These were originally part of a series of emails sent to my immediate family and friends. Their original formatting has been left largely in tact.
Let me begin by publically shaming all of you... The only people that have written me back are Dad and Louise. Are y'all getting these emails?
I'm typing this one on my phone during breaks in the morning. I actually slept in today, which is great for my body but bad for these little emails.
We began our day yesterday with a Balady lesson with Yasmina. "Balady" (or beledi, baladi, etc) translates roughly to "country" (think, a polite description for "redneck") It can be a description of a person or place, a style of dance performance, a style of dance performance costume (full beaded gown instead of the two piece costumes you might think of for bellydance), and a style of music. Confused? We were working on the style of song called a beledy progression, which has four distinct parts. First is a "taksim"- a melodic improvisation, often by an accordian. Then there is a call and response between the main melody instrument (let's say it's an accordian again) and the tabla (the drum), followed by two different rhythm sections to close out the song. As a dancer, your job is to act out what's happening with the instruments with your body. I wanted to work on the taksim, or the improvisation at the beginning, and tone down my American tendency to hit every note and over-dance that part.
Then Yasmina, Rosa and I had a really gratifying talk about cultural appropriation. This comes up a lot in bellydance circles and it's a huge and difficult subject, but I enjoyed having the talk with people as knowledgeable as Yasmina and Rosa. This felt important but definitely ate up some of our market time and we ran late the rest of the day.
We took an hour and a half long taxi ride to Khan El Khalili Market after class- Cairo is huge and traffic is bad- and hit the streets for some shopping. Of course, street vendors called to us in English repeatedly and we got some stares, but I was more comfortable here than I have been in other streets. For one, it's taboo for men and women to touch, so there is a good amount of personal space given, even in a crowd. As someone who struggles occasionally with the hug-happy Asheville cuture, I was grateful for that. Also, as it is a more conservative society, the cat calls tend not to be as vulgar as you might hear in the US. Bargaining is expected and goods are plentiful.
We found an oasis of calm in a 3 story bellydance costume and accessory shop. I was so overjoyed with the prices that I was trying to scheme on how to bring back drums, shamadams (giant candleabras that go on your head), and all sorts of things that would not actually fit in my suitcase.
Post-shopping, carrying giant bags, we headed to see the Tannoura show close to the market. Tannoura is the Sufi ritual spinning dance with the large skirts that flare out, making gorgeous patterns. I was really struck by the devotional nature of it. Even though it was a performance it was clearly meaningful to the dancers. They were accompanied by a live band of probably about 10 men and a singer, plus 6 backup dancers who played hand drums, and a finger cymbal player who totally stole the show with his dramatic and funny faces.
Today we have a Saiidi lesson, the Textile museum (we didn't have time yesterday) and more shopping (I didn't have to time get y'all stuff!). Maybe another dance show after that! Orrrrr... We might ride camels?! Today is still developing.