Sunday, June 30, 2013

Avoiding 30/6- and yet not...

Egypt today is a mass of people on the streets waving flags. 

Or so Twitter, News and Facebook inform me.....

I came away outside of Cairo to get away from it all, however today, I have been as glued by the news poolside as I would have been if I had stayed home! There are literally millions of Egyptians protesting today, wanting the president, Morsi, to leave. 

I was asked by a few people if I was going with them to Tahrir today. No. For 3 main reasons...

1- I believe that Egypt is for Egyptians and although us foreigners showing our support is all well and good, anything that may distract from the main cause is a disservice to the 'revolution'. I don't want to be part of the 'foreign hands' that protesters are continuously being accused of having their strings pulled by.. It's their country- they have to fight for how they want it to be. I am just a guest here (even if I am a tax paying guest!!!) they have my full mental and emotional support- just not my body, which leads me onto...

2- I have heard too many personal reports of sexual harassment in crowded areas to want to put myself into those situations. My heart goes out to these victims and also to the protesters they were joining. Because the thing is-  when a woman is raped in Tahrir, especially a foreign woman, the suddenly THAT is the main headline news, and the reason thousands of people are in the streets gets forgotten about or swept to the side. I wouldn't want that for me, my friends, my family, or for the protestors. So I avoid crowded areas. I do want to give a shout out though to Tahrir Bodyguard though and other such voluntary organizations that are there in the streets protecting women to the extent that today the chants from the women in the crowd were as loud as the men at one point! Go ladies go- I am so impressed by your strength and courage. I hope you get what you want! 

3- it's my birthday. I have lived through nearly 8 years of life in Egypt and to be honest- the mental stress of life here has become hard to shoulder since the revolution two and a half years ago. Fireworks go off to celebrate a wedding and I jump- listening closely in case they are gunshots. (They seldom are- but I have become paranoid!). So this weekend I just wanted to run away and switch off from it all. I love my job. I love Egypt. I love the passion I am seeing in the streets of Egypt today, but the worry and stress of what will happen as a result exhausts me. 

So I ran away- (hanging head in shame) ... But yes- I have spent ALL day following the local news... Concerned over the fate of my friends protesting today and the future of the country. So I managed 1 and 2 and failed on 3! 

Ah well- at least my family and friends outside of Egypt especially know they don't have to worry about me for a change. 

Tomorrow I am due to be performing on the Pharaoh boat. It will depend what happens through this evening and tonight whether anyone will be going out for Nile cruise dinners tomorrow evening. No one knows what will happen between now and then. 

If you want to keep informed of what's going on in Egypt the best news sources in my opinion are Facebook page 'Egyptian Streets' and new news website . Or follow me on twitter (bellylorna) and see some of the things I RT there! 

Good luck Egypt. I really wish you well... For all our sakes.... 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Cairo Update

I still haven't finished all my cruise updates (I will save them for when I have a little more time to upload more pretty pictures!).

Cairo life took over!

Its been a very hectic dancing week with private classes, LOTS of work at the boat and private parties too. Not to mention crashing a few social events along the way (including the Queens Ball and many of Ellie's nights at Outdoors!)

I have felt in work (at the Pharoahs boat, Cairo) this last week, that people are partying as hard as they can in this run up to 30/6. Lots of Chinese, Malaysian and Arab tourists, as well as Egyptians. We have had really busy nights and I did 15 shows in 5 days. Which pre revolution would have been the norm, but for the last 2 and half years has been but a fond memory. My body is reminding me that I should have kept training during those 'down times', so I am actually glad not to have any more work scheduled until the 1st July!

For those that don't know, 30th June is the date which has been called for Egypt's 2nd revolution. They want to get rid of Morsi, or at least bring forward the date for new elections.

Currently, there is a petrol shortage and between that and the panic buying before the big day, the traffic is even more hell that it usually is with massive queues (up to 8 hours waiting in line!) at the petrol stations. The panic is also partly caused by the announcement that Egypt's Oil supply will expire at the end of June! It means of course that people are standing in petrol queues cursing the government  (and in particular the president) that they see it to blame for said shortages and they will probably be more likely than ever to come out and protest on Sunday!

