by Zara Dance
A selection of funny stories working in Egyptian Cabaret
with a selection of backstage pictures... strictly no photos in Cabaret....
A smoking hot night
So I was working in a shaabi club that I love, in down town Cairo. It’s a club I love because the band are just sooo good and the audience are sweet, made up of a lot of regular customers so you are always dancing for friendly faces.
Anyway, I was dancing on the stage when I start to hear like a high pitch siren/alarm sound, now at first I thought it was an awful new sound bite the keyboard player had. A lot of modern shaabi music has strange high pitch sounds produced by the keyboard. I even look at the keyboard player (who I love to bits, called Ahmed), to imply what is this wired sound, but he just smiles back ignorantly. The band music is very loud so I ignore it as part of background music and continue to dance. This sound continues for quite a while, then at one point on the stage, I notice that there is a flashing red light above one of the tables. I realise that this sound is actually an alarm going off. I look at the customers below and make a face to imply what is going on. They just shrug their shoulders and continue to enjoy the show. No one in the room looks bothered so I continue assuming the alarm is just broken or something.
I finish my set and get changed. I meet my manager by the lifts, this club is on the top floor of a small hotel. When I come out to the lift area there is all smoke wafting up the lift shaft, I can smell it strong. I ask my manager if there has been a fire: “yer the whole second floor was on fire” he casually replies AS WE GET IN THE LIFT. As the lift goes down the smoke gets stronger. There was obviously a big fire, but we just get out at the ground floor and exit as though nothing had happened. IM LIKE WHAT!!!! They didn’t evacuate the club?!?!? We could have all died on the top floor. My manager tells me that don’t worry they had the fire under control and the owner didn’t want to bother the guests.
Talk about the show must go on!!
Meeting the best bellydancer in Egypt
In an equally dodgy club as the last story: I had only just started so hadn't met the dancers that perform before and after me. As I finish my set the stage manager takes me to the changing room and introduces me to the dancer that is next on after me. She greats me with a big smile “HELLO” (this whole conversation is in Arabic). Most dancers aren’t so friendly on first introduction. This women is VERY friendly, I'm not used to it.
The stage manager tells her she has 5min before she starts and leaves us. “Hey how are you” she says in the most gleeful happy way “my name is Heba (name change)” …………….“IM THE BEST DANCER IN EGYPT” she announces so confidently and happily and without even a flinch of doubt.
I look up at her....WOW I'M TAKEN BACK! I'm speechless. She's looking at me with the biggest glee on her face
I don’t really know how to respond…. But I don’t have to she continues: “do you want to see my moves” she’s serious, and all of this is done with no arrogance, just a big smile on her face…. “Look I can do this and this and this… look at this move” I am taken back even more! I; silent through all this...its is a very small changing room.= this is all very intense! “Look, Look”. Ok her moves are nice, especially her shimmy, but hey so are most of the dancers that work in these places…
She continuous to dance in front of me with a big grin implying looook aren’t I good. I tell her she’s lovely. She finally gets called to go on stage, (Thank god I’m feeling suddenly claustrophobic). As she goes off the stage she calls to me “ooo ooo make sure you watch me, make sure you watch me! “
I can’t figure out if she genuinely believes she is the best dancer in Egypt; is a little bit, for lack of a better word, simple; or she is just HIGH on something – maybe the fumes from the club….
Only fools and horses
Ok so since working in the cabaret clubs I think people assume I am I must be in the loop with rich gangsters or something. Yes, I work in a couple of clubs that rich people go to throw cash but I don’t know any of them personally and I am defiantly not into dodgy dealings, I’m a good girl, never even bunked a day off school as a kid….
As I result I have been asked the craziest things such as:
I have over a million pounds in Russian money do you know someone who will buy it from us in Egyptian money, we will sell it lower than bank exchange rate. Do you know someone who wants to buy a 10kg emerald!! Do you know people who would be interested in buying authentic ancient Egyptian artifacts --- I’m like WHAT NO GO AWAY I DON'T WANT OT GO TO EGYPTIAN PRISON!!!
