Friday, August 29, 2008

Workshop in Perth and Kinross

another full day of workshops while I am home in Scotland, including a 2hour complete beginners class. so even if you dont live in the area- why not make a day of it and come to one of the most beautiful areas in Scotland and learn to shake your stuff!!!!!

Sat 20th Sept- Birnam Workshops.

Complete Beginners 10-12am -only £15 for 2 hours!

Improvers-Advanced 1-4pm -only £20 for 3 hours!!!

A lovely new town, and venue for me to teach in and very good prices- so take advantage of this offer while there are spaces if you can! (I'll be driving up from Edinburgh for the whole day- so if you want to come and catch a lift up there with me then you'd be more than welcome- I have 3 spaces in the car!)

Venue;Birnam Arts Institute, Station Road, Birnam, Perth and Kinross PH8 0DS

To book send a cheque made payable to 'Perth and Kinross Council'- for more info contact Karole on 01738 477 834.

No workshops planned for Edinburgh or Glasgow- so if you live in these areas and hope to learn from me this time round it'll mean travel- sorry for that... but hope you make it to either Birnam or Dundee! Both lovely venues!!!

Workshops planned for Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness among others, in March 2009!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I had a very interesting conversation with the woman who does my hair removal yesterday.

hair removal= 'sweet' or 'Helowa', ie lumps of toffee which get rubbed onto legs then ripped off with hair attached.

anyway- she was telling me that her grandmother swore by one remedy to ensure a girl wasn't hairy.
When a baby girl was born- you should kill a crow, cut its throat, and rub its blood onto the baby girls legs and arms.................seemingly, if you do this she will grow up completely hair free! ( obviously you take care not to spill any of the blood on her head!!!)

another interesting thing she did was when i was just about to go out the door in a new costume, she put her hand, spread out on the door post. The 'hamsa' the '5' to protect from jealousy, and the touching wood being important too! she was also telling me that sometimes you touch a wooden table on the top and then on the bottom too- so you have touched wood from both side so protecting yourself from all angles!!!! Guess thats where our expression 'touch wood' comes from too!

she also said I should give money to poor people just before ramadan- because then their prayers to God would work to help me and my family too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I explained that if I was to give money to poor, its because I wanted to- not becuase I wanted added bonus from their prayers.

Another one was that, in the country, where you make your own bread rather than buy it- you must offer the seive you have used to sift the flour with to your guests, otherwise when they leave the house then money and jewellary and everything in the house might leave too.......... assuming I understaood that one right anyway ( not sure what arabic for seive is!!!)

more to come on this vein......................... very interesting!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bellydance costumes

GREAT news for lovers of Bellydance costumes....

the wonderful Amira el Kattan ( aka Pharonics costumes) now is accessible direct and online!

Their website is blocked access from Egypt ( to stop other designers copying their stunning designs) but for everyone elsewhere you should be able to see what they have got and place your orders ( and no I dont get commission!!! ;-) ) !

I haven't seen the website yet (obviously since I am here in Egypt) so looking forward to having a look next week when I am in Scotland!

go have a look and see what you think........ and let me know!

( I just bought 2 new costumes from her today which I am going to trial run tonight.... planning to bring them to UK to perform in there, so hopefully you'll get a chance to see them soon!!!!)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kindness, Fire again and capturing your audience!

It's ok.... I am NOT going to pack it all in!

I was really down after the theft of my Gold Bangle... but the response I have had to that posting has totally reconfirmed my faith in human nature. So So So many people have emailed me, mostly people I dont even know, to sympathise and try to cheer me up. You really have been wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to show that people are essentially good and do care, and that the person at work who took the gold from me, is an exception rather than the rule!!! Bless you all!

The Fire also got a lot of comments too.... addition to that info was that seemingly there were flammable liquids inside the building ( whether intentional or accidental no-one seems to know) and also that despite being a government building- the building itself had no insurance! It also is a worrying state of affairs that fire officers had to be called in from outside of Cairo , from as far afeild as Alexandria, to help put it out! and that was a public building, on a wide main street........ heaven helps the inhabitants of Shubra, or Hussain ( poor areas with narrow lanes at times rather than streets!) should an incident ever happen there...........

