Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cairo, the 27th December, 2009

"Welcoming 2010!"

NEWS, NEWS, NEWS...Check what's up with me!

1. Getting ready for my next shows and for the great NEW YEAR’S EVE NIGHT at the “NILE MAXIM”. New program and a NEW ME. Not to be missed, if you’re in Cairo on the NEW YEAR'S EVE or throughout 2010!

Reservations through the following numbers:
- 002 - 012 73 88888

- 002- 011 73 88888

- 002 - 010 73 88888

- 002 - 02 273 88888

2. Another honour:

Being the invited artist and teacher from Cairo of the Oriental Dance Festival in Colombia - LATIN ARABIAN - on the 30th April, 1st and 2nd May, 2010 (Latin America, here I come!).

Workshops and shows with live orchestra from Cairo (see further details in ulterior post).

I´m looking forward to teach my new choreographies and finally bring a bit of the Cairo magic to the world performing with live band in a show I wouldn´t advise you to miss…:)

For detailed infos, please follow the links:

Luz Betty :


3. Intensive workshop in Portugal - Lisbon - on the 28th February (program available at portuguese version of this BLOG:!

4. Updated BLOGS “Diary of Egypt” (english) and "DIARIO DO EGIPTO" (Portugues) telling about the troubles and wonders of a Dancer in Egypt…check the comments, videos, photos and much more, all available at:

5. News, photos and videos weekly updated at my FaceBook Page (Search for Joana Saahirah in the FaceBook).

There will be a "blue moon" on the 31st December so...enjoy it!
May we ALL enter in 2010 with the energy of LOVE and PROSPERITY for everything in our lives.

Cairo, the 27th December, 2009

“Return to work…- NEW YEAR'S EVE at the GREAT NILE MAXIM, CAIRO"

I am in warrior mode, once more.
This is my “other side”, far away from the safe/warm environment of my home/family.
In this other world where I entail my biggest battles, I can’t trust anyone or count on anyone’s benevolence or help. This has been a lonely adventure, the one which chose me and brought me to Egypt.
The carriage is pushed by me and ONLY ME. That can be quite tiring.
I am back with my battle shield and helmet although so much of me has changed and, therefore, my battle tactics must also change.

Somehow, I fear I am suffering from a split personality complex. My body was in Portugal, but my mind and heart were somewhere else.
At the same time, I woke up today in Cairo but my soul was so far away…sometimes, I close my eyes and all sense of time and place disappear. I really don’t know where I am anymore and believe I am EVERYWHERE. Am I talking crazy over here?!


I was recognized my the police control at the airport! That was really nice, I must add.
The police man asked me if I was the dancer, Joana. I said YES and smiled.
He asked me if I needed anything when he noticed I was trying to call a friend on my mobile and it wasn’t working. He offered his own mobile for me to call whoever I needed and didn’t even check my passport (upps!).
The good side of egyptian police “bad side”. Oh, reality is so much of what suit us, isn’t it?!

Cairo, the 27th December,2009

“Bag full of cabbages”

Ohhh…back to Cairo in less than a week that tasted like pure heaven.
After a few days in the warmth of my homeland and so far away from all struggles, endless surprises and adaptations to a world I never completely understood, I find myself in between worlds, as usual.
I ‘ve left my homeland and came back so many times that I ended up loosing my ground.
Where do I belong, after all? Where am I?!
I confess I am lost. Don’t know it anymore.

Me and my family ate and sat together, exchanged presents and walked along the rainy fields with our dogs. We had breakfast together and went to the cinema as in the good old times. We spent the week glued to each other and that has never felt so good.

I am lucky to have such a strong emotional bond with my immediate family and friends (people who sustain all that I am and the ones who give me strength to continue when life becomes too heavy to handle…).

My bags:
As usual, my bags came full of food and books! I am such a Portuguese chick…oh, Lord…
Olive oil (my number one obsession making me suspect I may have been an olive oil producer in Ancient Greece);
Smelly cheese;
Home made bread and cake;
“Bacalau” (traditional dried fish very well known in Portugal although it comes from Norway);
Pure honey with no additives;
Nuts and almonds that actually taste like (you guessed it!): NUTS and ALMONDS;

Books, of course!
Some weird Chinese supplement for my brain (courtesy of my mum who was smart enough to feel that my exhausted brain is in the verge of rupture due to irreconcilable differences between my way of thinking and the Egyptian/Arabic way of thinking!).

Departure-Return…the eternal cycle of a true gipsy soul !

