I've been considering a sort of 'gap-year' for quite a while now to go travelling. Japan, India and Egypt have been countries I have either wanted to visit/stay in (I've already been to Japan many a time, but would love to stay longer).
Funnily enough, I've been dancing for five and a half years and never considered the possibility of studying dance in Egypt (I've been interested in the country for several other reasons), and now that I think of it I would love to. But I just wanted to know how possible this is for me?
(Just to add, it's not in the pipeline yet, I'm still musing about it).
I'm 22, I have a degree in English/Art History and am currently doing a TEFL course and considering going on to teaching (I graduated this summer). I would love to have some teaching experience abroad - I know a friend of the family stayed in Egypt and taught English for years and loved it. If I were to study dance I'd like to stay a little longer, but at the same time I'm guessing I should visit the country first to get an idea of how it is. Having said that, most people I know who have been travelling had never been to the country beforehand and it worked out for them. 6months to a year is what I'm looking at, possibly.
Would it be possible to work in Egypt and study bellydance? I'm not sure how many of you have done anything similar, but I'm curious to know. I'd also like to hear experiences/advice on staying in Egypt. Where to go, how much living expenses are, how could I secure a place to stay, visas, practical things etc.
-how good a dancer would I have to be? I'd rank myself in the mid-upper range of intermediate. I've had the basic moves drilled in, I've learned quite a few more advanced ones (layering, backbends etc.). But I wouldn't say i was anywhere near a professional standard and my body could be in much better condition. I personally wouldn't be offended at taking beginners classes again from a good teacher.
-how safe is Egypt? Everywhere in the world at the moment is considered 'unsafe', especially the Middle East and North Africa - but what is the reality of the situation and what are the real dangers?
-Who would I get to teach me? More importantly - who could I afford to pay to teach me?
I'm not looking to perform in Egypt, as I understand you need a license for that. Also, I don't want to risk sounding like a sourpuss but I'm not asking this to get approval (bad experiences before, sorry), I just want to get a bit more information and learn the facts.
Many thanks in advance.
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11-13-2007 08:18 AM #1
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- Oct 2007
Travelling to Egypt to study dance
11-13-2007 08:38 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2000
Basically, you can hire any teacher, no matter what level you are. I suggest that you go through the "Travel to the Lands..." chapter and you will find several threads about teachers in Egypt.
As for safety: depending on where you come from and what level of safety you are used to, it's not more dangerous than other parts of the world (you can have a bomb dropped on your head in Europe or the USA...,f:: ).
Two things you have to watch: traffic and men.
The traffic in Cairo is very bad and you often will run for your life.
The Egyptian men are very charming but ultimately, I am afraid to say that no matter how much they tell you that they love you, they see you as an "easy" girl from the West who is only good for sex.
You have to watch your reputation very much, it's one of the most important things for a Western woman who wants to be taken seriously.
Also, don't tell people you don't know that you are a dancer. They might get a very wrong picture of you. A dancer is NOT a respectable person!
Regarding you will have to choose between the teaching and the dancing. You can't do both.
If you want to find work as a dancer, you can ask your teacher there for tips. They all know how the scene works.
PS: When the lights go out - Western dancers in the Middle
11-13-2007 08:44 AM #3
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
Thank you for that link and the info, it's really, really helpful! Useful to know Tamra Henna was in similar circumstances before she went to Egypt, I really admire her.
I think i could be prepared for traffic and men. I've met many middle eastern men and they can be very forward (but most of the time I come off as quite innocent and naive - maybe I can play that up?). Traffic in this city isn't great eihter, although I'm not sure how it compares.
I'm just wondering why it wouldn't be possible to teach and dance at the same time? I don't think I'm confident enough to dance for a paying audience, especially not in Egypt!
11-13-2007 09:07 AM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2002
- Utrecht, Netherlands, Europe
Sujhata, even contemplating going to Egypt for so long is exciting!
as for the men: innocent and naive won't do you much good. This is charming in our Western world, but arabic men see almoteverything as encouragement for making a move on you, even sitting in the front seat of a cab. I'd go for distant and demure, even go as far as wearing a scarf to cover your hair.
if you want to start teaching or take BD classes, it helps if you have connections with other western dancers in Cairo. If you want to stay for such a long period of time, it's advisable to follow classes in arabic too, so you'll be able to communicate and get better prices for your dance classes, taxi fares, etc.
