candles, fan veils, palm candles (to name a few) hinder one’s expression and interpretation of that richness, because they limit your range of (e)motion. One of my goals in teaching is to get my students to just dance—to drop the prop and develop their technique and musicality. Once a student reaches the point at which her technique is fluid and her musical interpretation is inspiring, she won’t feel the need to mask her dance with unnecessary props. It’s my goal to help students reach that point.
Bellydancefinder: How would you describe people’s interest in belly dancing in Egypt? Has it changed over the years?
Luna: Belly dancing used to be a very popular form of entertainment in Egypt just 30 years ago. The economy was better, people were more educated and cultured, and there were many good dancers for people to watch. The situation is different now. Egyptians’ interest in belly dancing has been waning. Three factors are responsible for this. First, the Egyptian economy these days is in shambles, and most people don’t have the disposable income they used to have in the 60s and 70s to spend on entertainment. Second, an ugly wave of religious conservatism has swept over Egypt during the past 30 years, and the majority of Egyptians have come to perceive belly dancing as “haram,” or sinful. This has also resulted in fewer dancers, and much fewer good dancers who are capable of attracting an audience. Third, younger generations of Egyptians are discovering other forms of entertainment. For the rich, they include western style night clubs and alcohol. For the poor, they include marijuana and other available, cheap drugs. For both rich and poor, there’s the internet. So there’s not as much interest in belly dancing as there used to be.

Bellydancefinder: What has been your greatest challenge in teaching your students to dance, especially those who may not have had exposure to belly dance from a young age?
Luna: My greatest challenge in teaching so far has been making my students understand musical interpretation and transitions—why certain moves fit or don’t fit to a particular piece of music or rhythm. This is one of the biggest challenges for any dancer. And this is what makes the difference between a dancer that has “feeling,” on the one hand, and just a dancer, on the other. This is something that takes years to do properly, especially for us dancers who do not come from a Middle Eastern background. And it’s something that we’re constantly working at and evolving.

Bellydancefinder: What single piece of advice would you give your students?
Luna: Slow down! The single most important piece of advice I received from one of Cairo’s best teachers and dancers, Sara Farouk. No matter what you’re doing, slow down. Even if you think it’s too slow, slow down even more. Whether you’re doing an intro piece, a Saidi number, a taqsim or a drum solo, take a deep breath and don’t rush through your movements. You don’t have to hit every single doom and tak, and you don’t have to incorporate every single movement you’ve learned into your routine. Less is definitely more.

Bellydancefinder: When you are not dancing, you are…?
Luna: Writing my book, blogging, eating.

Bellydancefinder: What makes you laugh out loud?
Luna: Egyptians’ sense of humor.

Bellydancefinder: What tries your patience?
Luna: Arrogance, narcissism, ignorance, hypocrisy, lies, manipulation of the truth, deception.

Bellydancefinder: Name one thing you could not live without?
Luna: Family.
Bellydancefinder: What is your favorite travel destination?
Luna: Cuba—dying to go again.

Bellydancefinder: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Luna: I would make sure that there was an equitable distribution of food! I just can’t imagine that there are people in this world dying of starvation, while others are dying of obesity! I’m not asking that everyone have the same kind of wealth—just that everyone have equal access to food, the most basic of necessities and human rights.

Bellydancefinder: If you weren’t teaching dance, what would you be doing?
Luna: If I weren’t teaching dance, I’d just be performing. If I were doing neither of the two, I’d probably be writing in some way shape or form. I’ve always loved writing and discovered I have a knack for, so I got my BA in journalism from the City University of New York.

This interview was originally published at Belly Dance Finder.


  1. hi Luna, I really enjoyed reading your interview and your experiences about the life of a foreign bellydancer in Cairo. The comment you made about why the bellydance scenario is slowing down in Egypt is quite true! in addition to your words I would like to say that muslim women dress in a humble way, is not allowed for them to wear tight clothes revealing their body nor to expose their arms, legs and hair according to religion of Islam, the holy book Quran and the recomendations of Prophet Mohamed. Most muslim woman and man in Egypt respect and follow their religion to the book, so is not a surprise that bellydancing is consider a haram (sin) though it is hard to understand this point of view if we are foreign non muslims, originally we where raised under different religious faith and social rules, not to forget that unfortunetly there are dancers with bad reputation, non profesionals who contribute to decline the image of raks sharqi around the world. I wish you much success and congratulations for being a brave bellydancer in Cairo!

  2. Hi Yazmina,
    Thanks for your comment and for elaborating the position of women in Islam. Useful info! :)

  3. A really interesting article and food for thought Luna. Thank you. And keep up the blogging!

  4. Thanks Habiba :) Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Very good interview Luna, and deep as well :)