Detachment has been one of my recurrent assets.Part of the goal of my journey is, now I know, to learn how to detach myself from people and things and just go with the flow accepting the ineviatable truth: nothing and no one is permanent in my life.
Am I getting wise (finally)?!
I am far away from being a Buddhist when I know that I cannot be totally detached from the people I love.
I am detached from places and objects but never from the ones I love. In this sense, I fail 100% as far as detachment goes.
Buddhism wisely says that we should never get attached to anything or anyone as reality is prone to change in a constant basis. Nothing remains the same or at the same place. All is fluid and in permanent movement/change. Trying to catch a moment is like trying to stop the water flow from the river Nile. Impossible task aimed to failure.
Attachments bring suffering, wise men say.

Well… as I wait in the airport for one more return to Egypt, I realize only someone who has lost his/her humanity is able to be completely detached from the people he/she loves.
After all, I am still a human being…imperfect, immature and deeply attached to the ones who share my heart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Portugal, the 23rd December, 2009

"Some more videos of this last year..."

Here it is a group of some short home made videos reflecting a year that is almost gone.

I am uncapable of remaining in the past...I can just take a looksie back but never remain there for more than the necessary time to figure out what errors have been made and what to do next in order not to repeat them and keep developing myself as an artist and a person.

New steps and discoveries are prepared to be born because I only live for reinvention and constant growth.

Here are some quick flashes of whom I´ve been, preparing the soil of what I am today (right NOW) and what will follow.

Some of the videos were shot at Mena House hotel, Cairo.I´d been there the night before travelling to Portugal and my last night in the city couldn´t have been better!

The wedding was such a blast and people were amazing with me.

I remember trying to fit and hug the whole salon (huge, monumental salon!) within my arms and soul and, indeed, I grabbed my audience and everyone´s appreciation with my own bare hands.

Such an amazing feeling!

Follow the links:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cairo, the 21st December, 2009

"Christmas time in Portugal"

This is a special time for me beyond all that is visible to the public eye.

Appearances decieve and no one, except me, can really know and understand the depth of all the turmoil running around my heart and my soul.

My family needed me, maybe more than ever, this Christmas and I needed them. There is some kind of sacred recharge ritual you can only get from LOVE. Here I am doing it.

It comes in so many shapes and disguises...

Smelling the pine trees and the rain. Feeling cold drops on my face and hugging some close friends. Watching my mum laugh and holding hands with her. These are deluxe recharge rituals I am lucky to have and for that I thank God!

Kissing and running along with our animals, listening to external and internal silence and remaining still for a few days.

Should I hybernate like bears?! I guess that, in some ways, that´s what I´m doing in order to be ready for the BEST year of my life (so far...).

Merry Christmas to you all. Wherever you are. If you´re alone, busy with family and friends, in any sort of condition we may consider good or bad.

Whatever...because the Strenght to create Peace and Joy is within us and the colour of reality is defined by our own hands.

Whatever is your condition and no matter how confused, lonely or smashed your heart is, here I am wishing you a Merry Christmas and hoping you can gather yourself, reboot and be reborn (like Jesus).

I am wishing the same for myself because we´re all just ONE.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cairo, the 20th December, 2009

Running with our dogs under the rain...

That´s all that is to It.

Cairo, the 20th December, 2009

"The inexistent boundaries of true LOVE"

«To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.

But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses - that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.»

Pablo Neruda, From "Childhood and Poetry"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cairo, the 17th December, 2009

"Some last shots of me FLYING just before heading to Christmas time"

I've been running up and down on an endless roller coaster.

I am looking forward breathing again and reuniting forces - the GOOD ones - with my family and friends, my closest people in the whole world.

Just before heading to another wedding - in which I am hoping to have BIG fun - and then to the airport, here they are...last night's work's photos showing me in my element.

Cairo, the 16th December, 2009

“Christmas all over my dear Muslim Cairo”

I’ve been noticing Christmas is everywhere in Cairo.
Although this is a country with a clear majority of muslims , the truth is that signs of Christianity are everywhere. Not only there are churches spread all over town – Coptic churches – as there are shops decorated with Santa Claus and pine trees with shinning lights.

Of course there is a commercial interest in the whole thing. Christmas brings money to the shops but I guess this also has a lot to do with the good nature Egyptians carry deep inside themselves.
Everybody wishes you Merry Christmas, even muslims. Yesterday, the taxi driver who took me to work offered me a rose he dusted off from his lap and wished “Merry Christmas” with the Egyptian accent I learnt to love.