No one knows what is going to happen. It could be a one day protest and then fizzle out. It could be violent. It could be productive. It could bring about a military coup as some people are hoping for, we really don't know. Everyone you speak to has a different idea. Our 'president' is giving a talk on TV today so things may be a little more obvious then, or not...... He doesn't really have a good track record when it comes to talking to 'his' people on these occasions.

I wish the protesters well. I hope it is peaceful and productive.

I however plan to go away from it all for a few nights and spend my birthday (29th) in a nice hotel and sunbathe. So people- If Cairo comes onto international news, which I suspect it will, and you are worrying about me- well, Don't, because I will, Inshallah, be lying by a pool until the 1st anyway!

And- assuming I can change my flight tickets, which is today's task- I hope to be back in the UK on the 6th July anyway.

In UK I will be doing LOTS of dancing too- all over the country. Kent, Cambridge, Oxford, Derby, Hartlepool and Pencoed! (I will be available a lot of the month for private classes in London too - if anyone is interested?!!!). Sorry, no Scottish dates on this tour for a change, but I will be in North England later this year too since I am teaching at JoY festival in October and in Newcastle the weekend before that and suspect I might be seeing a lot of the Scottish dance contingent there then!!!

Now- off to Egypt Air to try to change those flights....Assuming the queue to fly out of Egypt isn't as long at the queues for petrol!!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting Engaged on the Golden Pharaoh boat, Cairo

Often at the Pharaoh's we have people coming in to celebrate their weddings and engagements. One couple the lovely Loura and Hany, recently became engaged there and had a lovely photographer with them, Fady Nada. They have shared these photos with me that he took at their event- I thought you'd like to see them too! I wish more people would share their images and videos- almost all couples who celebrate at the boat have a professional photographer with them. I need to get better at taking the photographers card so I can get copies!

His facebook page is   and I would recommend him- he was fun and professional.

Bellydance in Cairo

Just in case you were wondering where in the world I was right now with all these blog entires from my Cruise earlier this month... I thought I would interrupt the flow of them to mention that YES I am still in Cairo and Yes you can come and see me dance here!

I will be performing on the Nile Pharaoh boat, Giza, Cairo.  21st-25th June.

I teach private classes from home (Zamalek) daytimes- contact me on if interested


I will be teaching this one off 2 hour complete beginners workshop in Heliopolis this coming saturday , 22nd June. So if you are in Cairo and have ever fancied giving bellydance a go- why not join me?!

The ‘package’ tour of Athens. Cruise part 9

 When a cruise ship gets into a port you have the choice of staying on the ship, doing your own tour around the city or taking part in one of the organised excursions. Everything I had done so far was independent and I was interested in hearing about the history of Athens and having a proper tour guide talk me through it all. One of the benefits of the job meant that, as long as there were spaces, crew can go on the organised tours for free. All we had to do was complete a questionnaire about the tour and help the tour guide if there were any problems.

Fine by me. Thing is, I have been a teacher for too long. I think I took my job a little too seriously and spent the day or a lot of it anyway, acting a little like a sheep dog. Worried sick that any of the guests would get lost on my shift! Mind you, it was a good excuse to go up to people and start conversations! Despite that, I did enjoy hearing all the stories about these naughty ancient Greek gods who slept around and killed their relatives and generally acted in a most ungodlike manner!

I loved humour the guide put into her talk when discussing the politics of the country too. It reminded me of the very many conversations I have had with people about Egyptian politics. It is amazing when a country is stable how unimportant and irrelevant politics seem, but as soon as a country suffers problems, as Egypt has in recent years and as Greece are facing now, suddenly you want to talk about it with everyone. You want them to understand that things are not as they should be!

What a beautiful view from the Parthenon. I felt you could spend a week exploring all Athens has to offer and I only managed to see a fraction of it.

