Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cairo, the 20th January, 2010

Keeping some secrets while going away for a while...

I have an announcement to make to all the dear followers of this Blog:

I'll be away from the BLOG for a while for GREAT reasons so don't think it's strange if I don't update it for the coming days (maybe weeks!).
I am still around and BUSY. Giving birth...creating...
That's the reason for my upcoming short - hopefully! - absence.

I am pregnant in all the senses of the word.
More details to follow when I return to the BLOG!
All the news of the absent time wil be gladly reported to you later on.
Love to you ALL!

Keep up with the NEWS:

1. My shows at the NILE MAXIM, Cairo.Reservations through the following numbers:
- 002 - 012 73 88888

- 002- 011 73 88888

- 002 - 010 73 88888

- 002 - 02 273 88888

2. Another honours:

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. I'll also be performing and teaching in Argentina (Buenos Aires) on the 7,8, 9th May! More infos about the event to be posted right ahead!
Tango and Oriental...this will be an AMAZING time to have...

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

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

Cairo, the 20th January, 2010


Many of the most precious informations about people, projects and situations come to me in the form of dreams. While I sleep, some higher voice becomes a tutor, a counselour, an inspiration or simply a push and kick on my arse in order for me to learn something or move forward in a specific situation.

Lately I have been dreaming the same situation over and over again and I finally reached the conclusion of what it means. The dream is too creepy to describe but the conclusion is what matters and here it is:

My life experience in Cairo has been composed of so many stages, challenges, mountains I managed to climb against all odds and opponent winds, so many devils - my own devils and the ones who arrived in the shape of real people, bad people! - and, in all of these stages, I had to fall and arise. Accept change and dying as my old self to adapt to a new reality that always come. A NEW ME.

This is a time for big substancial death.
Only leaving the past of who I think I was behind can I move forward and transform myself, accept the Joana I am supposed to grow into. NOW.

My mum always called me a witch. She was kind of right.
I thank God for these dreams and all the amazing stuff they teach me while I am in my sleep.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cairo, the 19th January, 2010


I cried in the first moment of the portuguese singer MARIZA at the Cairo Opera.
As soon as the curtains opened and I saw a portuguese guitar lying on a chair under the spotlights,all the tempests broke loose and I couldn't stop crying.

I am so damned predictable and emotional, ohhhhh...God!
MARIZA was simply DIVINE and I don't apply this word easily or to just anyone.
She was not one of my favourite singers and her voice is not one of my elected special ones but she surely earned a new fan tonight.

The most beautiful thing of the show was her human simplicity and humbleness which are so tipically portuguese and some of the characteristics I most cherish in my people.
She was original, honest, earthy and genuine and I guess that is why her success is so huge all over the world.
She also explored the many influences we, portuguese, carry in our genes. Portuguese cultura and music has a bit of spanish, african and other flavours. We're simple people with our feet on the ground but our soul is composed of many colours and places.

Oh...I felt so proud and cried, cried, cried on virtually every song she performed.
The musical arrangements were also excellent and the references she made to PORTUGAL and our traditions (special focus on Lisbon, my city and the birthplace of FADO music)made me sob like a crazy baby. I guess the gentleman by my side was about to get drowned by my flood of tears.

OUR SEA...This presence that is so strong in all portuguese was there.
Every time I arrive to Portugal,I run to the sea and have a longing for our OCEAN as bees have a longing for the Spring open flowers. I long for the unlimited sea of ours and this longing was present during the whole concert (that didn't help, at all, to stop the flood ).

SAUDADE. That melancholy that is ONLY portuguese, a word that has no translation because it can only be fully understood by portuguese who carry the salt in their veins and the memories of endless, ancient departures in their bodies and souls.

What can I say???
Not because it's a portuguese singer I am talking about but because it is REALLY DIVINE.
And being portuguese never made more sense to me than now. That will surely be reflected in my life and work.

Cairo concert was the first of Mariza's 2010's tour. This is a great signal for me.

Did I mention there's such a deep connection between portuguese/spanish and arabic music and feeling?!
Did I mention I love my country?


Cairo, the 19th January, 2010


Monday, January 18, 2010

Cairo, the 18th January, 2010

My roots

Because no artist can run away from his/her roots, here I am trying to rescue my origins and understand who I am, musically speaking.
Follow the link to find out more about my country's music FADO (highly influenced by arabic presence in our territory as well as in Spain) and, ultimately, about me.

Great link with diva of FADO, AMALIA RODRIGUES speaking about what it means to be portuguese:
Cairo, the 18th January, 2010

Sweet Madness...

Entering a composer's internal universe and opening your whole being to him (so that he can compose for YOU) is a strange, fascinating - often marvellous and scary - task.
A sweet kind of madness has entered my life recently.
The process of allowing a great composer into your life and most secret places and, at the same time, sharing his own demons and wonders is something between miraculous and terrifying to be part of.