Oh- and heres a tip for dealing with less than appreciatives audiences.......... here's what I have discovered from over and year and a half dancing on a boat on the Nile.... no matter how strict a muslim from saudi for example, or how jealous a woman from wherever.... Everyone responds well if you focus on the woman and children, rather than the men. OK, so its not rocket science... but when I turn around and see in the eyes of women dressed head to toe in black ( where its only the eyes that can be seen!) It's amazing... I look straight at them, I joke with their kids, I practically ignore their man, and suddenly the atmosphere is relaxed and fun........ for anyone finding they have a tough audience- I recommend it!!!

It can help resolve problems before they start too- one dancer this week on the boat ( not me) watched amazed, as a wife ( in Niqab- the full black outfit) turned round from her meal to discover her husband smiling and clapping and watching the dancer- so filled with rage, she slapped him full in the face right there at the table!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Political awareness- in 3 books...

I have never been a politically minded person... never enjoyed watching the news or reading the paper. There- its out, I have admitted it.

Living here has changed me in that respect slightly, not hugely, but a definate change. I think the thing is that to me, at home in UK politics are all much of a muchness.... it doesn't seem to make much real difference to the people on the street who is in government, they all have good stuff and bad stuff and vary just slightly on policy. ( i know a lot of people, and some good friends, will argue these points- but thats how I , as an ignorant to politics sees it- sorry!)

Here it is VERY difference. People are hugely interested in politics- not just of their own country but of the whole Middle East. Every slight change seems to affect peoples lives hugely on a personal level. I became aware of my own ignorance.

In particular my ignorance of 2 major 'civil' wars. Lebanon and Israel/Palestine. The problems have been going on in these countries longer than I have been alive and it seemed naive of me to pretend they weren't happening anymore... so I trotted down to Diwan- my favourite bookshop in Cairo and decided to see what I could learn.

'The Lemon Tree' by Sandy Tolan is a FABULOUS book which discusses the Arab v's Jewish issues from a personal, religious and political viewpoint. One minute it is telling the story through the eyes of a Jewish family forced to flee Europe due to persecution there, and you really feel for their dilema. Next you are inside a Palestinian family home and hearing how they are forced out their homes and unable to return. It shows the whole complexity of trying to find a solution for everyone.... and when you are reading each viewpoint you totally see it from their side and then next chapter you change perspective. Very well written. Lots of facts and figures and dates which kinda blinded me ( being relatively new to all this) a bit... but i recommend it to anyone interested in learning more. It also led onto very interesting conversations with people I work beside when they asked me what my book was about. My dresser kept asking- so , what is happening now... has such and such happened yet... etc etc so I got to hear a lot of the story from an egyptian perspective too.

'Midnight Tales' by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi is a very good read for anyone who enjoys reading blogs and is interested in arab culture and tradtions. It also tells the background to the war in Lebanon from the side of someone growing up there but not from there. The author is a dancer, which is why I picked up the book, and part of it is set in Egypt. But interestingly enough there is really no mention of dance- just huge chunks of social and cultural insights, easily packaged and very easy to read, which can only add to my overall cultural awareness and thus improve my undertanding of music and dance which comes from this culture! I say its good for anyone who reads blogs because I felt it could have been a blog. Each chapter was like a separate 'blog entry' although of course the book calls them 'essays'. I have read books by her before and I like the simple style in which they are written. I recommend it.

I am currently reading another book which is stories from Egyptian Taxi drivers...........'Taxi' by Khaled Al Khamissi. I STRONGLY recommend this one , even though I have only just started reading it this morning. It is very interesting for anyone who has had (or intends on having!) any experience within these crazy black and white rollercoaster carts. Very illuminating and was seemingly very popular when it was 1st released in arabic here in Cairo. Stories which help you understand why taxi drivers are the way they are!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fire and Frustration.... or Blaze and Betrayal...!

Yesterday there was a HUGE fire downtown in one of the main parliment buildings ( and it wasn't even guy fawkes night). Seemingly a short circuit had set off the blaze in the 19th century palace. I was in my changing room at work and heard a noise that made me feel like I was in a war zone. I ran outside, following everyone else, to watch the huge army helicopers swoop down onto the Nile, right beside my work, rocking our boat with the waves caused by the helicopers, while they filled huge containers with Nile water with which to try to put out the blaze which lasted over 5 hours. I had to laugh reading this article
(which may well be true as well) but they say helicopers dumped 'fire resistant chemicals' on the fire- so now we know why you should never swim in or drink the Nile water!!!! The whole thing was quite something to hear and see. Thank God no-one as injured in it.

