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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dala3 on Steriods

I wrote this sometime in 2014 but never published it.
Oops.  I did it again.  I just shot another music video.  This time with an unknown singer who wants to make it big.  Nothing special.  Just your ordinary, low budget, thoughtless, uninspiring, very Egyptian clip that makes you wonder why producers make so much money.  I agreed to be a part of it because, well, because... I knew it would make for good blog content! No, that's not why. :)  I did it because a) I didn't know what I was in for, b) getting your face on screen is great promo and results in more high-end gigs,  c) I'm always up for a new experience d) I needed a good laugh, which is almost always guaranteed at these things, and e) it really does make for good blogging.
The laughs, or rather regrets, started with the makeup 'artist,' a 25-year old boy with a unibrow and a chip on his shoulder.  I arrived at the studio already made-up, as I had just come from work, and figured I'd just freshen my makeup before going on set.  Not so.  UniBoy handed me a bottle of rose water, a cotton pad, and told me to remove my makeup.  But my makeup is fine the way it is, I protested.  Take it off! he said.  So I went to the bathroom and proceeded to remove, more like smear, the makeup all over my face.  Great.  I looked like I was ready for Halloween.  Rose water proved no match for my waterproof Maybelline eye makeup.  Now, if they had given me some olive oil...

The rose water cotton proved useless, but I managed to use my fingers to violently rub the smeared eye makeup into my pores until it was no longer visible. I didn't even know that was possible.  I returned to the makeup artist triumphant.  Based on my previous experiences with Egyptian makeup artists (and judging by the kid's unibrow and age), I knew exactly what my face was going to look like after this grande artiste was through with me.  And it wasn't pretty.  I had no choice but to slip down into the chair though, suspend all doubts, judgments, and fears, and let the kid do his job.  BUT, I had one request.  Let me do my eyebrows.  To which he gave me a dirty look and brushed me off with a 'we'll see about that.'
The boy started to apply base.  It was a little cakey, but overall not the worst foundation application I've endured.  Then some powdered bronzer. No complaints. And then, he went for the brows.  Uh, how about we skip those and I'll take care of them later, I suggested. The boy ignored me and proceeded to doodle on my brow bone.  I noticed that I was holding my breath and clenching my fists, as if I were having a tooth extracted.  Relax, I told myself.  Give him the benefit of the doubt.  And then, his assistant, an even younger boy (but with two eyebrows and beautiful pale blue eyes) stuck his face in mine, and upon examining it, exclaimed in disgust, 'those are men's eyebrows!  Shit. I reached for the mirror.  Yep, the assistant was right.  I had manbrows.  Thick, squarish, horizontal, black manbrows.  I knew it!  Why didn't I insist on doing my own eyebrows!?  Ugh! OK just finish what you started and I'll fix them later, I told him. 
Uniboy had just about finished my face, and I had just about had enough.  I reached for the lip liner and rouge before he could--I wasn't letting him anywhere near my lips.  He then asked me (get this!) if I wanted Botox to make my lips look fuller. Botox!?!  As in, you want to administer a Botox injection to my LIPS?!?  Um, no.  I'll make it happen with this lip liner right here, thank you.
I don't know what was worse.  A Botox injection to my lips, or shaving off my eyebrows while I had my eyes closed, which actually happened to me a couple of years ago when I was having my face made up for a model shoot. 
Before I had a chance to delete and redo my eyebrows, the producer came in and OKayed my makeup! Yes, he actually approved it. He did say that my jaw could use a little more contour though. ;)
So that's it.  I was producer-approved.  There was no overriding his word.  Okaaay, well there's a hair dresser here right?  At least let's make my hair pretty.  Maybe even a little big to offset my big eyebrows? Nope. OK then. They can't all be blind. They must see something I don't. 
Now it was time to hear what I would be dancing to.  The technicians sat me down to listen to three songs and pick one.  Each was more terrible than the last, but at least the first one didn't sound like it could have been the number one hit at one of those 1990s raving and ecstasy clubs.  So I chose it.  It was a pathetic excuse for a shaabi song... something along the lines of don't play with my heart... to a boring monotonous beat that could barely get a hip drop out of me. Ugh!  How was I supposed to dance to this uninspiring crap AND look like I was enjoying it?
The producer read my thoughts. As I stood on the white backdrop waiting for the cameramen to get ready, he told me not to worry so much about the dancing.  He was more interested in dalaa3.  You know, that flirty coyness that dancers like Samia Gamal and Sahar Hamdi and Dina became famous for?  Well let me tell you, I do dalaa3.  I practically manufacture it.  But for the purposes of our project, even my well-honed dalaa3 skills weren't enough. No. Distraught by my inability to provocatively lick my lips or otherwise get creative with my tongue, the producer demonstrated the types of moves and faces he wanted me to make. And it was nothing short of dalaa3 on steroids.
Great.  So I'm supposed to put on my 'come hither' face while batting my eyelashes and winking, all while trying to make my hips do something intelligent to that stupid song.  Boy was I feeling challenged.  And nervous!  Not because I'm one of those ridiculous prudish dancers on a crusade to eliminate sexiness in belly dance, but because I wasn't exactly comfortable playing sex kitten in a room full of strange Egyptian men, let alone in front of the entire nation.  There's a difference between being sexy when you dance, and just pulling faces.  The latter is what bad dancers do to compensate for and distract from their lack of skill. 
It took me a while (five hours to be exact) to give this man the type of dalaa3 he was looking for.  Admittedly, I needed a drink.  Or two, or three.  And if I weren't in a Muslim country, I would have asked for one. But since that wasn't an option, the producer dragged it out of me by doing all the desired moves and faces next to the camera man while we were shooting, so that I could imitate him.  Strangely, this worked.  But more because he cracked me up, which then made me loosen up.  The site of an older Egyptian man weaving his hips in and out of all kinds of circles while touching himself and giggling was just too much, even for me.    
I wound up wearing five of my best costumes and dancing to the song three times in each costume.  (You do the math.)  After each run through, Unibrow Boy would come with a tissue to wipe the redish beads of sweat dripping down my face and body.  Yep, as with previous TV shoots I've done, it was decided that my boobs, tummy, and armpits needed red powder brushed on them.  You know, so that it could drip off me when I sweat.  And I sweat buckets.  I swear I'm convinced the whole body powder thing is an excuse for straight makeup artists to handle boobs. 
After the third run through, I had virtually melted.  Between all my jumping around and the large studio lights beaming on my face, both of my fake eyelashes had detached themselves, and all of my eye makeup had oozed down my face.  But of course. Uniboy probably didn't even know what waterproof makeup was.  Stupid, considering I had come to the shoot with my acid rain proof eye makeup already on, and was told to take it off.