An whole new dimension of music has been shown to me.
Traveling inside all the possibilities of music is a journey that requires a certain amount of genius and madness. Evasion, passing from dimension to another dimension, allowing your mind to go to places where normal life does not take place.
Now I can fully understand why so many great musicians are plain I REALLY get it.

What a maniac kind of privilege to be part of the composer's work, sharing feelings, tastes, manias, ideas and aspirations.
Most of all, how wonderful it is to see yourself so truthfully described through someone else's music. This is ME, JOANA translated into a music that will carry my name, my identity or part of it, my soul.

We sit and listen together. He dreams away a melody that arrives we don't know from where. I am an active audience to the composing process and feel fascinated and transported to a new, ephemeral dimension where ALL possibilities are available.

The doorknob that opens up to the world of clinical madness is right there in front of me...I can just pull it and I am on the other side of the fence. Limbo. The frame of a second away from pure madness and, yet, total clarity.

I am in love with music, more than ever.
And music is in love with me too. I can just feel it.
I am privileged.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cairo, the 17th January, 2010

@Portuguese singer MARIZA at the Cairo Opera House @

Being a portuguese started to mean something when I left my country to chase my dreams.
I am aware of all the goods and bads in my homeland - as I am regarding to my second homeland, Egypt! - but, in fact, I am so proud of belonging to Portugal and I guess I don't express it enough.
There's something about the place we're born...what really connects us in a special way to a place must go beyond our birth certificate. It's some kind of invisible, emotional umbilical link that we can never cut.

I've never looked back in my life or regreted my choices. Life is meant to be full of errors and learning, departured and arrivals, light and darkness.
So when I miss my country, I don't whine my decision of moving to Egypt but I simply long for a return that brings me back my people and our sea.

On my way to work I caught sight of a poster that made me cry like a baby (not difficult to happen, any way...). It was a poster of MARIZA, a world famous portuguese fado singer who is not even one of my elected ones but, nonetheless, is still PORTUGUESE.
My heart was full of pride when I saw her image up there with the name of our country held up high towards the sky. She will perform in the CAIRO OPERA HOUSE and my ticket is already on my hand. I am so excited to see her and, eventually, cry like a baby AGAIN during the concert.

For no reasons and for many reasons, I am proud of being portuguese and watching Mariza's recognition in the world is a joy I can hardly describe.
God bless all portuguese that bring the name of our country to the world.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Cairo, the 14th January, 2010

"A woman in a men´s world"

I recently realized that I am a woman in a men´s world (yes,I have been quite busy and distracted so far...).
I was aware that I live beyond the fifth dimension. I know, by all possible means, that Egypt is suspended in a strange skin of reality, like a limbo, a country between worlds not really existing in the world as we geaographically know it.

I was also aware that I move between people I fail to understand - egyptians and arabs - and that also has to have an effect on me. No one can live 24 hours per day surrounded by people he/she doesn´t understand without getting affected by it.

Yet I was not aware, until yesterday during another meeting with more composers (or the son of a dead composer- may God give him rest and peace - I might add) that I am a woman in a men´s world. I own my orchestra - composed by 9 men and a lady - and deal with 99% of male employees and co-workers.
All the composers, empresarios and various individuals who seem to surround me are men who look at me with the same strange sense I have towards them.

My behaviour is cathalogued as male behaviour and all my deals are cut with bearded creatures (not that some women do not have beards cause they do!).
Has this shapped my personality in any way?
I know that being taken by a fool - which happens less and less - or as a prostitute (for the simple fact of being a dancer)have shaped me BIG TIME. I know that.
Does the fact of dealing 99% of the time with egyptian-arab men affected me or not?!

Well...I´ve seen it BIG TIME as far as men are concerned. I´ve seen the best and the absolute worst and I still LOVE men.
Maybe a part of me has become even more proud of being a woman when I see myself respected and even feared by men in my profession. Maybe I´ve become less emotional - at least, apparently - and needy than most women I know.
Maybe I have turned into a strange hermaphrodite species who joins the qualities of both men and women.To deal with egyptian and arab men and feel respected by them I surely have to forget that I am a woman for a while and never EVER show any sign of vulnerability, sensuality or stupidity. They would eat me alive.

Maybe, maybe...

Maybe, due to intensive and exclusive living with men I am growing a beard...possibly even a moustache like Saiidi men use on their tanned, thick skin faces. Maybe...

How does this reality - crazy reality - affects me?
I don´t know.
Going for the beard.:)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cairo, the 14th December, 2010


I am a brainstorming kind of "gal", that´s for sure.
Exchanging points of views, informations, passions and bits of genius material with those who "have it"!Ahhh...only a very few pleasures can keep up with that one.

Not a lot of things can get me up and going as finely as an interesting talk or exchange of ideas that might end up into something new and beautiful.

I am a gemini, for God´s sake. Yoy cannot get more "brainstorming" loving than that!
I also happen to search for people - men and women - who are, at my eyes, more intelligent or knowledgeable than me. I just get a huge kick out of learning from those who know more and better than´s humbling and it can only make you grow.