From what I've heard, it makes things easier if you have a man that can help you. As well as protectiong your reputation (a women alone is not supposed to walk the streets without a man) and help you find the teachers that you need.
Something that's not clear from your post is wether you're aware what the difference is between Egyptian style and other styles of belly dance. Make sure Egyptian style is what you want to learn or you might be in for a surprise.
11-13-2007 09:10 AM #5
- Join Date
- Apr 2007
- St. Louis, MO, USA
I don't think you have to choose between teaching and taking dance lessons...as long as you don't tell anyone involved with your teaching that you're there to study dance and, as you say, you won't be performing.
There aren't really any lessons or schools in Cairo, you'd be taking privates, so it doesn't matter what level you are. Plus, you can set your budget and attend as many privates as you can afford, and work in between on what you learn.
If I had the opportunity, I'd want to take primarily from Raqia Hassan, I love her choreography and she's a very good teacher. I'd also try to take some lessons from Aida Nour, and I'd check into the major festivals for some classes and shows (Ahlan wa Sahlan, Nile Group, and Safti's weeklongs with Mahmoud Reda.)
11-13-2007 09:21 AM #6
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
I can do distant and demure too - i think that's what I meant! (I've also been told I do the stone cold look of icy death very well.) I try and keep my distance but be polite, basically. I have no problem in covering up - especially if it gets hot! The sun does bad things to my hair and skin.
I love everything I've seen of Egyptian dance. I started off with Baladi style and I've learned a bit of Oriental/Classical (some from Egyptian teachers). I love how expressive the dance is. When an Egyptian dancer dances you can definitely tell they're enjoying themselves!
Arabic classes, I forgot to add...I know a place where I can get classes (which is unusual for Scotland!). I'd definitely want to learn basic conversation before I even contemplate visiting there.
I forgot to clarify in my post that by teaching I meant teaching English rather than teaching dance. I probably have a little more going for me language-wise than dance-wise! I'm not sure how much call there is for language teaching, I do know that Business and Computing English are more in demand. I'm wondering if tutoring might be possible, tutoring usually pays quite well depending on where in the world you are.
As for having a male companion - would it be worth badgering my partner to come along too? Not that he's a lot of use in these situations, but it might help. :p
11-13-2007 10:16 AM #7
I vote for having a man with you over wearing a veil. The previous is a greater guarantee of protection as women with hijabs still get harassed. Just dressing modestly does wonders, too.
I also vote for "stone cold icy death". ,m::
Language is also a great tool for your safety. Brava for learning some Arabic before you get there! That way you can TELL men you're not a whore instead of pretending to be part of some religion that you're not (I'm assuming, forgive me if I assumed wrong). Tourists in hijabs get "discounts" (not even Egyptians get discounts, really) because vendors think they're Muslim. When vendors find out they've been had by a woman who would never think of converting, it's not a good situation.
Keep in mind that threats against tourists are not taken lightly. You can report anything to the police, even incidents of other policemen harassing you. Female tourists seem to enjoy more protection than the native women, unfortunately. I wouldn't go around à la egyptienne.
No one is exaggerating about the traffic. Be very very careful. Many Egpytian drivers don't use their headlights because "it's rude to the other drivers". Traffic signals are for decoration. Pedestrian accidents are very common, so pleeeease be careful!
I would definitely explore teaching English. I only have a basic TESOL certificate and less than a year of experience teaching, and I was offered a job at a British school during my short visit (I don't know WHAT they were thinking, but I'm just offering some encouragement!) I would even suggest taking a short visit for some reconnaissance/job hunting. That way, you could find out about how to get contacts for tutoring gigs, too.
Good luck! Have fun in Oum el Dounia!
11-13-2007 12:56 PM #8
- Join Date
- Mar 2001
- Blog Entries
I like the "stone cold icy death" look too!
Tutoring english is a good possibility as I know some ppl that do like a tutor instead of going to school. You might want to put some feelers out on some Egyptian forums to find out if there is any interest. Maybe even go to the American University of Cairo to see if they have a place for postings. Just be aware, that, once again, if you are asked to tutor a man . . . be professional! That might be another opportunity for them to chat you up for reasons you don't like, hehe.
