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, April 24, 2013

I don’t know what to title this post.  “The Flight from Hell;” “I Hate Air France/Delta,” “Why I Love Egypt,”  “Flying Stinky;” “The Worst 48 Hours of My Life,” “Everything Works Out in the End” would all do, but none on its own would do justice to the magnitude of the disaster that was my flight from Egypt last weekend.  Let me explain why.

Earlier this year, I had been asked to do some workshops and performances in Cincinnati in April.  Given that I enjoy teaching, needed a break from Egypt, and needed to get the remaining two puppies to their new mommies in the US, I gladly accepted the invitation.  My sponsor booked me a roundtrip flight from Cairo to Cincinnati with Delta/Air France, which are one and the same now.  What ensured thereafter was a travel catastrophe of epic proportions, and another example of how Murphy’s Law hijacks my life every now and then.  Well, rather frequently actually…

I left for Cairo International Airport at 4 am last Thursday with one really heavy suitcase, an almost equally heavy carry-on, and Moza and Maksoom in their gigantic cages (which I bought two hours before taking off).  I had two other cages with me that were smaller, but Air France’s policy of rejecting dogs that aren’t in super-lux cages with an air conditioner and mini bar scared me, so I ran out to buy two huge cages at the last minute.  I put the puppies in their crates and had them placed in a microbus I rented to go to the airport.  The trip was speedy and bumpy, though, and the puppies puked, peed and pood.  By the time we arrived, the smell coming out of those cages was putrid.  It was so bad, it stunk up all of Cairo’s Terminal 1.  All of it.

Embarrassed to be the source of such stench, I quickly made my way to check-in with Air France.  The attendant began speaking to me in French.  English or Arabic please, I said in Arabic.  Allah!” he blurted, surprised.  “You speak Arabic?”  I replied that I did.  “Are you Egyptian?”  No.  “Are your parents Egyptian?”  No.  “You don’t have any Egyptian or Arab roots?”  he continued to ask, trying to crack the “mystery.”  Nope.  “I don’t believe you.” Inta hurr, I said with a grin, meaning, you’re free to believe what you like.

Not wanting to waste more time, I redirected the conversation to the dogs and my bag.  He checked my bag and charged me for the dogs, but then informed me that the airline only allows one dog.  What?!?  I shrieked.  That’s impossible!  I spoke to Delta and Air France both in the US and Egypt and made a reservation for two dogs.  “I’m sorry,” he said, but “I can’t break the airline’s policy.” 

At this point, I had no other choice than to let down my hair, bat my eyelashes, and plead in the most feminine voice I could pull off.  “Please mister, these dogs are my babies, and I can’t just dump them in the street and get on the plane, or not get on the plane at all.  It’s not my fault that the idiots working for your company don’t know the policies.  So now you have to check my dogs and let us on.”

I could tell he was enjoying this, and that after a little more flirting, he’d check the dogs.  And that’s exactly what happened, but not before asking me to clean out their cages.  I had no idea how I was going to do that, knowing that if I let the puppies out, they probably wouldn’t go back in.  But I did my best.  I grabbed a baggage attendant to help me wheel the cages over to the bathroom so I could pull the soiled towels out of them.  The attendant helped me fling the puke and poo out too.  Truth be told, that did little to quench the stench, but at least it was less of a mess for the dogs. 

I returned to the counter, checked in the dogs, and proceeded to immigration, where I’d be interrogated about my “roots” again.  This time, it was a woman doing the “harasking.”:D  As soon as she heard me say sabah il-kheir (good morning), she started asking me the same questions as the previous guy, AND, just like him, didn’t believe my answers.  The only difference was that she threw in a couple more questions about whether I’m married, and if not, could she find me a husband.  Huh.  It’s nice to know that 20 Questions and Match-Making are part of the average Egyptian’s job description.  And, that explains the endless lines that never seem to move in that airport (or anywhere else). Lol

Fast forward to Charles de Gualle Airport in Paris, where I experienced the exact opposite.  Nobody gave a damn!  I missed my connecting flight to Atlanta because my first flight took off an hour late, and because I wasted time going through passport control just to claim and recheck my bags and dogs!  I collected my large suitcase, put it on a wagon with my carry-on and personal items, and wheeled my way over to the nearby Air France office.  I left the dogs waiting at the oversized baggage section.  Nobody wanted to help me place them on wagons.  They said “it’s not my job.”

When I explained that I missed my connecting flight because Air France departed from Cairo an hour late, I was met with a careless shrug and an “I’m sorry, but I cannot help you.”  Okaaaaaaaaay. Are there any baggage employees who can help me put the dog cages on a wagon?  “No.” 

Thanks for nothing, France.  So you mess up my flight and you refuse to help me get myself together.  I’m ordering Freedom Fries from now on! 