So that´s one of the reasons why I am enjoying a series of encounters with egyptian composers.
What a pleasure to listen, observe, understand and appreciate what they have to offer me (well...offering is not the exact word as they SELL their stuff, they DO NOT offer anything...just thought that should be clear!).

I am shopping for music and that´s the kind of shopping I really like.
Sorry to all my fellow women of the whole world but real shopping, for me, has nothing to do with new dresses and shoes but...MUSIC.
More expensive than shoes and far more difficult to choose.

Of course there´s a "headache" side to the whole music shopping matter.
I ´ve listened to a LOT of crap and I am taken by a fool more often than my patience should allow it but, in the end, not even the best marketing experts (and egyptians are GREAT marketing experts so great that they can sell you rotted grass as if it was a brand new freshly picked rose!) can convince me to buy bad music.

I am searching for something "new" and the great difficulty in that resides in the fact that oriental music for dance is dead in Egypt. Where is the new generation of composers for dance? Where are them?
Where are the new ideas and concepts?

Oriental Dance can hardly evolve without a music that also evolves with time. Dance comes WITH the music. It´s its base. All dancers do is reading the book but imagine if that book is saying the same old wasted words of 50 years ago? Nobody is surprised by it anymore or feels interest in it. Art has to evolve to survive.

Shopping for music!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cairo, the 11th January, 2010


First shots of 2010.
Reinvention and doing what hasn't been done before is my motto for the New Year.

Here are visions of me, searching for the Light. For myself...

Cairo, the 11th January, 2010

"Dancer VERSUS Orchestra"

This discussion is very common between managers/pimps/empresarios. Who/what makes a great dancer?

Musicians know, by their own experience, that talent and empathy with the egyptian crowds is not something an orchestra can give to a dancer. There are obvious examples of dancers who have been marrying egyptian managers in order to get easy legality (being able to work in more than one venue,right that is denied to foreign dancers who can only work at ONE SINGLE place at a time), more work and better orchestras and never EVER achieved the appreciation of local audiences...(guess it's not worth the sacrifice and the prostituting!).

As far I as know, the better the orchestra, the better the dancer IF and only IF this dancer is talented, intelligent and knows her craft very well (or sleeps around with some rich guy who opens up the gates of the market for her).
As a dancer, you do what you hear. The body of the dancer translates the totallity of the music and each voice/instrument present in her orchestra. We are the first and the last musician and the one who resumes the core of the music.
Following this logic, the better the music I hear, the better the dance.

One of the privileges of being known in the market is, in my particular case, having great musicians willing to work for me even if I am not able to pay them so generously as I would wish to.
As I gather a group that suits me I realize that a great voice gives me wings to fly. A talented violin awakens things in me that a poor one wouldn't.
I am aware of the importance of a good/great orchestra and yet I keep in my mind this fact I came to confirm again and again:
Only God makes a talented dancer. Not the orchestra. Not a smart ass manager. Not a gorgeous dress.

Working on my assets...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cairo, the 10th January, 2010

"Tempest, chaos, revolutions and..."

Some thoughts I've been having lately:

Feeling appreciated is the fuel of every artist.
When you do something nice for someone else, this person will hand you an even greater gift. Just wait and see. You think you're helping someone and this person is the one who ends up helping you big time.
Life is full of surprises. Just go with the flow while working hard to get to your preferred destination.

I LOVE the love of my audiences, more than the applauses.
I love to be LOVED and share it back.

There are only two places where I am totally happy:
The Stage.
The arms of the man I love.

Chaos and tempests always precede great rainbows and blessings.
Cairo, the 10th January, 2010

“And then you ask me why I love Egypt!”

My love for Egypt is a complex matter to explain and maybe impossible to describe.
Why do we fall in love with someone?! Why do we feel attracted to places like magnets?!

The core reasons for my complex connection with this country are a mystery – even to myself – but there are a few treats about this place that can really indicate why on earth would I live in a place where so much is wrong and logic – “my logic” – seems to have gone down the toilet.
Here’s what happened:

I am returning home in the car crossing the overwhelming traffic jam of Cairo.
My dearest friend – and Dance Master – Mahmoud Reda is driving the car and we’re stopped in a line of cars that don’t seem to move an inch by the hour.
He’s in a hurry. I am in a hurry. We’re speaking about dance and life.
We’re laughing really hard, as usual, but we’re both exasperated by the immobility of the traffic.

Suddenly, a man selling flowers stops by Mahmoud’s window and recognizes him.
The minute he sees me on the chair by his side, he draws a fat huge smile and says:
“Here’s Mr. Mahmoud Reda and…there’s Madame Farida Fahmy!”

The assumption he made – that I am Farida Fahmy, the most famous and talented of the soloists that ever existed in the “Reda Troupe”, once founded and directed by Mahmoud - has an absurd aspect that I couldn’t ignore (Farida Fahmy is around 70 years old and there’s no similarity whatsoever between me and her!) but also a sweet side of it: he associated Mahmoud with Farida because, in his fond memories, they always performed together and appeared in their movies as a couple.

