Monday, April 26, 2010

Up the Nile: Day 8 (Abu Simbel)

This was the grand finale of my trip: The temples of Abu Simbel, on the edge of Lake  Nasser, at sunrise.  We were the only ones there, but sadly you can't take pictures inside of the most beautiful paintings yet on my trip. Walking alone through these temples gave me shivers!

Up the Nile: Day 7 (Aswan to Abu Simbel)

Here's pictures of the drive over the old dam, looking out over the rocky first cataract, and then through the desert to Abu Simbel.  I stayed at the Nubian Culture House there, which was basically a lovely Nubian-style B&B with good food, music, decor, and scenery.  We caught the sound and light show at the temples, which I hear is pretty much the only worthwhile one on the Nile Valley trek, and which I did enjoy a lot.  I slid into my mosquito-netted bed to catch a few hours sleep before the last day of my vacation...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dance, dance, more dance....Ilhamdulillah

Just as I was getting set to put up the last photos of my vacation, here we go again--internet outtage!  This time, however it was the neighbors who hadn't paid their bill, not us (as we've been being moochers) so there wasn't much my room mate and I could do except check out email frantically in between classes at school.

My article is finally out on Gilded Serpent here, do check it out and leave a comment!  The editing process took a lot longer than I thought, so I feel a bit silly finally posting the link here after giving that teaser piece of writing so long ago, but that's life I suppose.  Part 2 is to come later, at some point, which is entirely up to the editor I think, and frankly I'd rather leave it in her hands anyway seeing as how I'm too busy to even do my laundry at the moment!

Return to Reda
I have had next to no free time lately pretty much owing to the fact that I accidentally joined the AUC folkloric dance troupe.  I'm totally happy about it, of course, but it was a bit of an accident and has been fairly rigorous.  That's especially in light of the fact that I joined up after they'd been working on choreography for a couple months and now am being asked to learn several choreographies by Mahmoud Reda in a very short amount of time.  My legs hurt due to going from minimal dancing to over 7 hrs in two days, but don't let me fool you into not thinking I'm pleased to be doing this and working on these particular dances. 

So how did I join accidentally?  I was wandering around the deserted parts of AUC that no one hangs out in, as per usual, and happened to be walking by the dance studio when I saw someone doing tahtib or a man's stick dance from upper Egypt.  So of course I stuck my head in after going back and forth in my mind about it for awhile, and asked the group inside how I could get the room unlocked so I could practice sometime, which is something I've been wondering for awhile. The girl whose attention I got told me you  had to be a student organization--bummer!  Oh well, nevermind, but since I had a bunch of free time at that moment I asked if I could stay and watch their practice, which I ended up doing and then being persuaded into joining once I let slip I had studied with Reda himself last summer at Nile Group.  The trainer (who spoke no English) told me to come back the next practice, so I assumed I was pretty much in.

Thus begins my re-entry into studying Reda folkloric style, which is always fun and a good challenge.  He has some lovely choreographies, and I do like the style more now that I "get it" from living in Egypt and seeing him teach.  When I first took a workshop with him last summer everyone seemed miffed that we weren't learning "folkloric" style, but then I went and watched videos of the Reda troupe myself.  What everyone at the workshop sniffed at and called "oriental" is actually completely folkore--don't let the elegance, arabesques, and fancy footwork fool you, this is real REDA folkoric style.  As I recall from taking a workshop with Sahra Saeeda (the excellent dance ethnologist and just general authority on much folkloric style due to her research), Reda was always a bit famous for showing a very presentable, elegant style of folkloric dance that would honor the people it was showcasing and not portray them as in any way backward or simple, etc.  Call it controversial or not, this is the style that the Reda troupe is famous for, and it's what I'm studying now and hopefully it can inform my oriental style a bit more too.  In any case it's great practice and really fun, despite struggling through translations and orders given in Arabic!

Nile Group
I went to Nile Group a bit last week with Hallah Moustafa to sell costumes and hang out, which was a good time, aside from the lack of people because everyone typically comes for the June festival. It was actually pretty tragic how few people showed up compared to that one.  It seems that Nile Group has perhaps stretched itself too far, because the vibe just wasn't as fun and exciting as the June festival I went to last year which was great because of the masses of people at the opening and closing parties, as well as the totally diverse group of dancers you would be with in a workshop.

Just to see a bit of the community, feel like part of an industry was fun though and it was nice to see some familiar faces.  Lots of famous, semi-famous, and wannabe faces glided by over the week which was interesting.  People watching at a dance festival is always good entertainment, if a bit discouraging to see how many big egos are being brandished around in between the few genuine kind souls.  Gaby Shiba was good to see and was as always a total sweetheart, and I was reminded that--helloooo--he has a dance studio just a 10-minute walk away in my own neighborhood if I want private dabke lessons or even oriental style. No idea how I forgot about that when I've been meaning to drop by. Aleya, another American living and working here, was there quite a bit so we got to finally meet offline and face-to-face which was totally fun, and she wore one of Hallah's costumes for the open stage night.  It was great to see Hallah's work as it's meant to be presented on-stage!  I have an article coming out next month maybe on Hallah for Gilded Serpent, so stay tuned!

The last part of my vacation pictures in Abu Simbel are coming soon, just as soon as I can get the internet at home sorted out!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Up the Nile: Day 6 (Aswan)

My last day in Aswan was reserved for seeing the normal tourist attractions, unlike the somewhat esoteric St. Simeon monastery.  I met Farouk's group bright and early, and we started off driving out of Aswan and over the old dam, which has stunning views over the rocky first cataract area of the Nile.  We took a quick gander at the High Dam, looking out over the Nile below and Lake Nasser--the largest artificial lake in the world I believe, which was created by the construction of the High Dam and destroyed the Nubian civilization as it once was. In addition, many monuments would have been under water without the intervention of UNESCO and other international actors. I'm sure there's reading out there to be done about the controversy of the dam and the problems it has created/solved.

After our trip to the High Dam we headed down to the section of the Nile between the two dams to see the temple of Isis at Philae Island, which is one of sites that was moved and thus saved from being submerged permanently.  The island it is now on has been landscaped and planted to resemble the original island, and the project was excellent at recreating the site without trying to restore it to former glory; just to present it how it was before it was moved.

On the way back into town we swung by the granite quarry which used to serve as the site for smashing out the massive stones the obelisks were made from.  There is still an unfinished one left there, because a flaw was discovered in the stone (obelisks were made from one single piece of stone, so they had to be without any problems obviously) and thus it was discarded.  If it had been finished, it would have been the largest obelisk we know of now!

Here are the pictures--as you can see, I was in love with the columns at the temple of Isis: