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“Nadia Gamal is the greatest cabaret oriental dancer in the Middle East…she expresses pure spirituality with her arm movements but then those hips begin to move and she pulls you right into the earth!” ~Ibrahim Farrah

This weeks #TBT post is inspired by my interview with Aszmara! When I asked Aszmara ” if you could meet any dancer from the past, who would it be and why?” Her answer was, Nadia Gamal, although she actually had met her before- lucky duck!

I know it’s super late, but I had to really go into detective mode to get some info on our girl Nadia. I even searched for old Arabesque articles on EBay and I found one! Hehehe….ANYWAY… here’s the deal with Nadia:

Nadia Gamal was born Maria Carydias in Alexandria, Egypt, 1937. Her mother was Italian and her father, Greek. Nadia first began dancing in her mother’s cabaret act which performed at the Casino Opera in Cairo (opened by Badia Masabni), she performed European folk dances. Being part of her mother’s act allowed Nadia to study many different types of dance; ballet,modern,jazz, tap and acrobatics. However, her passion was for oriental dance ( Nadia didn’t like to call it “belly dance”). At the age of 14, she got her big break. While on tour with her mom’s act in Lebanon, one of the oriental dancers in the group became ill, and after proving that she could fill the role, she was allowed to do so. And the rest is history! …but I’ll tell you more anyway :p

Nadia’s career took off and she was featured in numerous Egyptian and Indian films. In 1968, she was the first oriental dancer to perform at The Baalbeck Festival in Lebanon. It’s a festival that celebrates world music and dance – both classical and modern. It’s held in an ancient Roman acropolis, which is pretty cool. She also danced at the Cairo Opera House, for King Hussein, and the Shah of Iran. She toured the world – Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin and North America.

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Mona El Said was discovered at a popular disco called Triang A Go Go in Cairo. It was there that Leila Murad told her, “You should dance, because you should be an artist.” That was all Mona needed to hear. She began dancing professionally at 13. Due to her fathers great disapproval of her dancing, Mona left Egypt in 1970 and moved to Lebanon to be able to pursue her dream of becoming a famous dancer.  She fulfilled her dream dancing in Beirut at the best clubs.

Mona found her way back to Cairo in 1975 as a dance star. Her fame, talent, and originality got her gigs at the most upscale Cairo hotels. As mentioned on her website, Mona highly disapproves of counting music saying that it stops you from feeling the music. She “focuses on feeling and emotion, new, innovative movement and creates magic on the stage with her energy.” Mona also notes that is important to listen to the speed of the music and not speed up unless the music calls for it.

Mona’s command of the stage and her audience and her regal presence earned her the nick name of “ Princess of Raks Sharki,” from non other than Tahia Carioca. Egyptian newspapers and magazines nick named her “Sa’mraa El Nile” or “The Bronze of the Nile.”

Aside from dancing in clubs and hotels Mona starred in seven Egyptian films and was featured in many others.

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Assi Al Helani is a popular Lebanese singer who has been big in the Middle East since the 90’s. What’s cool about him (aside from his great music), are his humanitarian efforts. Helani regularly participates in fundraising concerts for causes like global hunger and poverty. Very cool, Assi, very cool 🙂

Enjoy! This week’s bellybeatz playlist: عاصي الحلاني




*Post originally written by Gazelle.