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Egypt Diary: Arrival in Egypt (June 2014)

I write this blog in Cairo; I have been in Egypt 16 days now. Yesterday was the first day that I stayed in and rested, organized my Luxor and Cairo videos and photos, and backed up most of them in an external hard drive (yes, I have finally learned that lesson). It seemed for 14 days I was constantly busy from morning until well into the night. There has also been a heatwave, which means it is not easy to think in an organized way, BUT I have loved every minute of these 16 days!!

Day 1 Cairo

When I arrived in Cairo I was surprised at how few people were at the airport, normally it is a bustling place and one has to wait in one of three long lines to have her passport stamped. This day there was only one line, with only one couple in front of me. On the street it was a different matter, very busy and very noisy – an adrenaline rush with the shaabi mahrajan music playing from the many cars nearly touching in traffic. As normal, we drove by Salah Salem street and I got to gaze with nostalgia at the Meridien-Heliopolis, which was both my dance home and physical home for nearly 6 years. We continued on through the busy downtown streets that I love so much.

Hours later, nearing twilight I was startled by loud bangs of noise from the direction of Tahrir Square! At first my heart sank. I was relieved to see that the loud bangs and explosions of noise were big fireworks whose colors filled the sky to celebrate the election of the new president Sisi.

I was here in Cairo one year ago, leaving days before the June 2013 signature petitions and protests that ousted Morsi. People were both excited and nervous. It was the first time I had heard my friends saying it would be best for me to leave Egypt, before protests started and before transportation stopped.

I was here again in December with a JtE-3 & 4 group, and although we were safe, it was often not easy to do dance research because politics were foremost in people’s minds. This time my visit was wonderful, the whole Nile valley was having a celebration, and to my happiness, they were celebrating with music and dance!

Day 3

By Day 3 I had rested, recovered a bit from a head cold from my European teaching tour, repacked for Luxor, organized all the great technical accessories from Kickstarter (thank you), and went to Khan al-Khalili to say hi to friends and test out the technology. I first stopped by Khaled Mansour’s store. Anyone who has been on JtE-3 study/tour knows Khaled, he leads the “Baladi Walk” and is our point of reference in the Khan. He and his assistant Wael helped with the microphones, and then we spontaneously continued into do a short impromptu interview.

Day 4

Spent the day in the Victoria Hotel before I flew out, I can’t even count how many dancers have stayed there. When I lived in Egypt, many of the foreign dancers visiting Cairo would stay there. A decade later, when I would attend “Ahlan wa Sahlan” where, if the foreign dancers were not staying at the Mena House, you probably would find them at the Victoria Hotel.

I met with Mohamed (“Mohamed Dance” on Facebook) and reminisced about the vital Cairo dance scene of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Foreign dancers stayed in the Victoria Hotel, it was the local meeting place for us, they held dance classes in the dining room, and their tours centered in the hotel.

In the evening the drive to the airport went through the crowded downtown streets – they were insane! They are always busy with shoppers, window shoppers and socializers in the cooler evening of a hot Friday, but there had been a breakdown of enforcement of vending rules. Thousands of jeans, dresses and other popular retail clothing are on moveable racks and tables in the streets, often taking 3 of the 4 lanes. I had never seen it like this!

Luckily I got to the airport on time, waited on pins and needles until I saw my friend and dance colleague, Simone of Bolsano Italy, who is also in love with Luxor.


In Luxor they were also celebrating the inauguration of Sisi in addition to preparations for at least three moulids! We were there to observe and videotape the Abu Hagag moulid – it was a wonderful experience!
This is just a small clip of the first evening in Luxor – this is part of the celebration the night before the inauguration.

continued in Part 2: Celebrations in Luxor! (We start dancing the first day there!)

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