After we heard him call me Farida Fahmy with such tenderness and certainty, we both laughed even harder than before and, just because o we did so, he offered me a bouquet of roses.

This was such an absurd, simple episode but it explains – if you get the point!- why I love Egypt and find this country absolutely unique both in its wonderful and its dark side.

“You see...Mahmoud. This is why I love Egypt” – I told Mahmoud.
“Yes, you cannot find these characters anywhere else in the world, can you?!” – My dear friend answered.

And then people ask me why.
This is Why.
Cairo, the 9th January, 2010

“Awakenings – Mahmoud Reda being recognized in his own country (Thanks God!)”

Mahmoud Reda’s work was appreciated and supported by past Egyptian Governments until the Minister of Culture decided to retire him from his job at an age when Mahmoud’s creativity was at its best.
Since then, the famous “Reda Troupe” fell to the ground and even beyond and lost its shine, productivity and talent.
The Government decided to ignore the Dancing Field in this country and didn’t mind to see a wasted talent like Mahmoud away from the troupe he created.

Many years after that…
The current Egyptian Government is, finally, taking notice of Mahmoud Reda’s work in the field of Dance and Egyptian Culture.
Mahmoud Reda’s legacy is not more important than the work is STILL doing nowadays all over the world. The “Father of Egyptian Folklore” is more active and creative than ever and it was sad that the current Ministry of Culture ignored it until recently when the Alexandria Library took the initiative to sponsor and support some shows (Egyptian male dancers and dance troupes from abroad) regarding Mahmoud’s legacy.

Recently, Mahmoud has been extensively interviewed by the press (newspapers and television) and this exposure has raised the question:
Why Mahmoud is teaching and choreographing for dancers all over the world – and being honoured and appreciated abroad – and forgotten in his own country where he can still do so much?!

I hope Mahmoud Reda’s talent is not wasted any more and that his own country – not its people but its Government – realizes he still needs him.

More so, I hope this exposure and questioning will awake, once more, the debate over Dance in Egypt and how much it can do for the country’s identity and image towards the world.
Like it or not, DANCE is a major part of Egyptian Culture and Identity. Only ignorant or hypocritical people can deny it.

Cairo, the 9th January, 2010

“Twilight zone – Pyramids Street”

Which kind of lunatic dancer dares to be seen in a Pyramid’s street night club at 4h in the morning just for the sake of finding a great musician she’s in need of?!
I guess you have the answer: ME.
Appearances mean a LOT for Egyptians/arabs. It seems that BEING something/someone is not that important but APPEARING to be something/someone makes this world go round and forward.
People here seem to live for these appearances and pretend they believe in the illusions they and their neighbours create for themselves but I refuse to make part of the charade so I simply don’t give a ……………. to look anything in particular. I know who I am and simply don’t care with others may think of me.

I surprise myself to the extent of absurdity I expose myself to in order to get the music I want for my work. I guess most dancers in Cairo will go party, home or prostituting themselves (facing the cold facts here) but I have never seen any of my “colleagues” (dancers currently performing in the Cairo market) browsing the famous and decadent Pyramid Street by their own searching for…MUSIC!

The Pyramids Street used to be this city’s “Broadway”. The best dancers – like Souhair Zaki, Nagwa Fouad, Fifi Abdou and so on – used to perform all over the street (that actually leads to the Giza Pyramids) and all night-clubs were fancy, respectable and homeland of the true art of Oriental Music and Dance.
Due to many factors I will not describe now the street – and the whole dance/music scene – went, literally, down the toilet and the street which represented ART became a place for prostitutes and arabs/Egyptians who wish to get wasted by drinking alcohol, smoking drugs and sharing a bunch of almost naked girls (prostitutes, again!) whom invade the night-club’s stages to do their own sad, sexually teasing (or supposed to be) dance to attract costumers.

I expected it to be bad. But not soooooo bad…WOW!
I entered the Twilight Zone involved in “shisha” smoke and drunk arab guys with prostitutes hanging from their arms.
No mentioning the name of the night-club but a simple note to describe it: DECADENT.
I felt I was inside of a nightmare with no end. It seemed to be the end of the world with all its worst treats: all human weaknesses and chaos, women selling themselves with no shame and even with pride and the whole staff treating these prostitutes like queens (I am guessing the night-club has a percentage of the dirty gains).
The girls arrive all un-dressed up, they sit at the best tables, order expensive alcoholic drinks, sway their hips and breasts on the stage until they get some costumers and hang on to them for the night.

