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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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Joker. Are You Joking?!

Because I have something to say about everything. ;)

This year more than ever, I had really been looking forward to coming home.  I was homesick, missed my family, and was having cravings that could only be satisfied in New York.  More importantly, Egypt was starting to get a little unbearable.  People have grown irritable and quarrelsome.  The traffic is worse than ever.  It’s impossible to go anywhere any time of day or night without sitting for hours in a cab, inhaling toxic amounts of exhaust.  Most cabs don’t have air conditioning, and it’s disgustingly hot and humid.  Some do, but lots of times, drivers lie and say the AC doesn’t work. 

I’m also a bit fed up with wearing long pants and long sleeves in this weather.  But what can I do?  Anything less and I’d be asking for real trouble.  These days, women are being assaulted in ways that never happened before the revolution.  I should know.  In just one month, I was targeted three times!  The first time, a man jumped out of a microbus and chased me down the street in broad daylight.  Next, I was in a cab when a gang on 10 motorcycles spotted me and tried to crash their bikes into the cab.  The driver got angry and tried to run over the motorcyclists.  Had I not barked at the driver to stop engaging them, we would have had a catastrophe on our hands.  Most recently, teen-aged boys sprayed tear gas in a cab that my friend and I were getting into.  Both she and I and the driver started tearing.  And I started losing consciousness.  We eventually drove away and the gas wore off.  

Now I know why so many women are adopting the black face veil.  It’s for protection!  Granted, some women are true fanatics, but the security situation has gotten so bad that invisibility is a woman’s best protection.  

And so I was looking forward to coming home.  I was fantasizing about the freedom, the peace, the logic, the fresh air.  The short skirts, tank tops, and bikinis…

And then, the minute I got off the plane, my mother called to tell me that a man claiming to be famous fictional villain The Joker shot 71 people in a Denver movie theater and killed 12.  He had also booby-trapped his apartment so that any police entering it would be blown away.  Not exactly the welcome back I was expecting.  

I’m not going to regurgitate the gory details of this freak crime.  The entire nation seems to know what happened.  I will say this, though.  I think it’s absolutely revolting that some people are exhibiting a perverted happiness that this happened, making this an opportunity to wag their finger at anyone who suspected the killer might be Muslim.  I mean, of all the things one could say in the aftermath of this tragedy, they can think of nothing better than “you see, there are also white Christian terrorists, so stop blaming us Muslims.” 

First of all, nobody blamed Muslims for this one.  The killer was caught immediately after his crime and his identity was revealed.  Secondly, the fact that there are white Christian terrorists does not negate the fact that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks around the world are committed by Muslim extremists.  And that because of this, most people automatically associate certain acts of violence with Muslims until informed otherwise.  

Thirdly, I hate to say it, what this Joker did does not classify as terrorism.  Evil, yes.  But strictly speaking, a terrorist is someone who engages in violence against civilians for POLITICAL and/or RELIGIOUS reasons.  As far as we know, the Joker’s crime was neither politically nor religiously motivated.  He was a lone psycho seeking celebrity status and decided to achieve it through violence.  This is unlike the 9/11 hijackers, and unlike Timothy McVeigh, all of whom tried to make the American government bend to their wills, whatever they were.  So we call them terrorists. 

Now, the fact that this guy doesn’t qualify as a terrorist doesn’t mean he shouldn’t rot in hell alongside every real terrorist.  Or that he shouldn’t face the death penalty.  Though a crime like this lacks a religious or political component, it’s just as heinous.  That being said, we can take comfort in knowing that because these crimes are isolated incidents committed by psychotic, deranged individuals, something like this probably won’t happen again for a while.  And it hasn’t happened for a while.  Meaning, this is not the kind of thing that jeopardizes the well-being of average Americans. 

…which is why the other thing pissing me off about this is the way the expat community in Egypt is foolishly using this incident to mock those afraid to travel to Egypt.  They say stupid things like “it’s wrong to be afraid to travel to Egypt when you have terrorism in your own back yard.”  

Yeah, Ok.  So all of a sudden “Egypt is safe” because some schmuck with a super villain complex shot up a movie theater in the States?  Why would you even think to compare the two?  Um, apples and oranges anyone?  

