Festival Fever! Ahlan wa Sahlan Festival June, 2014

By Aleya of Cairo

July 3, 2014

Ahhhh!! The craziness is finally over.  :)  If you have never been to a belly dance festival in Cairo, it is a great experience and one I highly recommend.  Days and days of dancing, parties, live music  and classes, and girls from all over the world sharing in your love of the dance.  Ahlan wa Sahlan festival ended on June 27, 2014.

This year Raqia called me and asked me to work at the festival helping to organize the dance parties, and the judging of the competition.  There were 3 of us (Nata Fari and Leyla Lanty)  and the first day was so light I thought it was going to be a breeze with only about 30 people performing.  Well the next days were not like that at all.  On the biggest day I think we had at least 80 performers.  I had my assistant come and take clips of each of the dancers that we saw (didn’t take clips of all the dancers but I got lots) and I have made about 6 videos of the performances.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the opening gala as I wasn’t allowed, but I basically got dancers for most nights.  So stay tuned for those on my youtube page www.youtube.com/aleyabellydance2

I was working every night from 8pm till about 2-3am.  And since I go to bed about 4-5am and wake up about 12pm it was hard even to get to any classes because in traffic I would not be able to get to the Mena house and get back in time to work. I was sad about that, as I really wanted to take at least 2 classes but oh well. ;) Next time.  My class was nice.  I taught drum solo.  The girls really enjoyed it and we had a great time.  I taught at 10am.  That was difficult! lool Means I have to be up at 7am to get there in time.

The teachers usually perform the day before their class and since I was teaching on the last day (thankfully otherwise work would have been difficult at night) I took off the night before to perform and teach and Alla Vats stepped in for me to do my job. Thank you Alla!! It was so funny, because I knew I was going to go to stage about 1130pm or 12 am.  So I came to the Mena house and did my make up and hair there while the girls who performed to CD were on stage. I looked at the schedule and there were about 30 dancers before it was time for me to come to stage, so I went to do my hair and make up and when I finally finished and walked over to check how much time I had before I had to go to stage, Nata says to me “Aleya!! you are on next!!  Are you ready?!!” omg I was horrified! lool I even had to do an adjustment to my costume because I had never worn it before.  arrrghhh!!

So I quickly jogged through the festival to go get my stuff, get to the bathroom (nerves) jogged back to the stage area and changed into my costume.  haha ! why am I always running?  Why can’t I have peace before I perform? I was also dancing to a new song that is popular but I had not heard the band play it yet (Hakim’s Halawet Rooh).  It’s a shabby song with some baladi bits in it, and of course all improv because I did not know how the band would play it.  It all was fine though. I had a good time on stage and it was fun.  I still don’t know if I will ever get used to big stage.   Put me in a party or on a boat, or at a hotel and I’m fine, but when you are being looked at by dancers and you don’t have the connection of an Egyptian audience (who will always love you if you engage them and know how to dance Egyptian style) then its a bit unnerving even after all of these years and festivals and competitions I have done. :) I know many, many dancers who are famous and feel the same (probably not the Egyptians because they usually work with their own band and are so comfortable doing that as they do it nightly).  But anyways, it was fine, I posted my video on youtube and I’m not horrified by it.  hehe

The closing party just had dancers from the festival and one great dancer at the end whose name is Darene. She is Egyptian and she did saidi but men’s style saidi throwing her cane and doing all the tricks they do, and for her finale she danced on glasses to a drum solo. After the glasses she danced on the drum. She was incredibly acrobatic and a real show person.  The stuff she did with the drum was amazing.  At one point she went into a back bend, held onto the drum and with the tak of the drummer as she was almost on the floor she was looking to the right and the left of the drum. It was incredible and I have never seen anyone do that.  Super talented and such a show person. Unfortunately my camera battery was running out at that point but I did get some clips of her and it will be on the closing gala video of youtube.

After Ahlan wa Sahlan Ramadan has started on June 29th. I’m still busy because this is a time to socialize and have dinner every night to break the fast but I feel like I can breathe.  hehe I went to Starbucks yesterday at about 12:30pm and it was a ghost town.  Only one person was there drinking coffee when I arrived and 3 other guys sitting and having a meeting with no coffee or food and one man came after me and sat on the porch outside and had his coffee and juice. During Ramadan it seems like 98% of Cairo is Muslim probably because others also try to be discreet about drinking and smoking in public as solidarity to the Muslims.  It is a nice time to be in Cairo though.  I have plans to go to a few concerts with my friends and I’m thankful for the time to be able to socialize and enjoy life and food and family.

Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim friends!

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