Then something else disasterous on a personal level happened.

My gold bangle was stolen from work. It seemingly feel off during one song on stage and one person swears he saw another pick it up and pocket it and of course that person denys everything. I am gutted.

Firstly it was a very precious thing to me... an unreplaceable and expensive gift, and mainly I spent the entire night in tears becase I feel totally hurt, powerless and controlled. People I work beside on a daily basis can steal from me, lie to me and still I have to work with them???? HOW??? I spent all last night in tears... just can't get over how someone can do that to someone they work with. Of course i complained to the managers and asked for security to search everyone- but they wouldn't.... at home I would have just called the poilce- here that would just be inviting even more trouble ( and backsheesh). Everyone says here that its just a thing... don't be upset.... but thats not the point... its the betrayal of trust. When you believe you are part of a team all working towards one thing ( in this case- providing artistic entertainment show after show) and then you suddenly realise that no matter what anyone else says you are totally alone. It makes me want to pack up and go home.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

LORNA's UK TOUR- workshops, performances and private classes in UK in Sept 2008.

so I will be home in UK for Ramadan............... ie the whole of September this year.... if you fancy tracking me down somewhere I am across the country a bit. (have more dates to follow but those details not yet confirmed!)

4th- 26th Sept - Edinburgh private classes.
Contact me on to arrange date, time and place

As yet- no performance dates in Scotland… but happy to change that if people want to book me up?????

Sept Sat 6th and Sun 7th- Leeds Private classes.

Sat 6th Sept- Leeds performance- with a question/answer session too and live drumming! Time; 6pm Venue; Spice quarter, Leeds. Cost: £12 ( £10 for Banat members)

Leeds contact for booking…..Sabrina at


Sat 20th Sept- BirnamWorkshops.
Birnam Arts Institute, Station Road, Birnam, Perth and Kinross PH8 0DS

Complete Beginners 10-12am -only £15 for 2 hours!

Improvers-Advanced 1-4pm -only £20 for 3 hours!!!

To book send a cheque made payable to 'Perth and Kinross Council'- for more info contact Karole on 01738 477 834.

Sun 21st Sept- Dundee Workshop
. Open level. 12-2pm.Cost; £18 Venue: DISC, Mains road, Dundee.

Dundee contact for booking… Nova at

Sat 27th Sept- Birmingham Workshops
. Beginners 12-2pm. Advanced 2.30-4.30pm. Cost: £20 ( or £35 for both!). Venue: fitness first, Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

Birmingham and Coventry contacts for booking………
Lisa on or Sugrah on

Sun 28th Sept- Coventry workshop
. 1-3pm Open level. Cost: £20. Venue: Sports Connexion, Ryton.

Birmingham and Coventry contacts for booking………
Lisa on or Sugrah on

keep an eye on the blog for more UK dates in Sept!!!! (and if you are hoping to host me then get in touch for available dates asap!!!!!)

see you there soon...................

Thursday, August 07, 2008

street gatherings

People meet in the streets in Cairo for a variety of reasons............

to drink tea and smoke sheesha in street cafes.....

to sit in organised rows watching a small TV screen showing football ( often Zamalek versus Ahly- the 2 Cairo teams) ......

to climb up the Lions at either end of the Cobri ( bridge) Kasr el Nil to have their photo taken with these huge statues.........

and of course........ to watch the sunset!

Thanks to my friend Jitka for all these wonderful pics!!!!!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


When my friend Vanessa was here from US for a few days she told me she'd really like to see the bent pyramid. To be honest- after so many holidays here and taking guests to them- the thought of more pyramids didn't really entice me much- but she was on her own- so I said why not.

Really glad we went. We hired a yellow cab for the day ( VERY good idea to have an air conditioned car with you if you plan to do this trip in the height of summer!!!!) The Dahshur sight is past Saqqara so a bit of a trek, therefore not many people make it out that far- which was a great thing for us since we were 1st there and had the place completely to ourselves!

According to the guide book you are not supposed to be able to go right up to the bent pyramid since it is inside military ground- but we drove right up to it in our yellow cab
and the policemen there were very friendly and helpful (for tips of course) and even encouraged us to climb the remains of Snorfru's wife's pyramid! Snorfru ( father of Cheops who built the largest of the 3 main pyramids at Giza) built the bent pyramid but started the base at too steep an angle- so it had to be completed at a different angle so it wouldn't collapse. It is stunning to see because, unlike all the other pyramids, even those at Giza, this one still has its casing of limestone- so the outside is smooth and white. Beautiful. It's surrounded by desert too- not by touts and pizza hut!!!