 (I have to admit to feeling jealous of all the tourists for the sake of Egypt! We could do with some of these people!!!)

 On the way back to the bus I managed to get myself lost in a stunning peaceful olive grove. Again the nature was what I needed. I felt 'home'. It was beautiful.

 In fact, Athens is going to stay in my mind as a place of nature and lovely people so much more than a place of old temples. Which is not a bad thing I think.

I even saw a greek 'hantour', waiting patiently at the entrance to the Parthenon. It also made me think of home. Cairo.

After the tour returned to the ship I still had a couple of hours before we all had to be all aboard so I went for a wee walk around Piraeus. I managed to find myself some new cheap but comfy shoes and a 1Euro shop to buy some fun cheap earrings in.
Also some local wine and of course I had to buy some ‘Liqueur and weed’!!!!! (which turned out to be 'Greek Delight' - which tasted a little of cinnamon and not much else!)

I would also like to do a thank you to iPhone maps. without you on that day I doubt very much if I would have got myself back to the ship in time!

Back on ship I had to get myself ready to perform my 3rd show of the trip. This time I made triple sure that the ipod wasn’t set to shuffle. Unfortunately, the sound technician on that day was new and managed to start my music half way through the 1st song. There is nothing which unsettles you in a performance as much as having the start messed up is there? The audience did seem to enjoy the show I had them up dancing with me too. However, I can honestly say, I didn’t recover my confidence at all and really didn’t enjoy it. Dance makes me happy. It gives me a high performing for people. When you expect that high and then for whatever reason it doesn’t happen the low that follows is horrific. The rest of that evening was trying to get over my low.

Diana in the piano lounge helped somewhat- a beautiful singer and pianist who had such fabulous people skills that you felt you had walked into her living room and you were a dear trusted friend she hadn’t seen for ages and she just had to sing a song for you. I don’t know how she managed to sing for at least 4-5 hours every single night of the week. But she did and she was very good at it. Music can soothe most troubles away, can’t it?

The unexpected tour guide in Athens -Cruise part8

For all my cursing facebook for being so addictive and stealing my hours... there are sometimes when it really does prove its worth. Our first day in Athens was just such an occasion!

I had decided that since I had enjoyed just wandering about in Crete that when we arrived in Athens I would do the same there. However, we docked at Piraeus. Which is a half hour drive from Athens so I took my first ever hop on hop off bus. I enjoyed the experience (if not the cost!). 

It was great to pass by the orange trees laiden with fruit... 

My first stop, the Parthenon? No.

The temple of Zeus? No.

The botanical gardens? Yes! 

 (I cannot describe to you the scent of the lilac trees while walking down this street in the gardens... I really felt drunk from it!)

Not your typical tourist sight perhaps but you have to remember I live in Cairo and I love plants! I don’t get enough green in my life and wandering around these gardens was like inhaling valium! I mean- just look at this cheesy grin!

 I took lots of photos... and facebooked a couple... and while there I found a reply to the shout out I had placed the day before to see if I knew any bellydancers in Athens!

Georgina studied in Edinburgh. While there she was interested in Salsa and in Bellydance. She never made it to my classes there, because I had already moved to Egypt by the time she went there, however thanks to facebook being all it is, she and I share many common friends and when I asked if there was anyone who wanted to meet up in Athens she replied and came to meet me Outside the parliament building. 

There was a small protest there which of course made me think of Egypt. However it was so small and contained and calm that it really wasn’t anything like protests I have witnessed in Cairo!

Georgina and her friend wandered around downtown Athens with me.

 It was lovely to chat with locals and see the place through their eyes and hear their stories.

 In the Plaka, the main town centre, there were some boys doing streetdance.

 I wish I had videoed it. They were dancing to Greek hip hop. What a fun sound! It was also ironic because I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before and had sat up watching street dance 2 on the TV in my cabin! Sometimes I really do feel like my life is scripted.