The shows – not that I can call it a SHOW – were mainly “khalleegy” to please the paying crowd from Saudi Arabia and such and I can summon them in a single word: NOISE.
Only wasted, drank people can enjoy this noise. Oh, my dear LORD!
Thousands of dollars were thrown on the singer’s and “dancer”’s heads for no reason like an endless shower of paper.
I tried to listen to the musician I was searching for but, even with my blessed ears, I could not distinguish the sounds he was producing because the noise was so overwhelming.
There was an act from a girl called Nelly (will not, absolutely WILL NOT call her a DANCER because that would be way too offensive for me) who did nothing but chew gum (what a common place!), walk around the stage shaking her breasts once in a while and receive loads of dollars the arab guys threw on her for no reason (other than her nakedness).

I was open mouthed and confused. It really felt like a nightmare with no end.

Money seems to buy it all around here.
The prostitutes were treated like queens in the place and the staff attended to every one of their smallest needs. They don’t even pour beer in their glasses. They call the waiter to pour it for them. They do it, they bow their heads and pay attention to see if there’s any other service in need until they are dismissed with a small, despising movement of the head.

I understand why people think the way they do about Oriental Dance if the places they know are similar to this one.
I am talking about a BIG name in the Pyramid’s Street, a night-club with a tradition of huge artists and now…well…it’s a brothel. Simple as that.

As an artist working in Cairo, this scenario can only make me sad and even depressed.
I see my own music and dance being dismantled and trashed into something they’re not in order for some dirty “pashas” to make big money from prostitutes/drugs/alcohol. I wonder where is famous dancer’s police which screws my head so often when I am doing an honest, hard job. Where are them? Why aren’t them in these places where dance is just an excuse for millions and millions of dollars to be made out of human misery?!
The answer is simple. These same police men are, most of the times, the clients of these places PLUS their owners bath their hands with generous amounts of cash in order to be left in peace doing their “business”.
I am also guessing – just guessing – there are another reasons of convenience and favours exchange between the owners of these places and … (not referring the names here, if you’re smart, you’ll know what I am speaking about).
It’s revolting that night-clubs like this substitute the respectful venues where you could once – long time ago! – watch great musicians and dancers cherishing and dignifying Egyptian culture.


Oh…I am good in the learning department.
I can learn from the air, in fact.
Of course, I learnt a few “khalleegy” steps from both prostitutes and arab guys who danced more than the women.
I also listened to some mean percussion sets and saw how the “under world” works and how low can the human being descend to.
I learnt, above all, that you cannot have light without darkness and that my only MISSION is to make my best job ever in order to compensate for all this mess they’re doing around my beloved ART.
Being GOOD yourself is the best weapon to combat the evilness.
Cairo, the 8th January, 2010

“Om Kolthoum – part II”

Cited from (Wikipedia Encyclopedia) :

“Um Kulthum had a contralto vocal range.she can sing as low as the 2nd octave, and the ability to sing as high as 9th octaves at her vocal peak.Her remarkable ability to produce 14,000 vibrations/second with her vocal cords,unparalleled vocal strength (no commercial mic for singing can withstand its strength forcing her to stand at 1-2meter radius away, her voice's unique breathtaking beauty over convention made her the most incomparable voice of all times.”

I am no expert or musician but I know, by intuition, when I hear a great musician or singer. I can tell if someone is an ARTIST in a minute of listening to him/her and this is no small quality when you are your own director’s orchestra.
Curiously enough, I correct and orchestrate all my musicians by ear, sing them the rhythms and melodies (they’re all in my head) of each song, indicate notes, pauses, details and nuances all though and inexplicable intuition and musical memory I was born with (Thanks God).
From all my senses, smell and hearing are the BEST and in those very fear can beat me.
So, when I listen do Om Kolthoum, I know in my heart that she reaches EVERYWHERE and all sensations with her voice. It’s a COMPLETE voice and a genuine one.

Still on the EXCELLENCE department regarding music, here’s something also amazing I am digging into:

“MUSICOPHILIA, Tales of Music and the Brain”, by Oliver Sacks

For dancers, musicians and other artists – or “common people” – who wish to understand why music plays such an important role in human existence.
Being a dancer is not, for me, an exercise of vanity but an attempt to communicate between worlds, reach people’s hearts and souls and understand the Universe we’re in. This book is helping me do it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cairo, the 7th January, 2010

“My one and only veneration”

I don’t believe in masters who know everything or are able to guide you through the mysterious paths of art and life.
I believe everybody is a potential master, depending on the intelligence and sensibility of the student.

I also abhor idols and adorations so…I have my favourite dancers but I don’t venerate any of them.
This is not truth for my one and only ADORATION: USTAZA OM KOLTHOUM.

Like Fernando Pessoa (Portuguese poet), the great singer Om Kolthoum is a non- arguable, non – negotiable absolute idol of mine.
I know she’s dead since 1974 but she couldn’t be more alive than she is right now in my heart or in the heart of people who religiously go to “El Sewy Centre” (in 26th July street, Zamalek) to attend her puppet show (every Thursday of each month).

Yes, you heard me well… there is a PUPPET SHOW mimicking Om Kolthoum and all her orchestra on stage and people – me, included – fill this theatre every given Thursday to listen to a bunch of puppets pretend they are alive and singing/playing the DIVA’s repertoire.

