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Belly dancing: a dying art?
Traditionalists in Egypt have targeted cabarets that feature belly dancers, and many Egyptians fear that the art is dying.
July 23, 2009 8:28 by Dana El Baltaji
“There are new bars for the middle class everywhere, in Mohandeseen, in the city center and also in hotels,” says Fattah. “This is a new variable and I think it’s related to the economic policy of the state. There is a tolerance now … because [these are] private companies and this is very important economically.”
The next evening, a few kilometers south on 26 of July Street, Ahmed Dessouki leans against a polished wood bar sipping whisky over ice at the Cairo Jazz Club. The 28-year-old architect says he goes out four nights per week, but doesn’t venture to belly-dancing joints or baladi-style bars. “I mostly go to Zamalek bars,” says Dessouki referring to Cairo’s expensive, more Western neighborhood. “I’m not interested in this kind of art.”
The Cairo Jazz Club could easily be in any major American city, with a DJ spinning records in the corner, high-back booth seating and multi-colored track lighting. By midnight there is little room to move as young Egyptian men hold the waists of their girlfriends and mix with foreigners on the tiny dance floor.
“It’s the mentality of the people. We don’t have a big gap between the mentality of Europe and the [United] States,” says Dessouki.
“Almost everybody has a girlfriend. We like to come to this kind of club to spend a nice night with our girlfriends – nothing more.” Dessouki says some nights he and his friends rack up bills of several thousand Egyptian pounds (or several hundred US dollars).
In the 1990s, Western-style bars became popular among some Egyptians and today, in Cairo, Alexandria and in tourist towns like Sharm El-Sheikh, there is no shortage of European – or American-style establishments. The influx of Western-style nightclubs is drawing customers away from the baladi nightspots.