 (I was amazed at how much graffiti there was everywhere we went around Greece.... and a lot of it, like in Egypt, political too)
(another poor man destined to be forever more a pigeon perch)

We went for some food and I tasted my first gyros. (Which I imagined to be what I had handed out all those years ago when I worked in the benefit agency in UK!) This was a much tastier version! Basically a shawerma, wrapped in a cone of pita bread. We had sakanaki too.

 A fried cheese which is salty and very tasty. More Greek yogurt to finish. This time with candied quince as a topping, which is seemingly the local delicacy!

It was also very interesting to discuss the similarities between our three cultures. Scotland (since she had studied there for 3 years), Greece and Egypt. Some simalarities were so strong it made us both question which culture greek or arabic, had started the trends....... 

( Backgammon - Arabic or Greek? )

(far right.... does look a LOT like an OUD doesnt it?!!!) 

(a 'toot' tree in Athens. Mulberry. Seemingly silk worms in Egypt are given Toot leaves to munch on to produce the silk- something I found out much later but I love it as a fact so had to throw it in!) 

I enjoyed my day so much and felt really blessed to have met such a lovely person and taken around her beautiful city.

Thank you so much Georgina and friends!

 I love that dance has brought me into contact with so many phenomenal women (and men) from all around the world. I miss my days of having my own ‘Hotel BellyLorna’ where I would welcome people to Cairo, however, being able to go to new places and meet new people there too is a gift too! I Love that dance and music transcends language and culture and country. I am so very thankful that I have dance in my life. That it is my life. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tourism and Teacher -Cruise part 7

Waking up in a completely different place than the one you went to sleep in is a wonderfully addictive feeling. To wake up not only thinking, what will i do today, but also where are we...? It’s fun!
‘Today’ we were in Iraklion, Crete.

And today was my first day as a proper solo tourist. It was good to get out and take lots of photos. it is have a look at Lorna's holiday snaps time........... 

(I especially like this shot with the fort and harbour in the foreground and the MS Noordam in the distance!) 

Strange to walk into a church and see locals walk in with their short sleeve on and kiss and the icons, light a candle and leave. 

(Sorry this one is fuzzy, but I was trying to take the photo without people realising I was shooting them mid prayer!)

Me playing with my Zoom... Jesus ( I presume it is he) not looking too happy up in the centre of the high ceiling!

Amazingly beautiful detailed ceilings. They reminded me of the coptic churches I have been in in Cairo.

So very different from the experiences when I have been a tourist, visting ancient mosques!
Can anyone explain to me what the point of the metal discs with body parts on them that were hanging from some of the icons in the cathedral?

Of course I had to try the local temptations... This is an orgasm in a tub... (not their name for it- but definitely mine!)

And after taking this opportunistic shot... which I am rather proud of...

of course I also got caught by charlie chaplin himself for a photo... as one does. Not exactly sure what the link is between Mr bendy legs himself and Crete. But it was entertaining! Especially when he tried to get 10Euros out of me for having a photo with him! I did actually laugh out loud in his face.

I felt a little sorry for this next chap. Imagine being so important in the history of your country that they made a huge statue of your face, so that pigeons can deface it for centuries. So kind...

Really enjoyed my day. More than I thought I would. I am not good at being on my own, but actually, there were moments that I actually enjoyed it, just sitting taking in the peace and beauty, and greenery!

What was funny though was being a complete tourist in a new place, wandering on your own and hearing (about 5 times that day) ‘Look.... its the bellydancer....’ and ‘hi teacher!’. Everywhere of course was full of guests from our ship. I felt like a celeb!

Then, at night, I went to the show ‘dancing with the stars’ where guests were actually competing in ballroom dance on the huge stage. That was fun... and I got chatting with some of the guests afterwards, in the dining room, one of whom actually said that he had been so impressed by my show that that is what had encouraged him to dance with way he did. He said that I looked so happy on stage that he knew that as long as he kept smiling he too could make people enjoy his show too. How sweet is that?!!! It was nice to feel appreciated, and useful! 

so... I admit it. I do like this cruising thing......well... it has it's moments anyway!