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, August 2, 2015

Blame, Shame, and Shobha


Disclaimer: This was written a year ago.
You all know the hackneyed saying, when in Rome do as the Romans do. Well Egypt is no Rome, but for the seven years that I've lived here, I've tried to be as 'Roman' as possible. I've quite literally walked the walk and talked the talk. Heck I've even thought the thought. I have, one could say, 'gone native' in more ways than one. But there's a limit to how much Romanness even someone like me can take, and I reached it yesterday.

Let me begin by explaining the concept of shobha (pronounced shoub-ha). This idea-word is very much indebted to Islamic thought on gender relations. As such, there is no real equivalent in the English language. But for the purposes of this entry, I'll define it as the state of shame that occurs when one puts oneself in a seemingly compromising situation. Emphasis on 'seemingly.' As is typical of shame, shobha is more concerned with how a situation *appears* to the outside observer, rather than with the actual facts of the situation known to those who are experiencing it. Interestingly, the word is derived from the root sha-ba-ha, which means to resemble, to appear to be, etc.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Belly Dancer's Body



Back home, we have this notion that belly dance has a more accommodating aesthetic than other dances--that this art is for all sizes, shapes, colors and ages. And that may very well be the case, because, we insist on it being that way. And also because belly dance is not a mainstream form of entertainment there. The majority of high profile performances are unpaid and occur within the context of festivals, produced and attended by other dancers. It can therefore get away with having dancers whose bodies would be unsuited for traditional mainstream performing arts like ballet, hip-hop, music video, ballroom, etc. In the real world--and by that I mean the part of the world in which belly dance is a major pillar of mainstream entertainment--things are little bit different. OK, a lot different. In the Middle East, your numbers-- inches and years--are just as important as they are for a ballet dancer in the US. There is an ideal standard of beauty held by a good majority of the people, and any deviation from that is less marketable. Now we don't want to lump all the Arab countries together when it comes to this issue; the ideal aesthetic in Egypt is a bit different than what it is in Lebanon and in some Gulf countries. However within each of those countries, you'd be hard-pressed to find people who have an alternative vision of beauty.

That being said, fellow belly dancer and author Zaina Brown and I decided to share our experiences with body image, as we've both been working as professional dancers in the Arab world for years--Zaina in the UAE, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Mali, and India, and myself in Egypt. By the way, you can follow Zaina on her own blog, "Where's Zaina." And if that's not enough, you can purchase her book "Stories of a Travelling Belly Dancer" from Amazon. It's a great read that documents her experiences working as a dancer in the Middle East. Zaina also just produced a documentary called "Traveling Belly Dancer in India," which is currently screening in film festivals around the US. It will be available for public viewing by the end of 2015. In the meantime, Zaina is dancing in the New York / New Jersey area and is working on a new book about dancing in the Middle East.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Competition Craze


Belly dance competitions are a lot like sex. You'd rather your kids not have it, but you know it's inevitable. So you teach them the right way. The 'safe' way. Sorry for the analogy, but this is how I feel about competitions. Not exactly the best our art has to offer, but an undeniable part of its current landscape. As someone who has both judged and entered competitions (back when I had no idea how terrible I was), I think I'm pretty qualified to talk about this subject, as well as give a few pointers on how to do it the 'right' way. And I have a lot to say. As always. :)


First I should mention that I  have many friends who have both entered and won competitions. I'm very proud of them, as I do see this as an accomplishment on some level. When truly deserved, winning a competition can bring a dancer recognition, esteem, and even jump start her teaching career. Which is great. None of my subsequent criticisms of the competition world are meant to detract from their success in any way.