I am not sure if/how you can find a job in a school to teach english anyway . . . you might need a work permit for that too. I spoke with someone who was doing it and I think she had to get the school to sponsor her for the visa. Of course, you might try to contact a British school before you go to see if they are hiring and what their requirements are. Once again, maybe the egyptian forums might have some more information.
AND . . . it might not pay as much as you would like, so plan on saving up as much money as possible before you go so that you have a financial safety net.
Male companion might be good . . . he just has to be there and probably won't need to do much.
Last edited by cbarros; 11-13-2007 at 01:05 PM.
11-13-2007 01:57 PM #9
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
As I have been living in Egypt for over two years now, I could write a book about the things to know. If you are really coming here, you can contact me.
It's a huge difference to actually live and visit in Cairo. For example I don't care about all the things I used to care when I visited in Cairo. There are many thing that tourist never need to think about. On the other hand this is my life - not a short trip - so I sometimes I just need to live it by my standards, not the Egyptians.
It's great experience to live here. It's different, it's hard and wonderful at the same time. You may be able to get work, but the money isn't a lot. On the other hand for basic living you don't need much money. If you plan to take a lot of classes and see shows (and why wouldn't you as you are in Cairo???), it's better to save as much money before hand as possible. Cairo isn't nice place to live, if you don't have any money. Everything cost, even if it's a little.
If you plan to stay here a long time, there is things you should bring with you as they are impossible to get from here - and if you by some strange luck find the stuff, it's really expensive.
Learning Arabic is great! But don't concentrate on Fusha. Study the Egyptian dialogue. Even if you pick up a few words form dictionary, it's makes difference.
In Egypt you can get and understand many things about the dance. If you are really serious about dancing and have an opportunity study it here - go for it. I have had many students who come to Cairo annually to learn more about everything - technique, style(s), feeling, atmosphere, Egyptian way of thinking.
Last edited by outi; 11-15-2007 at 09:11 AM.
11-14-2007 07:31 AM #10
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
Thank you, Outi! I think all these posts have really encouraged me and I really want to go now! I will need to save up money first, but otherwise I really have nothing to lose...my mindset at the moment is more "when" and "how" - rather than "if." Carpe Diem, as they say. Would you be able to give me some indication of how much money I might need initially? I'm hoping to save in the region of about £5000 ($10,000) to get me by. I'd need at least a year and a couple of jobs to save up this much.
I will probably need a lot of information about the country before I go. I will try and find some Egyptian forums as others have suggested to see what there is generally, but be warned - I will have many questions! It's really cool that you're Finnish too (my boyfriend is half-finnish and loves the country!).
11-14-2007 07:33 AM #11
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
11-15-2007 09:09 AM #12
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
Oh yes, I'm Finnish.
For a quite nice living, you could count 3000 LE for a month. Depends from your rent of course :)
1500 - 2000 pounds for rent per a month is ok. Because you are foreigner the landlords will want more money and there is a lot expensive apartments, too. Some people I know are paying up to 5000 LE per month, which I think is way too much. The apartments are usually rented as furnished - but the level of the furniture and other stuff depends of your luck. So you would need some money to get the basic stuff for bedroom (sheets, blankets for winter etc.) and kitchen for eating and cooking and all the stuff for cleaning. You don't have to pay a lot for all the stuff, but 2000 - 3000 should cover all of the basic and you would have enough money to choose something you like. Good thing is that when you leave, you can sell most of the stuff and get some money back.
For food and transportation 1000 pound per month is good figure. You are foreigner and all the foreign stuff here is expensive. You may be able to eat and travel only a 10 pounds for a day, but some days you will want to feel home and get something expensive. Going to eat to restaurants will cost too.
And sometimes is good to go shopping and you will need some clothes from time to time. You can't bring all of them with you.
Things to bring to Cairo:
- make-up and creams
- hair products
- warm winter clothes and jacket
- hot water bottle (spelling?)
- microfiber cloths for cleaning
Those are just what I came up quickly...
I think this helps you anyway :)
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