These were originally part of a series of emails sent to my immediate family and friends. Their original formatting has been left largely intact
I see that my public shaming worked on many of you. To the rest of you- I still love you, I guess. (no really, I just kinda wanted to hear from people because I do love and miss you all. So thanks)
Yesterday we began the day with a private dance lesson with Ashraf Kodak in Saiidi style. Saiidi is a folkloric style dance that worked its way into the bellydance performance lexicon after it became popular to perform on a stage in the 1950’s, thanks to a very popular Egyptian folkloric troupe called the Reda Troupe. It is a stage-stylized version of man’s Tahtib, which is somewhere between a dance and a fight with sticks, depending on the setting (think: Capoeira). Its done to a specific style of music with a specific set of instrumentation and rhythm. Ashraf’s style is super athletic and masculine and also pretty unique. He was a fantastic teacher, even though I think he spoke the least English of all of our teachers so far. I really wish I understood more of what he was saying, because he seemed to have Opinions about the different styles of Saiidi dance and I like Opinions.
Fun fact: The area where the dance originates, Port Said, is in “lower” Egypt, but this is actually in the North. They think of upper and lower Egypt in relation to the way the Nile flows, which is South to North- very rare for rivers. Guess what else flows from south to North? The French Broad River!
Then I rode a camel.
It was a “baby” camel, as Yasmina put it, but it was still much higher than any horse I have ever been on. It was also well-behaved and photogenic as hell- I’m pretty sure it was posing with me. In contrast, Rosa’s camel kept trying to shove my camel and put its face right by my face. I think it was itchy. We went to stables that fed into the desert outside the Giza pyramids, after you passed the police checkpoint of course. It was a place where Yasmina and her friend Jane own horses and ride regularly. It also seemed to be a playground for wealthier kids- we saw several riding horses around like crazy in the desert. The ride itself was breezy and peaceful and afforded an excellent view of the pyramids.
Now my butt hurts.
We ended the day on a Nile dinner cruise. It had several performers- a cover band (songs included Mambo Number 5 and Hotel California), another Tannoura dancer with LED lights all over his costume (something tells me his dance was less devotional than the ones from before), and a bellydancer, Farah, and her backup dancers (they did a really exciting Saiidi piece). This was a more touristy experience than the hotels we saw Sharazed perform at and Farah was definitely all in the audience, posing with people and embarrassing shy guests by dancing really close to them. She even did a cartwheel!?! Whoah.
I’m beginning to see that playing English-language music here for foreigners is a thing, and its really a very kind impulse. Our Uber driver, after we fibbed that we were Canadian, looked up a Josh Groban and Celine Dion duet on his phone for us. In French. He was very excited to play it for us and I was like… Josh Groban and Celine Dion are Canadian? The driver also asked if we spoke French and I was really afraid he would ask us more things about Canada that I would have no clue about. But then we got him talking about Egyptian music and he introduced us to some good Mahgranat Shaabi and Arabic rap.
I should learn more about Canada.
Today, we are doing a photoshoot with Yasmina!