The Red pyramid (built with red limestone also by Snorfru) is in perfect condition- and we climbed inside it- despite there being no electricity so the whole thing was in complete darkness. We borrowed torches and climbed down- WOW- that’s a LOOOOOONG flight of stairs to be bent in two for while you attack those steps. The smell of ammonia (I believe from bats pee????) is very strong and the darkness, smell and distance made it a battle over fear just to get down the whole way. There are 3 chambers inside- but I have to admit- Vanessa and I had had enough with the 1st one and went back up those dreaded stairs again instead of going all the way! NOT to be tackled by those with asthma or claustrophobia!!! I felt I had both when I was inside! Still glad I did it though… even despite having to go to the chemist for strong muscle relaxants in order to be able to move at work for the next 2 nights!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I thought I was fit!!! Ha ha.
A wonderful experience and I will definatly advise it to future visitors…. The round trip in the yellow cab cost 140le, but lasted about 4 hours ad the air con was ESSENTIAL !!! so was 2 large bottles of water!!!!!!!

The camel wasn't quite sure to make of the Yellow camel!!!!.............


I had a Friday day trip to Alex last week. We hired a minibus (cost 500le for the day) and 4 of us hit the road. I have been there a couple of times before- but never really done the sights…. So the plan for the day was the citadel and the library.

The Citadel, aka Fort Qaitbey, is a fort or castle like building on the edge of the harbour.

It was built in 1480 upon the remains of the foundations of the old Alexandria lighthouse- the Pharos. The Pharos was a lighthouse with a statue of the god Poseidon at the top and it used to be one of the seven ancient wonders of the world until 1303 when the whole structure was destroyed by an earthquake.

It was lovely walking round the fort, which inside has many corridors which reminded me of a monastery- beautiful lighting and arches, and the fresh sea breeze coming in through the small turret windows. I think you can only fully appreciate the air when you live in noisy, polluted Cairo! It was a joy to fill my lungs with oxygen! It was lovely looking out to sea and over the Harbour to Alex....

For years people have been saying to me- have you seen the library in Alexandria and I would say no- why go to a library??? Well, then I went! An amazing building, opened in 2002- housing 800 million books and set up with lots of desks with computers for reading, and exhibitions of paintings etc etc . it was well worth the visit! The architecture has been much praised- There are inscriptions of all different scripts on the walls and a lovely layout and 'pond' in front! The new library was built to replace the ancient library which was destroyed partly by Julius Caesar and completely destroyed by 'Christian mobs' in year 391. The knowledge and secrets that were held in the 700 000 scrolls that were lost will never now be known! The world, and its religions, science, everything in fact- could be very different today if that knowledge had survived. You can read more about it all on their website

It was a wonderful day- we ate candy floss on the prom- sold from a boy with lots of it in plastic bags on a big stick!drank in coffee shops which have been there since I don’t know when- with old men in there who look like they have been there since the place was built. We drank wine in a restaurant just off the street (you'd never get alcohol served in a place like that in Cairo!). We wandered the shops- we went into one shoe shop- …….
The conversation went like this-
Me; in Arabic- can we try these shoes in size …,
shop assistant; realises I am not Egyptian and speaks to me in French
I say; sorry- only speak English and Arabic not French
shop assistant; asks why I don't you speak French?

It was a very strange conversation I felt, in Egypt, and showed just how European Alex actually is!!!!

The thing about Alex for me, is not the sights, and lovely as they are, or the fish restaurants- which I am told are the best anywhere, or the beach- which is full of people fully clothed ( a very strange sight when you are not used to it- women- fully clothed , in the sea!).

The thing which makes Alexandria so wonderful in the summer is the atmosphere. The people are all so relaxed and there is an incredible sense of happiness everywhere. Many pop singers choose to make their videos there, especially the ballads, and lots of the older Egyptian films have love scenes set against the crashing waves. You can see why, it really is a very romantic place.

With its intellectual history and its melting pot of cultures and languages and peoples it really has a completely different feel from Cairo. I think next time I'll have to stay over and get the full effect! Slept the entire journey home- must have been all that fresh sea air!!!