Well, we’re now into March and my holiday is Cairo is but a delicious memory. In February I luckily attended Randa Kamel’s week long course again but this time I added a week beforehand with Farida Adventures 6 nights Night clubbing Tour. OMG - not for the faint hearted. Most nights we didn’t get back to the hotel until 4am-ish. We stayed in Downtown Cairo that had been badly hit during the uprising and over the past few years has gradually rebuilt and become a thriving shopping hub with lovely outdoor cafes and welcoming hotels. El Abd Pastry and Gad were lovely food places to visit as were the many littl Koshari places dotted around. We spent the week visiting two major costumiers - Eman Zaki and Hanan - such lovely ladies and of course, costumes to die for! Needless to say, there were some who said ‘I’m not going to get a costume’ melted and gave in and did get custom ones made. Going to see Hanan was especially fun as we had to take the metro which is really easy to navigate but can get a tad crowded at times - thankfully the two women’s carriages were always welcoming. Khan al Khalili was also a favourite for a visit to Mahmouds (3 floors of belly dance bits and bobs :-) and also, for a mint tea or Turkish coffee at El Fishawy. So, who did we see on our nightclub tours? Well, not one to drop names, much, (haha), the first dancer we went to see was Brenda on the Blue Nile. Wow, what a dancer - lots of energy and pizzazz. After seeing Brenda, we went to the Sherazade club, which we didn’t leave till around 4am ish (I think). WOW, WOW, WOW. I loved it there! The Shaabi man singer there was THE BEST! I had the best time! There were a couple of belly dancers, sweet girls, not doing much to be honest, but HE was an absolute highlight of the trip for me. Then the second night, we went to see Sahar at the Ritz Carlton - what a stunning dancer she is. Gorgeous! The third night, I was ill :-( we’d gone to the Pyramids that morning and I’d had a great time with the girls and our guide Nibal, going in the Pyramids too, only to suddenly start not feeling too good as I was eating my Koshari. Now those of you who know me, know I have to be REALLY ill not to finish my food. I went back to the hotel and slept from 4pm till 10am the next day. I’d got a bug somehow that was like food poisoning and the flu all in one. It definitely wasn’t the food as no-one else got it. So, I missed out on Aziza that night. I had seen her last year and she’s fabulous so I was sad to miss her again but thankful I had at least seen her before. Valentines night! Where shall we go? Why, to see Lucy of course! She’s an absolute Legend in Cairo. She owns the Paradiso nightclub and I was told during the uprising it was raided, and then they spray painted on the outside, ‘sorry Lucy’ because she’s held in high esteem. What an entertainer! She’s such a character and was a joy to watch perform. She even got us up on stage with her and gave us our own private/public lesson :-) She was showered with money on numerous occasions by men in the audience - I still am overawed watching that - it’s amazing. And she had the most wonderful singers and band. She knew Kay who we were with and also Yasmina of Cairo who had joined us, and we were welcomed very warmly. It was lovely. She didn’t come on till 3am, so yes, you guessed it, we didn’t get back to the hotel till around 6am. The next night we went to see Soreya who dances at the Fairmont. She’s sooo tiny - little hands and wrists - so petite but a fabulous dancer and lovely to see. Again, there fabulous singers in the line up this time and we had a great night - it’s such a great atmosphere there. Our final night was on the Nile Maxim where we saw a new dancer called Christina and a Tanoura dancer. They were very good and we all had a lovely final night together. As the boat cruised along the Nile on a lovely moonlit evening, we watched the Shaabi boats going by - such fun! And a lovely way to end the tour. All too soon the week was over. It as a great experience - lack of sleep and belly dance galore, but I loved every minute of it. The next day I was transported to Randa’s course, along with 4 other girls who had been on the nightclub tour, so it was really nice that we were all going together. It was lovely to see familiar faces and friends on the course and felt very comfortable being back in the hotel and so on. The opening night was on the Nile Maxim where we were met by a Zeffa, with saiidi, tanoura, horse (not real) and lots of frivolity. Later in the evening Randa danced for us - absolutely mesmerising as always for me. We were also treated to Sahar dancing for us, so I was really pleased to see her again. The week long of workshops with Randa did not disappoint. We also had question and answer sessions on Randa’s thoughts about the dance and it’s history, costuming, interpretation of the music and so on. There was also a half hour warm up every day with Sara Sherif Farouk Ahmed, an hour of folkloric with either Ragaey or Ibrahim and then 5 hours with Randa broken into a 2 hour then 3 hour segment. The second night we had the dancing with the orchestra show and the first competition heat. I take my hat off to the girls for both. It’s not easy and takes courage to get up there in front of everyone. They all performed wonderfully and were received very well. We spent a day going to Alexandria which was a lovely refreshing break by the sea - such a pretty city and we also visited the Jewellery museum - well worth a visit if even only for the building itself which is stunning. Next day workshops and then the second night of dancing with the orchestra show and the second competition heat. Again workshops the next day, then optional night out with Randa to go to a nightclub to see Aziza. Well.... I found out that Kay had organised for the other girls from the first week trip to go to see DINA!!!!!! I really wanted to see her that week too but she wasn’t dancing so we couldn’t go. So of course, I contacted Kay and yes, I could join them. I was sooooo happy to finally see Dina. She sets the room alight when she comes on stage. Absolutely electric. I loved watching her and was so pleased to have the opportunity to see her. The next day we went to Esba with Randa and her family and friends for an afternoon lunch and entertainment. A nice chill out day after the late night out clubbing. Mohamed Shahin also joined us throughout the week as he was a judge in the competition too. This was such a fun day out. Finally our last day arrived and the finale night. The finalists in the competition danced for us and then we were treated to Ragaey and then Ibrahim performing for us. We also had a folkloric group perform and they were really good too. Finally, Galila Kamel danced for us to end the night on a high.
I stayed on a couple more days and spent a lovely day at the museum and the Khan with Eleanor and Amanda from the Randa week. Then I spent the next with Candi, Kay and the girls from Kay's second tour. We went to Hanans who gave us the most delicious fish lunch and from there wer went to the Khan where Candi and I took off to the bead and sequin shops :-)
In the evening we went to the Government run Tanoura show. This was great - I could watch Tanoura all night - I love it. The past month has been fabulous in the world of dance for me and there’s more coming up. I’ve got Shimmy By The Sea to go to again in Battle, Hastings - that was great fun last year and there’s more workshops on the horizon too. Watch this space...