I was feeling quite pathetic.  And I was kicking myself in the ass for agreeing to do this shoot.  I was thinking how horrible I must look, and how that image of me was going to be broadcasted into the homes of millions of people.  And about how that song was not bringing out the best in me.
All of a sudden, the producer decided I needed to do something with my hair.  Well, yeah, something should have been done about that before shooting.  So I was delivered to the hair stylist, an 18ish year old girl who was more interested in flirting with her colleagues than in ironing my hair.  She admitted to not knowing how to divide my hair into several parts so as to iron it in sections.  Which was quite obvious.  She took a whole hour to figure out how to straighten my hair, all the while tugging and yanking at my poor roots.  Realizing that I was in pain, the same boy with the blue eyes who informed me that I had manbrows told me that the reason this operation hurt so much was because I was undernourished.  I don't eat enough vegetables. 
That same boy later saw me sweating my buns off and told me I wouldn't sweat so much if I stopped drinking water.
After a few hours of shooting, sweating, wiping, changing, and reapplying, I stopped caring what I looked like.  It was 5 in the morning, I was getting delirious, and I wanted to get this over with.  So I cranked up the dalaa3.  Super dalaa3.  Dalaa3 on steroids.  My eyelashes were batting a mile a minute.  I suggestively looked at my boobs with a slightly parted mouth every time I shook them.  Heck, I was even working my manbrows!  I didn't even need the producer to guide me anymore.  I think I may have even out-dalaa3ed him.
FYI, this isn't how I usually dance.  My dalaa3 is more subtle, and thus more convincing.  Which is really funny because I think this video shoot permanently altered my dancing.  Or at least my dalaa3.  I went to work the next night (I got home at 8:30 in the morning mind you) still in dalaa3 mode.  I caught myself making these really exaggerated suggestive faces to an audience of Egyptians and Japanese tourists.  I think I may have scared them.

I'm obviously not one of those people who has issues with women using their sexuality to boost their careers.  I simply don't judge.  I am, however, growing bored with the only two roles women in a film and music videos play.  They're either cast as helpless creatures covered from head to toe, enslaved to the male members of their families who usually beat them, or they are liberated whore types and sex symbols whose sole mission in life is to be sexy.  I'm not denying that these types exist in real life, but reality is a bit more diverse than that, dontcha think?  

1 comment:

  1. :) I really like your way of writing, you are extremely funny and obviously talented