They do the same for Abdel Halim Hafez, so I heard.

The most amazing aspect of the whole puppet concept is not even the childish side of it but the fact that people pay attention, applaud and vibrate (often clapping, cheering and shouting words of praise) with the whole show as if Om Kolthoum was alive, right there, singing for us.

As far as I am concerned, I hit the bottom AND DECLARE MYSELF CRAZY, AS BEFORE.
I caught myself actually crying when hearing “Il Hob Kollo” sang/mimicked by the Om Kolthoum’s puppet!!!
Of course I didn’t cry or got emotional through the puppet but through the singer’s voice that was all around the room. Somehow, hearing her voice and seeing a figure that represents her can REALLY bring her back to life or so it did for me.
How great is the love for this singer that, after so long, people strive for her voice and create a fantasy with her “persona” in order to have her again on earth?

Well…I often speak about the differences between me and Egyptians/arabs.
The ABSOLUTE VENERATION for OM KOLTHOUM is something I have in common with this country.
Through Om Kolthoum, I can see the best of egyptian’s soul. I can even know that people have a heart which beats and feels, cries and smiles.

How did I end up crying at a puppet show?!
Well, that’s another story and also something I have in common with Egyptians.
Cairo, the 6th January, 2010

“The shadows of every love”

Every beautiful thing/person has his dark side. I call it “moon” side or shadow.
Where there is Light, there is shadow. The concept is easy to understand but hard to live with, I guess.

I’ve talked profusely over here about the dark side of being a dancer in the Middle East.
I’ve also talked about the marvellous things it entails.
Decided not to commit the same mistakes as in previous years and move on with dispensable “emotional” attitudes towards my work, here I am admitting another hard bunch of truths (very important for whom is making a career in this place):

1. Never trust anyone.
This is a heartbreaking truth but it’s the most useful one if you don’t want to be eaten by the sharks (musicians who will …. you on your back, competitive dancers who will also ……you big time on your back and all sorts of empresarios , managers, pimps and low creatures also known by “rich men” who will not accept the idea of YOU, the DANCER not sleeping around with them in exchange for career opportunities).

2. There are no emotional ties between the Dancer and the team that works with her. I tend to be a sucker on this one. I feel my musicians are my family and treat them as such until I see the true face of which one. I receive smiles, praises and bows but, when the moment of the truth arrives, all the smiling faces turn into monsters with no consideration or emotional connection to me.
I’ve been betrayed by musicians enough to know that I have to be a sneaky actress with them in order to survive. VERY HARD ROLE FOR ME TO KEEP (yet, there’s no other choice).

3. In crowds and crowds of people who want you to succeed – thanks to my AUDIENCES for being the BEST in the world!- there is also a pretty strong group of people who DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SUCCEED and be sure they will do their best for you not to.
Be aware of your enemies (“keep your friends close and your enemies closer”…remember the motto) and mind them just enough to protect yourself from coward type, back-stabbing attacks.

4. The law of the jungle is the only one which actually works in this field (and, in particular, in Cairo). You eat or you are eaten.
“If you’re not fast enough, you’re food.” – Says a sport’s tennis advertisement for a famous brand. Apply this one if you’re a dancer in a high spot in Cairo. Be the LION, not his food.

5. Job opportunities will not be given to the best, most talented artists (this applies to dancers and musicians as well) but to the ones who are better connected and find ways of getting the “goodies” from underground roads. Friendships, bed sharing and favours exchange play a MAJOR role in Egypt and that is true for the art’s field.
Accept to loose some little battles if you don’t play the dirty game but aim for the WAR’s N.1 Prize.

6. You will be a great soul with a huge heart on stage BUT a bitch backstage. Schizophrenic , I know. Yet, there’s no other way to keep your work neat and growing up. Keeping musicians and everybody involved in your work on their toes is a job for Hitler, not for Mozart (if you know what I mean). Egyptian musicians work with aggressive leadership and take kindness as a clear sign of weakness. PLAY THE ROLE of HITLER backstage and allow yourself – if you can! – to be Mozart when you’re on stage.
It helps that I am a GEMINI…split personality is already in my genes so…let’s get to work.

7. Be aware that ART comes along with a LOT of shitty stuff. It’s not all dreams and beauty. It’s also the darkest places you can ever see in the human nature.
8. If you’re a dancer or wish to be one: Good Luck and pray A LOT to GOD!

Now…don’t get me wrong. Being a dancer in the Middle East and, in particular, in Cairo has wonderful things to it (otherwise I wouldn’t be here sacrificing so much of my life) but these wonders come with the dark side of the business.
I ‘ve discovered, over and over again, that most people that surround me in this field seem not to have a heart or a conscience of their own. They sure have a brain smart enough to take advantage of you and steal as much as possible but forget about appealing to emotions, reason or conscience. I often stare at musicians and such and ask myself from which material are they made. Do they posses a real human heart inside of their chest? Do they sleep well at night after so much lying and fooling around with other people?!
Yet again, I do not understand the people who surround me and, unfortunately, continuously notice I cannot trust them either.