The truth is that this incident neither makes America less safe, nor Egypt safer.  Indeed, due to the complete breakdown of the security apparatus in Egypt, one has a much higher chance of being assaulted on the streets of Cairo than they did 2 years ago.  And a much higher chance than being mowed down in an American movie theater, that's for sure!  Personally, I’m at the point where I try not to go anywhere in Cairo without being accompanied by a man.  Even during the day.  But forget about my experiences.  There are daily reports of women being kidnapped, raped, killed, and even decapitated all over Egypt.  There had even been reports of peoples’ heads being impaled on pikes in a suburb of Cairo!  It’s all over the Egyptian media.  You just have to open the newspapers.  Or try being female in Cairo.

Unlike what happened in Colorado, the crimes that are happening in Egypt and the Middle East are not isolated incidents that happen once in a blue moon. They are the results of political turmoil, and they are ongoing.  It’s therefore more likely to be a victim of something in Egypt than it is to be a victim of some freak crime in the States.  If truth be told.  But part of me thinks that a lot of these expats in Egypt are deliberately ignoring reality. They are telling the outside world that “Egypt is safe,” knowing full well that it isn’t, because their businesses are suffering from lack of tourism.  These expats include owners of beds and breakfasts, dance teachers, tour guides… all businesses that depend on tourism.   Not only is this dishonest, it’s unconscientious.  

What happened in Colorado a few days ago was terrible. Most of us are in shock and lots are grieving.  Others are trying to figure out the psychological disposition of the murderer to prevent things like this from happening in the future.  These are all appropriate responses to a situation like this.  And though it’s fair to admit that violence happens everywhere, wagging your finger and making this an opportunity to bolster your own ideological agenda is not. 


  1. Please be careful and try to stay safe.
    What else can I possibly say?

    Ariadne Eleni.

    1. Thanks Ariadne, I think that's all anyone can say. I am trying. I limit my outdoors time, and dress pretty modestly. We'll see how everything turns out. :/

  2. I'm glad that someone is talking about what it going on in Egypt, so people realize how dangerous it is.

    I mention these events to my husband when I see them in the news, but he denies that they really happened, I suspect like most Egyptians do. They like to deny anything that would make their country look bad.

    I agree that you have a greater chance of being harmed on the streets of Egypt than being harmed in a freak attack in America. Heck, I didn't even feel that safe when I was in Egypt in 2009, and that was when they had police everywhere!

    1. Thanks for your comment Molly. You're absolutely right about Egyptians being in denial every time something bad happens. And about how their main concern is not to make the country "look bad." Perhaps this is part of their problem though. They refuse to acknowledge reality, and so no one's taking steps to improve it. It's really sad, especially looking at the situation from an outside perspective. As for safety, it's definitely not as safe as it was two years ago. That's something most Egyptians living in Egypt will admit to.

  3. Hi Luna, I am from Brazil and I found your blog throught Amar el Binnaz and Lalitha (who used to translate your posts into portuguese for brazilian dancers), I am really touched about your living story. I was a bellydancer (I decided to give up), but differently of you, I never came out of my country, I suffered prejudice here, just because I want to explore and show how is situation in Egypt. I am historian, and I also research about arab constituitions (my last scholarship, hehe), although my prefer one is medieval age (arabs were more reasonable), so I can't think about my dance, my world without ascertaining.
    I don't know how is situation in USA, but here in Rio de Janeiro, bellydance is, in the most of time, something side by side with esoterism, not ART! Not a professional dance. Or worse, something for seduction. São Paulo is a paradise for bellydancers, there is knowledge, but I don't live there...
    I also have a blog, it started when I was begginner, suddenly it came so big, and now I am being persecuted for who disagrees with my words; they are also offering workshops to contest my posts (specially an egyptian guy who was a tour guide in his country and in Brazil decided to "make money" teaching about bellydance).
    So, I will wait anxiously about your book telling your living in Egytpt. I am tired of dance without a meaning, but I am not tired of thinking. :)

    1. Hi Celia,
      Thanks for writing! So happy to see another educated, intellectual belly dancer out there. :) I can understand your frustration with the lack of proper knowledge regarding the dance and culture. It's something that happens all over the world, even in Egypt. But don't let people discourage you. If they're setting up workshops specifically to contest the things you write, then take satisfaction in the fact that you're a very important person! Success will always be met with jealousy and hate. Your job is to not let it affect you. Fight back by being the best you can be, and continuing to share your knowledge. On another note, I'd love to see your blog. Can you send me the link?

