The Belly Dance

by Hamdy El-Gazzar    /  June 5, 2012  / 1 Comment

A traditional form of entertainment has become a tool of propaganda for the regime.

Eltet, an Egyptian belly dance channel. Photo: youtube user Eltetchennel.


Among the classics of Egyptian cinema is the movie The Belly Dancer and the Politician (1990), which portrays an affair between a corrupt politician and a famous belly dancer.

What is being acted out on the streets of Egypt today should be dubbed The Belly Dancer and the Religious Politician.

  1. Off-Screen
  2. “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
  3. Hamdy el Gazzar
  4. Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

In today’s version, the corrupt politician, who is fighting to maintain power, seeks help from the belly dancer and her signature dance to triumph over the religious politician, who is fighting for complete political control of the country.

Let me explain.

Following the legislative elections in which the Islamists swept up almost 70 percent of the seats in Parliament, the current government gave several Egyptian satellite TV networks permission to air belly dancing. Thousands of Egyptian viewers now watch these channels where the dance and the dancer are broadcast 24/7. The most popular of these networks is Altet, which dedicates itself solely to belly dancing and presenting the latest dances. There is also Farah which shows music videos of wedding songs, and Awalad el Balad, which is dedicated to sha3bi music, a form of Egyptian pop music. At the same time, national Egyptian television has been producing a series that depicts the life of prominent Egyptian belly dancer Tahia Karioka.

It is no secret that the billionaires of Mubarak’s era pumped a lot of money into creating new entertainment and news networks to promote their agenda. Behind the scenes, these same corrupt politicians that the revolution aimed to bring down, but cannot seem to get rid of, are combating Islamist groups with belly dancing. The goal is to attract the people who love dancing and enjoy watching this kind of entertainment. They then exacerbate the fear that the Islamists, if given power, will ban such sources of joy and happiness.

It is not strange that they would use belly dancing as a weapon.

A lot of famous belly dancers become movie stars and are considered celebrities in Egypt; now they are being asked to play a political role as the old regime uses them to try and win back what it lost in the revolution.

Translation: Nour Abdelghani.

About the Author

Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

View all articles by Hamdy El-Gazzar

One Comment on "The Belly Dance"

  1. Julia June 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm ·

    Interesting article; I will be sharing this with my fans later on my Facebook page and hopefully incite some discussion among everyone. Who knew that we belly dancers could influence the public and politicians so much?!

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