One thing that continues to amaze me here is the variety of events that are occurring at any given moment. True to its reputation, Cairo has plenty to offer. Luckily for me, this includes a few opportunities to dance.
A couple of weeks ago, I got invited to go “salsa”. I didn’t know if that meant the kind that goes with tortilla chips, or the dance, but I would have been surprised by either one. Turns out it was dancing. Apparently, one of the hotels in Cairo has a Hard Rock restaurant inside (I’m not leaving Egypt until I get a Hard Rock: Cairo t-shirt, by the way) that offers dancing every Wednesday night. Of course, I agreed to go.
The theme for the night was “red and black”, so I threw on a black knee-length skirt and shirt, a long-sleeve cardigan, and flats before taking the bus downtown with a friend. We had been told to wear “whatever we want” since it was at a western hotel, but I’ve quickly learned that this never means what it implies. For the short journey from the bus stop into a waiting car, and then from the car into the restaurant, I got bombarded with stares. I was literally only showing part of my knees and calves, but that was enough to make cars slow down in the street and women whisper amongst themselves. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again- arms are okay, but do NOT show your legs in public here.
This is also probably where I should mention that I’ve never salsa danced in my life. I’ve done the ballet thing, some hip-hop, and a few other classes here and there, but my ballroom experience is nonexistent. For some reason, I didn’t think that this would be a problem. Who the heck salsa dances in Egypt?
Well… everyone, apparently. And they’re AMAZING. We walked into the restaurant and sat down next to the dance floor, where couples were already starting to dance. Contrary to what I had expected, there was about an even ratio of women to men, and every single person there looked like they had been doing it for years. There were even a few women in head scarves partnered up with men moving across the floor. It was quite a sight- a co-ed event where everyone was free to enjoy themselves and the music. It was great!
A few Egyptian friends from AUC happened to be certified ballroom dance instructors (again, who knew??) and showed me a few moves. After attempting to learn the steps in just a couple of minutes, I was obviously an amateur compared to the couples around me, but it was a lot of fun anyways. If I can squeeze in a few dance lessons, I’ll definitely be back.
Other than salsa, I’m also trying out a couple of other dance organizations on campus. There are Bollywood dance classes offered at the recreation center weekly, so I decided to check one out last week. It was located in a room with frosted windows and a locked door, and the sign had a red ‘W’ on it, signifying women only. This allowed the girls in the class to remove their head scarves before dancing, without having to worry about men accidentally seeing them. The moves were completely new to me, but we had a great student instructor. It was definitely different from anything I’ve ever done before.
There’s also a ‘Folklore’ dance group on campus, which does traditional Egyptian and Middle Eastern routines. At our International Student Orientation, the girls of Folklore performed two bellydancing routines, which immediately interested me. I ended up talking to a few girls through the Bollywood class, which in turn lead me to the students who are in charge of Folklore. They were extremely welcoming and open to having me join them. I’ve heard that it’s a pretty cool organization- it’s mostly Middle Eastern students, but I wouldn’t be the first international student to be a part of the group. They even travel to perform annually, and just returned from a trip to France this summer. If everything works out, I should be able to join them in practices in a couple of weeks- fingers crossed!