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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
A soft revolution here won’t necessarily restore belly-dancing cabarets to their former glory if young, affluent Egyptians prefer to drop a 200 Egyptian pound minimum charge ($35) to dance to house beats, R ‘n’ B and top-40 music, rather than watch jeweled women shake their hips in an age-old tradition.
“We’ve been affected by last year’s economic slump. Some of our best customers come once a week now instead of every day,” Tamer says. While he notes most of his customers are Egyptian, Suhayla, who has been performing as a belly dancer for years, argues this isn’t the case in other establishments. “It depends. You get Egyptians, foreigners and Arabs,” Suhayla says. “You can find more foreigners in El-Haram.”
Tourists have long filled the seats of higher-end belly-dancing establishments. In tourist cities like Sharm El-Sheikh, dancers perform to almost entirely foreign crowds.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism said in June that hotel occupancy rates had dropped to between 66 and 70 percent and some analysts have predicted that the global financial crisis, combined with the recent bombing in Cairo’s Khan El-Khalili market, could result in occupancy rates falling further, even to 50 percent.
The opening of Egyptian society may not be enough to salvage an art form that has had a place in Egyptian society for centuries.
“Most of the people I know who are interested in belly dancing are foreigners and they just go once,” says Dessouki over thumping electronic beats. “Most of my friends are interested in this kind of music – house and trance.”
First seen in Trends magazine.