I’m a bellydancer not a bloody dodgy dealer, I swear it feels like I’m In an episode of only fools an horses.
Ok so in most venues I am marketed at a foreign dancer, this isn’t by choice. Personally, I would like to be projected as Egyptian however, more than likely due to Egypt’s colonized past and the worlds issues with white imperialism, being a foreign dancer is more sort after. However, with the more recent political climate, England and the UK are not so sort after in the Clubs (they are still considered amazing in hotels and boats). These clubs have mostly local Egyptians and a lot of Syrian customers as well, hence some stage managers think it better I am announced as Either Russian or Ukrainian.
This for the most part has been great because it means most customers don’t try to talk to you, however some of the more regular customers have been going out of their way to learn Russian / Ukrainian so they can say hello and how are you to me BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO RESPOND !! I DON'T KNOW RUSSIAN???? I just smile like a idiot and pretend I haven’t heard properly or that their Russian pronunciation is awful!
On the bus at Eid !
A few months back someone doing research on bellydancers in Cairo interviewed me, I remember one question in particular she asked me. What is your goal? My response: I want a bus with my face on!
Some of the famous bellydancers who work in cabaret travel round from show to show each night with their own band and some of the big ones such as Nany have their own bus, with a picture of them on the side. The bus drives them and their band to each location – HOW COOL IS THAT!
I sometimes see these busses as I enter and exit other clubs! I currently have a driver and car that takes me to each gig, if we have several a night. If I don’t have many gigs I usually just go by uber or taxi.
Anyway, back to real life and I am doing a gig at EID. It is the first day of the 3 day celebrations and the first day is traditionally for family, so there are not that many gigs and the clubs are closed. I however get offered a gig in 6th October City. A city about 1hrs drive from Cairo basically in the surrounding dessert. I accept. As I only have one gig and its EID my manager and l let the driver have a day off and go to the gig by Uber. This is all fine, early on in the evening when booking from busy Cairo.
When we finish the gig an hour later, we go to book an Uber to go home– BUT THERE ARE NONE AVAILABLE the combination of us being out in the dessert it and it being EID means there were no drivers around!! We try and get a taxi but there are none of those either. We walk (me in my heels and a rather short dress - we were in a nice hotel I wanted to look good) to the main motor way, again looking for a cab, but nothing! Then a bus comes past going to Cairo. We have no choice and jump on. It is packed (probably because no other transport) there are no seats left, loads of people standing and there I am in hair extensions, false eyelashes and a short dress……. Those who know Egypt know how much I stood out.
BUT I was doubly lucky though: someone stood up for me to sit down (usually men will stand for women to sit) and the Bus which we had no idea of the route went into Cairo via Giza and dropped us off at the top of my road: the journey was just a quick as in a car !!!!!!!!!!!!
ALL THE SAME THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF BUS I WANTED when saying my goal is to travel from gig to gig in bus lololol
Ok so when I was 16, before becoming a bellydancer, I was stupid and went and got a tattoo!! I thought it would be cool, of course it wasn’t, it turned out hideous, not surprising what decent tattoo artist would tattoo a 16yr old (illegal). But worst of all was it’s positioning on my right hip, it kinda sticks out just a little of all my costumes, which I hate… so a few years ago I decided to get it removed with lasers….. Now it is half gone. You can’t tell it is a tattoo, it now looks like a bruise and is easily hidden with a bit of foundation. The problem is sometimes if it has been a long night of gigs by the last gigs half of the foundation has rubbed off. Most of the time I remember to reapply sometimes not… which usually doesn’t matter as most people don’t notice, however if you are on stage for over 45min, people have been watching you a long time and start to notice small things.
I assume most (I hope) think it is a bruise and say nothing but I have had TWICE a customers imply to me it from the audience, they know what it is; IT’S A LOVE BITE !!!!..... I’m like what??? Noooo who gives love bites on somebody’s stomach/hip??? Or do I just have a really boring naive love life?!? LOLOL Maybe I need to get some stomach sucking action and try it out!