During the muslim Feast “Il Aid Kibir”, Christians as well as muslims wished each other Happy Feasts and I am also guessing again that this fraternity side between religions is one of the many reasons I love Egypt, despite all its faults and absurds.

Cairo wishes you a MERRY CHRISTMAS.
This is the meaning of TRUE RELIGION.
Cairo, the 15th December, 2009

“My very own lesbian statement (?!)”

In any artist’s career there’s always a bit of compromising. Many dancers/singers/actors, etc sleep their way to the top, others step on colleagues to reach the same hot spot and yet others – like me who hate to be a bastard! – rise on my way up in an honest way that doesn’t fit the world I am living in.
But…that doesn’t mean I don’t compromise. Oh, nooo….

It’s true that I don’t dance naked like others do, wear lingerie in the place of a dress – like celebrated dancers do in order to call the public attention and be the talk of the town (very clever marketing act!) – or even sit on men’s laps or flirt with rich guys in order to have work or whatever…sorry but this is NOT ME.

I compromise in small things that can turn into something funny and, sometimes, ridiculous.
In Egyptian weddings where people want, most of all, to dance themselves and have fun, I have to allow people to invade the stage and virtually forbid me to dance just shaking around and going crazy with them.

I do whatever I wish to do in my shows, choose the jobs I want to be part of, my musicians, dancers and assistant. I need to be surrounded by people I respect and feel comfortable with and always do what’s in my heart and not what others tell me to do. This is a luxury I cannot live without and yet there are small things I have to just let go and compromise.

On my regular work, I have to make photographs with the crowds, celebrate marriage anniversaries and…tchan, tchan, tchan , tchan… sing people “Happy Birthday to you”, dance to it and pose with the candles and the cake and the whole thing. It seems simple but, believe me, this is a LOT of compromising for me. I feel uncomfortable, out of my space and function BUT I have to do it.


Tonight there was a strange and rather scary situation due to my little compromising.
How did I end up being photographed with a birthday cake in front of me and happily holding the breast of a sweet Egyptian lady?!
I wonder where this photo is now.

In the middle of all the dancing and singing, I said my sincere “Happy Birthday” to a guest during the show, the joyful song was being played by my orchestra and I prepared myself for the official photo with the anniversary girl when I noticed that, somehow, my hand had landed on one of her breasts and I didn’t notice it.
I might have searched for her hand or such for the photo pose and I didn’t JUST landed my hand on her breast, I grabbed her breast as if I was grabbing an fresh, juicy orange on a hot summer day. I mean, I did it with gusto…
I felt mortified and I can only imagine the result of this incident.
Again and again…where are these shots portraying me holding a stranger’s breast?!
You see…This is the problem about compromising. I am out of my element, I become clumsy and feeling like a fish out of the water.

If the sweet girl is reading this – and I seriously hope she is – please understand:
You’re welcome to my show any time. It’s a pleasure to receive you and all your anatomical parts.
I think you’re lovely and I wish you the happiest birthday ever but your breast was not my dream purchase or my fantasy.

Next time you come to see my show, wear a warrior’s battle shield or avoid asking me to sing along with you, the cake and the candles.
I still feel embarrassed…

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cairo, the 13th December, 2009

"Pushing the most sensitive chord in my heart"

Blah, blah, blah...and I ended up crying - again! - on stage.

This doesn't happen all the time, thanks God! That would be a lot to manage on a daily basis.

I can usually control my emotions while I am dancing and just use the right amount of "heart" and "head" in order not to fall apart when a certain music or simple melody awakens something strong inside me.

I am a professional. I should be able to control myself but today I was hitten all of a sudden by the most amazing accordeon "taksim" ( accordeon solo improvisation) I've heard in my life.

My accordeonist is always great but something happened tonight and I was caught in the middle of an uncontrollable flood of emotions - both happy and nostalgic - that left me totally exposed and off-guard.

He might have been more emotional or loving for some personal reason or specially inspired and giving...I don't know what happened, really...all I know is that I travelled with him though his music, went to visit GOD and all His Angels and am still returning from the ride.

When I noticed where the "thing" was going, I had to wash the tears from my eyes and started envisioing myself totally messed up with make-up running down my face and such.

Ohhhh...this was a shock!

I reached the backstage room and I kept crying like a baby. Artists are strange people, I tell you that! Or maybe it's just me...:(

"Allah aleik, ya Mr. Mohamed!!!" (God be upon you, Mr. Mohamed!) - It was what I just HAD to tell my musician on stage and on the spot (it couldn't wait until we got backstage, it just couldn't!).