Then, out of nowhere, I started crying uncontrollably.  Which was weird.  It’s not like I never fly, or like I don’t frequently experience anything more traumatizing than missing a flight.  So why was I crying? 

Looking back, I think it was a combination of things.  Firstly, I hated myself for putting those poor puppies through all that stress.  I knew it was for the best, but they were terrified and swimming in sh!t.  And there was nothing I could do about it.  I also knew I’d be giving them away in just a few more hours.  That in itself made me sad.  The fact that I had been awake for more than a day, gone to work, cleaned the house and rushed across the city to find appropriate cages all just hours before flying probably contributed to my breaking down…as did the open blisters on my toes, the excruciating ear pain and nausea I experienced on the descent into Paris, and my 40 pound carry-on bag which I had to lug on account of the handle being broken.

Oh and then there’s the fact that I just couldn’t believe how standoffish the French were being.  I mean, they do have that reputation, but still.  I could have been stark naked smelling like a bouquet of roses and not one person would have helped me in that airport.  Compare that to Egypt, where even though I literally smelled like dog sh!t, there was no shortage of men rushing to help me with my bags and dogs.  Sure, Egyptians are motivated by backsheesh and moza, but at least they’re f&%kin motivated!!  We really don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it.  Or travel to France. :P

As if all that wasn’t enough to think about, I started having an existential crisis.  I thought of all the real and perceived stars in the belly dance world—the ones that spend more time in the air than on the stage—and wondered whether that was for me.  If this is how much I hate flying (and I do because it hurts my ears and stomach in addition to exhausting me), then I’d better forget about being a “star” on the international workshop circuit.  Besides, I reasoned, 95% of those so-called stars have never performed for an Arab audience, let alone to a real band.  They just graduate from the classroom, win a few meaningless competitions, slap videos of themselves doing airtight choreography on Youtube, and play the whole “invite me to your festival and I’ll invite you to mine” game.  The more backs they scratch, the more festivals they teach in.  No real performance experience, no ability to improvise, no Arabic language skills, yet they are “stars.”  To hell with it, I thought.  That’s never what I intended to do anyway.  I just wanted to learn how to dance in Egypt and got much more than I asked for.  And that’s worth more to me to anything else. 

Since no one wanted to put my dogs on a wheeler, I left them where they were and trudged to the ticket office.  It was so far away it might as well have been in another country.  There, it took me an hour(!) and lots of tears for them to book me for the 4:45pm flight to New York on the same day.  Once that flight was booked, I stopped crying.  Though I was supposed to fly to Atlanta and then Cincinnati, going to NY was the best thing that could have happened.  The final flight to Cincinnati wouldn’t take off until 5pm the next evening, so that meant I could spend the night in NY at my dad’s.  That also meant I could take the dogs out of the cages, bathe them, and let them relax for the night.  It couldn’t have worked out better.   

Feeling better about the way the rest of my trip would go, I went back to collect the dogs and check in.  This time, someone took pity on me and helped me load the cages on wagons and wheel them to the check-in area.  Eight hours later, we were in New York with my dad.  The next day, he took us back to JFK so we could continue on to Cincinnati.  Needless to say, that flight was very short and not nearly as traumatic as the previous ones.  We arrived in Cincinnati all fresh and clean, and a few minutes later, someone came to pick up Moza.  Maksoom went home with his mommy the following day.  I was left puppy-less and pretty sad, but I was at ease knowing that they were in good hands (and were now American citizens!). J

The rest of my weekend was just perfect.  My workshops went really well, and I made a bunch of new friends.  I also got to squeeze in a little shopping, eat tons of pizza, and drink tap water.  And for the perfect finale to that perfect weekend, I wound up flying back to Egypt on the same plane as Raqia Hassan, Randa Kamel, and Eman Zaki.  As much as Murphy likes to mess up my life, everything always seems to work out in the end. 

By the way, no offense to the French. J


  1. awww... I had no idea just how awful your trip to teach us was... hugs to you!! I'm glad the trip back was better.

    1. Thanks, but you ladies made it all worth it! <3

  2. I hope you write a book of even more tales when you decide to wrap it up in Egypt. I can't believe how resourceful you are. What's "backsheesh"? I know what Moza is now...besides a sweet puppy ;) I totally feel you on the bursting into tears incident - the day before my trip to your wkshp in Cinci was so harrowing, I had the same thing happen, when I could normally take it like a champ.
    Isn't it funny that now pizza and tap water are a big treat to you? Craziness. We take them for granted here. What an all-star flight home...dang!

    1. It must be something about workshops that get us all hysterical lol. Glad your ride back with Moza was easy though. :)

  3. Thanks for your post! How interesting your flight home must have been ;)

    Btw, Chicago is going to be AWESOME for you!

    1. Haha I knew you'd understand the oddity of that lol. :D And I'm SO looking forward to Chicago you have no idea!