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The history of Bellydance, otherwise known as Raks Sharki or Oriental dance, can be traced back to Pharaonic times although the more modern Cabaret style owes more to American and European influence during the last sixty or seventy years. Egypt is undoubtedly the spiritual "home" of bellydance and no trip to Cairo is complete without seeing a bellydance show and, if you are a dancer, buying a costume. Despite it's sometimes sleazy reputation, bellydance is, if performed properly, a sensual, entertaining, sometimes cheeky (but not sexual), masterful, fascinating, emotional dance form.
Real belly dancing is to be seen only in a couple of places in Cairo and is relatively expensive. All the best dancers dance in the restaurants of the five star hotels. The Hotels also have evening Nile boat trips which offer bellydancing as part of a meal/entertainments package. For example, the Nile Maxim boat is owned by the Marriot Hotel and Casino. There are usually two sailings each evening for these boats. Although touristy, many Egyptians themselves would love to see it if it wasn't a tad expensive (20 euros). For that money though, you get a boat tour on the Nile, a fantastic meal with salad bar, main course, and desserts. Eat your heart out, and enjoy the exciting show packed with belly dancing, traditional Egyptian whirling dervishes, and a bayonet bearing team dancing synchronised, etc.
Take a break and step outside on the rails, enjoy the Nile breeze and see Cairo from a candid perspective of the water, where it suddenly becomes peaceful and serene. The Cairo skyline and waterfront is absolutely picturesque. Watch the small boats pass by blaring Hakim obnoxiously loud.
The interior is exquisitely decorated. Fit for a king, and you will be sad to return back to land and leave the entertainment, the food and most importantly, the Great Nile river.
There are various cruises cruises available, prices cab be at 190 pounds as a minimum charge per person.
If you see a wedding being held at one of the five star hotels, there will probably also be a dancer there. It used to be customary for a dancer to lead the wedding procession wearing a candelabra on her head - literally a procession of light - but nowadays it is more likely to be a cabaret dancer during the reception.
There are many casinos with belly dancers shows mainly located at Al Haram street. It opens from 3 am til 12 p.m next day. There is a row of Night Clubs (also known as just Clubs) that offer musical nights along with belly dancing and all the jazz.. They are very popular with people from Gulf. Cover charge at the entrance is about $50-75 and will include dinner and a drink. Recommended only for Arabic Speaking Singles - not a family experience.
Dress code: No jeans are allowed in the 5 star hotel casinos, neck tie is also required. If you are a woman, now is your chance to finally dress up. The Egyptian girls likes to dress up, so you could do likewise. If you are a man, some would suggest casual smart or formal attire
To see the best of the best artists of the oriental dance, you need to visit the five star hotels. They are pretty pricey - usually a minimum rate of 250-650 Egyptian pounds for the whole deal, which however includes a delicious four-course meal and the entertainment. The star will come sometime between midnight and 3am. Prior reservations are required. The three most famous belly dancers in Egypt are Dina, Fifi, Abdu & Lucy. They only preform at 5 star hotels, either Nile Hilton, Cairo Sheraton, or Ramsis Hilton. Check with these hotels before going because programmes can be changed. Some non-Egyptian belly dancers, mainly from Eastern Europe or Russia, have also earned a big name for themselves.
Dina - Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel on Thursdays and Sundays. The most expensive dancer in Egypt. Expect to pay for her fantastic performance.
Randa Kamel - the Impress Nightclub at the Marriott Hotel on Mondays and Thursdays.
Soraya - nightly at the Cairo Sheraton Hotel. A Brazilian who has come far within the oriental dance scene in Cairo.
Caroline - the Dabkha Restaurant in the Sheraton Heliopolis on Mondays and Wednesdays. An Australian Dancer.
Lucy - the Perisiana Club on Haram Street, owned by herself with her husband. Also a very well known Egyptian dancer and actress.
If you are at all interested in bellydancing, nothing quite beats buying your own costume in Cairo. You will see the ubiquitous sequinned outfits everywhere in Khan el kalili but, if you want something that will last longer than one evening, and you are prepared to pay more for the quality, then there are several ateliers which design their own costumes. A few ateliers are: Aida Nour, 19 Tarek Ben Zyad St, Giza, Tel .386 3899, Madame Hekmet, 5 El Emary St, Bab el Khalk, Tel 390 6209 (around the corner from the Tentmakers' Bazaar), and Madame Amira, Pharaonics of Egypt, 27 Basra Street, Mohandessin, Tel 349 0322. There are also a couple of shops in the Khan el Kalili; Mahmouds, around the corner from the Fishawi Coffeehouse, Mahmouds has several floors of bellydance items ranging from costumes - separates for the beginner to heavily beaded professional dresses and two piece costumes - to veils, finger cymbals, jewellery. candelabra and footwear. Yasser is another shop in the Khan el Kalili with professional costumes; he is located at 2 Sekket, tel 786 5966.
Many of the well-known dancers offer dance classes for individuals or groups; Yasmina; her website is: yasminaofcairo.com. Aida Nour is also a very well-known dancer who has her own atelier (see above) and who offers classes.
The names mentioned for shows, costumes and dance classes are not exclusive or preferred recommendations; hopefully other TA members will update, and add to, the information on this page..