Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Doorbells and Dancers

It's been a handful of days now since I hit town, and a big dance festival, Nile Group is starting up, so I'm about due for a blog update!

Here are more views from our flat, just to give an idea of what it's like being here. Egyptians are masters of parallel parking! The major news in the last hour is that my flatmate Kara figured out that the sound (among all the other sounds) that I thought was a loudish bird is actually the doorbell. In this case it was also a rather miffed electrician guy with a bill so I had to use my very limited Arabic to sort out with the bawwabs that the lady we're subletting for had left money for the bill with a friend who was supposed to give it to one of the bawwabs. In the end, it all got sorted. Luckily I know the words for "friend", "money", and "has," but still had to repeat myself several times to get the point across!

Nile Group is a big dance festival that happens here in Cairo a few times a year (I think it's recently increased to four) at the Pyramisa hotel in Dokki. A piece of advice--if going by taxi and the driver doesn't know the Pyramisa, just keep saying Do'ii and then when you get to Midan al Gal'a, which is a giant roundabout look for the biiig Pyramisa sign atop the hotel and then point frantically! I'm not sure of a better way, but that's what we did today. Yesterday when I dropped by to register the taxi driver knew the hotel but dropped me off at the back entrance, so it's all hit and miss really.

The dance festival is fun in that there are people from literally all corners of the world. Chinese dancers are here, as well as girls from Scotland to Brazil. It's an amazingly multi-cultural event, but makes for a bit of a hassle when it comes to registering because the staff speak Arabic with varying levels of English mixed in. Everyone was in pretty good spirits though, since we're here to partake in workshops from the masters of belly dance who are all but legendary no matter where you're from.

Speaking of which, my first workshop was today with Mahmoud Reda, who is extremely venerated and respected in the dance community as one of the fathers of oriental dance and as someone who has presented Egyptian folkloric dances to the international community for the better part of a century. His Reda Troupe is beyond famous and many prominent dancers here are originally Reda-trained. This includes a lovely male dance Kazafy (picture at right)who was kind enough to be demonstrating in the workshop today (along with no less than three other female dancers) for Reda as the man is over 70! Never the less, Reda was definitely still up and about demonstrating the marking for the choreography we learned to the very generically-named song, "Warda" by god knows who. Didn't sound like the singer Warda herself to me! Kazafy and the other dancers were a definite pleasure to watch though, as a ballroom full of over probably 100 foreigners struggled to keep up with the intense series of moves and not bash into eachother. After a 3 hour Reda workshop, let me just say my legs want to go quietly die somewhere dark and cold and I had several other people's sweat on me. It was a lot of fun though, and very enjoyable to get a taste of the Reda style, even though it was oriental and not so folkloric.

Afterwards I stumbled out of the Pyramisa, and walked the requisite block away before catching a taxi to avoid being ripped off. Definitely best to stay away from those drivers waiting right out front of 5-star hotels, as they will charge you AT LEAST twice as much as you should be paying! Do NOT tell the doorman you need a taxi, just walk a block or two away and hail one yourself. Hailing a cab in Cairo is as easy as just standing at the edge of the street and looking interested (or lost)!

Yesterday I also went back out to 6 of October to watch the Egyptian soccer team play Brazil. Everyone was joking that Egypt had no chance and would lose like 3-0, but they actually BARELY lost 4-3. In the last two minutes of the game there was a penalty kick for Brazil, otherwise it probably would have been a tie! What a fun match, and I had a blast watching it in the cafe with all these guys around screaming and yelling and jumping around. Apparently in the city you could hear people cheering for the goals from the street. I think I was one of like two women in the place though, and certainly the only westerner so that was interesting. It was lots of fun though, even though twice the power went out and everyone freaked out because we were missing the game. Here's more pics of 6 October just to give you an idea:


  1. How exciting! I'm going to be moving to attend AUC in the fall for grad school. I'm pretty nervous about the move! I'll keep following your blog for advice and tips :)

    If you have time to pass along your impressions or thoughts of Cairo and AUC please let me know!

  2. Absolutely feel free to read up on the blog or email me if you have any specific questions! I will be visiting the new campus next week after Nile Group ends, so stay tuned for a report on that.