All dreams have a price tag attached to them, that’s the final conclusion of it all.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cairo, the 3rd January, 2009

"Leaving behind whom I was"

Cleaning up the closets.
Washing my hair and my mind.
Leaving behind whom I was - or simply the parts that don't fit me anymore and whom I know I am made to be - and preparing to die and be born once more.

Erasing what's not serving God's purposes and moving forward with a lighter heart.
Seems like I've seen it all and experienced it all. Everything that comes just HAS to be better. I know this as a fact.

Cleaning up the closets at all my homes.

Cairo, the 3rd January, 2010

"Revolutions and readings"

Lately, I had no time to even sleep so my readings got really compromised but at the beginning of 2010 I am starting to catch up with some great books.
Because time is less and less available for me, I choose my books - my everything! - much better. Here are two great gems you want to get a piece of for yourself:

1. "The Golden Notebook" from Literature Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing

This was a discovery for me and I am savouring it with water in my mouth. What can I say? Just READ IT. This is REALLY GOOD stuff as far as Literature goes.

2. "Dance is my life" by my dearest friend Mahmoud Reda (father of the "Egyptian Folclore ART") and Farida Fahmy ( a great artist herself and a bright mind who knows a LOT about dancing and the internal battles of dancers).
The story of Mahmoud Reda's path in life and dance told by pictures and words.
Limited edition by the Alexandrian Library. I got my own sweetly autographed copy as a gift from Mahmoud Reda but you can also get it through the Library's official website.

I will not comment a LOT on this one cause it's a process in the making. Can I just add: Why my life is never EVER dull, not even for a second??? Always surprises - good and bad - sudden changes, ruptures and new passions. Every day is an enigma I already quit to decipher. Oh, God!
Can't wait to grow up and also wish for a little bit of peace. Can these come together?! Hoping so...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cairo, the 2nd January. 2010


I’ve never felt so excited about a New Year.
Finally and for many reasons I am too exhausted to enumerate, I totally own myself and am not afraid to say NO to things and people which are not of my best interest.
I feel more mature, secure, relaxed with all that I am both personally and professionally.

I always find arrogance very funny and, may I say, ridiculous. For me, it’s a clear sign of littleness and poor spirit so…I fail in many things but arrogant is something I proud myself of NOT BEING.
When I hear other dancers speaking about themselves so overly self-assured and assuming they are the best in the world and “know it all”, all I can conclude is : “Damm…I am REALLY out of the box! As a Woman, for sure, as well as a dancer/artist”.

For the first time in my life, I am also SO proud of being unique and away from all the arrogance I see in dancers and musicians around me. It’s not that I am better than them, I am just more aware of my own ignorance.

So…during this year that ended – thanks God !!! – I can conclude that I grew but I also had many doubts and felt stagnated – or totally clueless – regarding my ART.
I never thought, not even for a second or after so much appreciation from my audiences from all over the world and specially from Egypt – that I was great or was getting better and better by the day.
Quite the contrary…

Yes, I am aware that I MUST be talented, otherwise I would not have reached so far totally by myself and facing so many – quite monstrous – adversities. I also feel, very often, that I own the music and deeply understand/feel the material I am dealing with but, most of the times, I just felt I knew nothing or very close to it.

Hoping to get even more confident this year (2010 is a SPECIAL year, that I am sure about!) but never loose my feet on the ground. Being aware of your own ignorance is a great sign of intelligence. Don’t ever want to loose that.
I am an artist, not an arrogant arsehole.

So here we go with the late 2009 (buy, buy, sucker!) BALANCE. During this year, I discovered that:

1. Not everyone who gets close to you and smiles is your friend. I’ve discovered snakes under my bed, actresses with no talent and people who don’t possess a mind, a heart or a soul of their own! Very scary.
Choose very carefully the people you want to be surrounded with.

2. Life is unjust but it also compensates the ones who fairly struggle.
I’ve been beaten up – both physically and emotionally – , abused, ill treated by people (?!) I used to love and never believed them when they told me I would never accomplish my dreams. I am so glad I am proving these bastards wrong. My victories are their disgrace and I ‘ll make sure they’ll keep receiving lots but LOTS of disgraces.
NEVER give up your dreams and put action into them. Nothing happens if you just wish for things and cross your arms waiting for a miracle.

3. A dancer is the synthesis of ALL the instruments, all the sounds, all the worlds fit in a song. My body is the first and the last instrument of my orchestra. Knowing this has helped me be aware of my place and function on stage.

4. A loving family is the most important thing in life. They are your base, your homeland and your strenght.
Give your family – that includes real friends – the attention, love and time they deserve.

5. Physical death doesn’t mean absence. This year I have lost my grandmother – who was very close to me –and I cannot yet realize that she’s gone. Although I cannot hold her anymore, I now realize she’s more present in my life than ever!