Who can explain why, all of a sudden, a simple turn of melodic phrase arises such an incredible emotional tide inside me?! Who knows what mathematics rule music and the human heart, connecting it through our common SOUL?!

I feel like someone pinched me hard in my heart. The muscle is still beating but a little bothered by the pinching...God bless artists like these...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cairo, the 13th December, 2009

“Azza Sheriff class and the Art of Dancing with your Soul”

There are limits to the things someone can teach you.
A dance teacher can pass over technique, even expression and sensibility, awareness towards the music and a bit of passion but NEVER the SOUL you’re able – or not – to put in your dance.

Not even the greatest teacher can give you TALENT. That’s something God offers you when you’re born (or before that?!).

Today I had another great experience with my dearest Azza Sheriff, once one of the best and most respected Oriental Dancers in Egypt.
The dance workshop took place in a new hotel called “Amarante” (curiously, a Portuguese name!) and was organized my Md. Raqia Hassan.

Result of the workshop:
No choreography – which left most students in a stressed, unsatisfied state – and no explanations, technique or theories.
Azza danced from her soul and we, the students, were supposed to follow her and try to catch the steps, combinations and, wishfully thinking, a bit of the SOUL interpretation she offers the music.

I have studied with enough great teachers to know, by now, what I search for when I apply for a class or workshop. I don’t need the ABC. I am a professional dancer and teacher. I own the ABC.
What I want is to reach a higher, more accurate level of interpretation of the music and THAT Azza could deliver us like a banquet on a golden platter.

Not everyone can appreciate this kind of light.
I ended the workshop being a better dancer. And even a better person.
Love you, Azza!

Cairo, the 13th December, 2009


I enjoy a few luxuries in my life. For me, luxuries are those things that may seem superficial to others but are, indeed, essential to me and my well being.
Luxuries have nothing to do with money or expensive vacations. It all depends on your input in life and what you value the most.
For me, spending quality time with my man is a luxury.
Falling asleep in my family’s garden during a lazy summer afternoon is another luxury.
Observing a great sunset on the beach is another one…

Egypt has helped shape me as an adult and that includes my very own list of luxuries which can seem quite strange when observed by strangers.
Here they are (some of them):

1.Having great quality dresses for my work. This is a MUST for me. I work daily and spend more time dressed in dance suits than in normal clothing. Great materials, original design and comfortable pieces with which I can dance freely are a LUXURY I cannot avoid having. This is one of the reasons why I decided to design and make my own dresses myself. This way, I always have what I imagine and know it works for my body and style.

2.Silk and pure cotton robe to cover me in the end of each show (in the winter) and a high quality Saudi Arabian “abbaya” for the summer. I need to feel comfortable and relaxed between shows and cannot live without those.

3.Spending time – much less than I wished for – with the few REAL friends I have in Cairo as well as keeping in constant contact with my family and friends spread all over the world. This is one of my greatest luxuries and one of the most difficult to maintain due to my lack of free time.

4.Eating “aish baladi”/ “baladi/Egyptian bread”. No matter how cheap this bread is, this is THE ONLY one I want to eat when in Egypt. There is also Lebanese bread and western kinds of bread but nothing better than baladi bread or, even better, “fellahin” bread from Sakarah Road (the bread farmers bake in their ancient ovens). I never forget my farmer roots and always know how to appreciate the best coming directly from the earth.

5.Portuguese olive oil. I bring litters and litters of olive oil from Portugal every time I return to Egypt. This is a luxury I cannot live without. Another reminiscence of my “fellahin” past.

6.Doing my occasional horse riding in the desert of Giza (near by the famous Giza Pyramids).

7.Once a month, letting myself be washed away with a moroccan bath. The only treat I give to my body besides some massages I manage to receive once in a while.
As a dancer, I know I should take care of myself better.
Body, face and hair treatments, hairdresser, massages, pedicures and manicures and many plastic surgeries are included in the many things most dancers do while performing in Egypt (the ones who make enough money to cover all these constant expenses or the ones who have a rich guy covering it for them).
I am an exception (like in most things).
Not even mentioning the fact that I am an alien who never got any plastic surgery procedure done…I don’t have the time, money and patience to go through all the things most dancers do in order to keep in shape and stay youthful and beautiful.
I am a low maintenance dancer, it seems.
Lots of EVIAN water, some care with eating healthy food (most of the times, not always), not smoking or drinking alcohol or even coffee and a monthly Moroccan bath. Those are my luxuries as far as taking care of me is concerned.