      Much love,

    2. Hi Luna, thanks for your words, I was really thinking about this, when we shine, we also bring jealous people, we need to be strong and keep our work well. I also made a poetry for this situation, I will try to translate here:

      Dance, dance,
      Surrender yourself
      Allow yourself

      Dance, dance,
      Cuddle yourself
      Feel yourself

      Do not remember
      Do not spoil
      Do not seek to be
      What you are not

      'Cause they only criticize
      They only pursue
      The light that comes from you

      Oh, how I wish they could have
      The glare that obscures them

      So dance, dance
      Sparkle, blight
      Trouble, hypnotize

      The insects always fly
      Trying to find the sun
      They may try to cover up
      But the star is still you.

      Not the same in portuguese, hehe. Here my blog:
      I'll be glad to receive your visit!

    3. I love it! And it's so true. Going to check out your blog soon. :)

  4. Thank you for publishing a quick view of life "on the street" for women of all kinds and dancers in particular. I've been in Egypt every year for 14 years for Ahlan Wa Sahlan and for visiting my Egyptian and ex-pat dancer friends until this year. I was prevented this year by a severely pinched sciatic nerve. I am still in touch with my Egyptian friends and and sad to see that your description agrees with theirs. I'm so sad about these changes for Egyptians' sakes but I am waiting to see how things develop in the political/social arena as they say, they are "warily optimistic" for the long haul. I miss it so much but have to wait... :(
    Leyla Lanty

    1. Oh my gosh Leyla....fancy seeing you here on this blog, in California and of course having seen you in Cairo as well. I, like you and many others are so sadden by the situation in Egypt. Hopefully, one day soon things will improve and we can once again return "home"
      Nancy Ann

    2. Hi Leyla,
      Sorry to be about your pinched nerve. I know how painful that can be. Regarding the situation in Egypt, I too hope it gets better soon. Things really are getting impossible and uncomfortable for a lot of people. Don't know what the answer is, just praying for some divine intervention. Anyway thanks for writing, and feel better soon! :)

  5. I totally agree with your opinion Luna. You are absolutely right. We Egyptian are in denial that the security is in a bad shape and it's getting scary. I'm sorry about what happened to you. Think of hiring a bodyguard!
    I am a silent fan that had been reading your blog for quite a while. Now I ain't that silent anymore:) Chapeau:) I love your writing style and art as well.
    Sincerely Yours,
    Ramy Shwaiter

    1. Hi Ramy,
      Thanks for writing. I hope the situation gets better soon. I don't think I'll be hiring a body guard, but I do make it a point to surround myself with men when I go out. That's usually a good thing to do. My best, Luna :)

  6. Hi Luna. I read your blog posting on the woes of egypt today and wow! At last a highly intellectual person looking at the fledgeling egyptian democracy and the possible scenarios that may play out in egypt in future. I've been going to egypt regularly for the past 4 years now for business. To find your blog and to read your posts was very entertaining and insightful.

    I believe the problem that Egypt is facing now is closely related to what many African countries are experiencing. The key to gaining and staying in power is to keep the masses uneducated and poor and dependent on government thereby ensuring the uneducated vote in the next election. It is no secret that the MB handed out sugar and flour by the tons in rural areas to secure the vote of the poor. This is also a method to promote Islamification of Egypt or making Islam appear good. I think it is only a matter of time before the MB will start pushing for the Saudification of Egypt. I do hope that the future will prove me wrong!

  7. Hi Mornay, thanks for writing, and I'm glad you like my blog. :) I think what's happening in Egypt is really sad. As you mentioned, the MB did lots of things to ensure they got a lot elected. But honestly, they would have been elected even without sugar and flour. They don't have to make an effort to make Islam look good. Truth is, Egyptians (most of them anyway) are extremely religious and uneducated, so mention anything with Allah and they'll go for it. All of this was inevitable in a way. Islamification is definitely the future of the Middle East. It was just waiting for an opportune moment, and it found one. And it's not just in Egypt. In fact, it's much bigger than Egypt, and started with Iran in 1979. I'm just hoping that this will give the masses a chance to become disillusioned with religion and perhaps usher in an age of "enlightenment" similar to what happened in Europe. That's a long shot, as this part of the world doesn't boast the same minds that medieval Europe had, but hey, who knows? Anything could happen.