6. Great artists are not always great human beings. This was a hard one to master! I always thought a genius would be an amazing human being but I was wrong. You can be a talented artist and create master pieces and still be a very poor human being with a small spirit. How is this possible?! Well, that I still don’t know.

7. There are people who do not possess a soul or a heart of their own.

8. As an Artist, I always feel I know very little and am eager to learn from the most experienced, best artists from all areas. Humbleness has been a great weapon for my “crossing of the desert”!

9. Love is sharing your heart, mind, body and soul with someone else. When someone really loves you, they will spread your wings and make you fly and never but NEVER cut them. Not I know this FOR SURE.

10. All I want for my life is very clear in my head now and all I DON’T WANT too. This was my greatest achievement in 2009!

Matter of fact BALANCE points in my profession:

1. In a matter of a few months, I saw my name in the Egyptian and international circuit of Oriental Dance grow like never before. This is even more amazing when this happened with no manager or any kind of marketing behind me.

2. Very happy to have signed a contract with the great “NILE MAXIM” in Cairo. Also in a matter of a few months, this has become my home and the place where I am growing the most.
3. More and more people arrive from all over Egypt and the world to watch my shows. This is an amazing reality I can not completely grasp because it’s so amazing and even beyond my best expectancies. Allow me a small thing over here:

4.Also excited to receive more and more students from the whole world and being the Cairo honour invited artist for COLOMBIA ORIENTAL FESTIVAL coming next April!

5. Thrilled to have introduced singing and acting in my shows. Exploring all my potential is what I MUST do in following days, minutes, seconds.
6. Being introduced in the Egyptian wedding industry with an amazing feed-back from audiences of all walks of life. Even more amazing if I thing that, then again, I am doing it with no “man behind my back” or any kind of support.
Damn…I must be doing something right, after all!

7. Besides remaining with my feet on the ground, I have to give myself credit for this year’s achievements:
I managed to earn (with my sweat, brain and talent!) a new contract, build new programs/shows all my myself, conquer new audiences and grow as an artist ALL while dealing with some pretty nasty personal experiences that would throw any mere mortal to the ground
( almost killed by a crazy, jealous ex-boyfriend is on the top of the list and discovering that Egyptian police wouldn’t move a finger because of the assassination attempt is other amazing one!). Most importantly, I survived and got stronger, wiser, even more beautiful (so say my people!) from the inside out.

What I am looking forward to:

1. Keep growing as an artist and human being.
2. Spread my wings to the world both in performing and teaching.
3. Finish and publish my so expected -and delayed - book.
4. Always being healthy and never loosing my child’s heart which has saved me from becoming a “bitch” after suffering from so many back stabbing.
5. Making new wonderful friends who give their back to envy and small minds and open their hearts to generosity, greatness and tenderness.
6. Travel, travel, travel through my work or by any means…
7. Restarting my Yoga practice and meditate a bit everyday. This will save me from going officially nuts.
8. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE from my family, friends and MAN! YES. This is it.

Cairo, the 1st January, 2010

“New Year’s Eve – endless! – Night!”

Wow…this was the best New Year’s Eve ever!!!
When the midnight tic-tac rang in Cairo, all the lights went out and I could sing and laugh with my orchestra and dancers while watching the whole city in excitement and joy!
The strongest memory I will keep from this night was the sense of union between me and my orchestra and dancers PLUS my mouth hurting me until today due to an intensive laughing session that only stopped when I returned home around 5 o’clock in the morning.

The energy of the night was so amazing that some tears fell down my face. Tears of happiness for all reasons and no specific reason. This was a hard year but also the YEAR that built the pillars of my core personality. I thank God for it.
We made pictures together, photographs (hope to recover some from my dancer’s mobiles) and incredible shows at the “NILE MAXIM” and then at a private party where I hardly danced because people were already going overboard crazy so…I ended up plainly jumping along with them and getting paied for it too!

My dancing was, more than anything else, full of SOUL and THANKSGIVING for the year’s achievements and for the already upcoming blessings.
I could hear all the instruments very clearly, despite the noise around me, and had a moment of immense clarity when I thought:
“My dream is coming TRUE! This is REALLY happening.”


Step by step, the top of the mountain that seemed so distant and unreachable is finally conquered.
When I was in Portugal, I was caught off guard by a tempest that burst in the middle of my full hour running with the dogs. One of the neighbours noticed I was running under the heavy rain and offered for me to protect myself from the rain until it stopped.
I said NO and thanked him. No rain, tempest or hurricane would stop me from concluding my running with the dogs ritual/meditation. I am stronger than that, I though to myself.
Yes, it would be more comfortable and easy to be inside of a warm home instead of running like crazy under the heavy rain but , after all, I never craved the easy and the obvious.
Somehow, this kind of resilience is what’s defining my journey in this life.
When confronted with a tempest, move towards your goal and believe you’re strong enough to reach the top of the mountain.
I know I It cause I am doing it.