8. My books. Ohhh…..I cannot live without reading and purchasing books. Take away my make-up and creams, but never take away my dear books. Having tea with carrot cake with some friends in a shop full of books is also one of my biggest luxuries. English, Portuguese, Spanish, French…you name it. I read it all if the theme interests me.

9. Learning from two beautiful artists who also happen to be my dear friends: Mahmoud Reda e Azza Sheriff. Love them both and all opportunities to be in their company are pure luxuries to me. They have so much to teach me and so much love in their hearts. Better jewels than the ones you can find in the shops of Cairo and no real diamond can compare to their worth.

10. Living my life the way I want. FREEDOM is my biggest luxury and the one who makes all the others possible.

Cairo, the 13th December, 2009

"Egyptian brain"

Living in Egypt has proven to be a challenging experience on so many levels and occasions that I often fear I'll go crazy in the blink of an eye.

I am the foreigner, the intruder, the stranger in this country.

No one has to adapt himself to me and to my standards. I am the one who's supposed to adapt myself and accept this reality - which I chose for myself - with calm, no judgement and a flexible approach.

Yet I am just human and I admit I fail to understand the egyptian and the arabic brain.

My sense of logic, ethics and feeling's system are opposite to the ones I observe in Egypt and dealing with those differences on a daily basis can be quite exhausting.

Observing from the outside VERSUS living IT:

It's interesting if you are an anthropologist, a journalist, a researcher just passing by Egypt. Observing the differences is quite interesting and even amusing, yes IT IS.

LIVING WITH THESE SAME DIFFERENCES is something else. Quite different.

Nothing is clear in this country and, in the end, I just have to take care of every step I give, watch my back, accept people and their actions as they are and stop complaining about dishonesty, corruption and so many other human "treats" I deal with on a daily basis and with an intensity I never found in any other part of the world.

I blame it on the system, life's hardships and a lost of faith invading Egypt and its struggling people. I blame it on disemployment and so many other things...there can always be a thousand reasons to lie, cheat, steal and be a total bastard but I also think we can choose to be GOOD and HONEST, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Weak yet heartfelt conclusion:

I quit understanding egyptian/arabic brain. I just quit in order to preserve my mental sanity.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cairo, the 12th December, 2009

"Dancing, dancing, dancing..."
Well...what a heck!
This Blog is supposed to be all about my life in Egypt and the truth is that my life is 100% connected with DANCE so there you have more photos of my last night's show.
Contrary to my nature (I am a word's lover), I am cutting more and more words and letting the work speak for itself. After these photos, promise to upload some new videos of me performing.
Hope I can do it before Christmas.

So...less words and more action...enjoy these moments:

Cairo, the 12th December, 2009

"I don't want a lot for Christmas"

Living in a muslim country can, curiously, get me closer to my christian roots.Contrary to common belief and according to my own life experience in the Middle East, I think muslims are very tolerant towards other religions. There's a lot of chit-chat about the way Coptics are treated in Egypt and the unfair way most bosses looking for a competent employee will prefer a muslim instead of someone from other religion who might be more indicated for the job.

There is, for certain, a lot of people who will not show me in the face they disaprove of my religious choice but I have never felt that I was mistreated or disrespected because I am not a muslim.

Egyptians, in particular, have a kind, emotional and open attitude towards others and they always seemed tolerant (although they can't understand if someone has NO religion at all).

Distance can bring people and feelings closer and the absence of everything that is familiar to me makes me miss it more than when I had it taken for granted in my own country.

I wonder why I feel like going to the church here when I always rejected that idea while in my country. Why do I pray everyday when I never did it when all my religious references were present on a daily basis.

After loosing someone very close to me and important in my family, I started missing Christmas more than ever. In the past four years, I 've never been allowed to leave from work at this time and now, thanks God!, I can leave Egypt just for a week and be happy surrounded by all the christian symbols I never felt were mine before and that I now crave so much...

Christmas time in Portugal with my family and friends will be a gift for them and myself.

Just something for the SOUL. An whole week JUST for LOVE and to give attention to the ones I really love and who love me back. Now that's what I call a religious experience.

Will be performing at the "NILE MAXIM" on the 15, 16, 17, 18th December and off to the airport only returning to work on the 28th December and ahead with NEW YEAR'S EVE SHOWS AT THE "MAXIM" and other venues in Cairo!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cairo, the 10th December, 2009

"Dancing my life ahead of me, inside of me..."

Once more, I find no words to describe what these live show photos express.

Like LOVE, the DIVINE pleasure of practicing my Art is not expressable by words.

Only these images remain and you would need to have been present to understand why I Love DANCING the way I do.