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The Nile Group Festival, Part 1

By Maria Aya

Sunday April 16th, 2006

Still in Athens, leaving tonight for my first trip to Cairo, Egypt and the Nile Group Festival. I am SO excited but at the same time freaking out (just being me). My lunch with Rhea (yes the Rhea!) and Belinda, who are also leaving for Cairo the next day, relax me. As I leave, at 1am from El. Benizelos airport in Athens, for my 90 min flight to Cairo, I already feel that it's going to be a much more interesting week than I expected.

Arrival at Cairo Airport. Before I realize it, there is a guide from the Nile Group holding my name up in HUGE letters! And in no time, he fixes my VISA, takes my suitcase and we head for the mini bus (I'm already happy because I was afraid of possible scenarios at the airport, with my visa etc.). Two Danish ladies are already waiting and in 1 hour (30 mile trip) we arrive at the luxurious Movenpic Giza Pyramids Resort. Falling on my huge bed to sleep.

Monday April 17th, 2006

Waiting for a great breakfast and going for workshop registration after. There is a group of around 30 Russian women trying to figure out what workshops they want to take, and it looks like they aren't going to decide any time soon.

I decide to go to the Pyramids, it's just 2 km from the hotel and I still have 5 hours for registration. In the registration room there is also a tourist information desk so I book a 3 hour tour to the Pyramids with a guide, including ticket and transportation for only 30 euros!

They set a time for me to be ready and meet the guide in the Lobby, I'm there 10 minutes early. It could be a hotel any place in the world, even the background music is so... how should I say… not Arabian. It's "could I have this kiss for ever?" But all the women around me are in hijab (head scarves). The lady nearest approaches me, offering and insisting I try her ice cream, and to eat because I have to gain weight (according to westerns I have to lose 15 kilos) makes me feel that this is too good to be true!

My guide arrives 5 minutes before the arranged time, and I'm happily surprised. The small mini bus comes and the driver does a horror U turn (I got used to this after a while) and off we go to the Pyramids.

We enter the ancient place in our car (I'm shocked by the lack of respect) but shortly after I realize that the place is MASSIVE! And the sun is HOT! But I really enjoyed it. After all, from the time I was 5 years old, I remember wanting to go to the Pyramids and I wonder why it took me so long?

Back to the hotel, and in 5 minutes I'm done with the registration. It is very well organized, utilizing laptops, filling out the papers and paying at the same time for the workshops and the hotel room. Including the opening gala, dinner, and the closing night dinner.

Going to prepare for the opening Gala. The first meeting of all the festival participants, around 120 women from all over the world: Greece (just me, lol) Turkey, Israel, FYROM, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Germany, UK, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Korea, and Australia. I was more surprised, even if it is a state of the US, that a lady from Hawaii came! (Hope I'm not forgetting any other countries).

The hall room is full of happy energy, and we are all waiting for the night to start. Liza Laziza welcomes us all and presents the teachers. The catwalk with the Sahara costumes start, and we are all sitting there with our jaws dropping to the floor. You have to see these costumes to believe them. Such great taste, fabrics, stones etc., just to die for. Some of the participants in the festival are wearing them and we are all cheering for them!

First Leyla opens the dance floor, 15 people dancing with a live band and she is so sweet and great. Later on Nour takes her place and amazes people with her dance. Meanwhile folk groups perform giving us the essence of Egyptian dance.

As we are in Egypt, things go slowly, and dinner is served after midnight. We are all as hungry as wolves. But everything is great. Now, on the catwalk we see local dancers from Cairo wearing the costumes of Aida Nour and her brother. Dresses to die for. As for the classic costumes, more modern than Sahara's, but also beautiful.

I feel like I'm ready to fall asleep at the table, it's almost 1 am so I go to my room to sleep. The next day I heard that I missed Liza Laziza dance that rocked ! (Sorry I missed you Liza).

Tuesday April 18th, 2006

Mixing with people at breakfast, meeting people from all over the world and having fun. I'm so excited; my first workshop is with Lubna Eman, Pop Baladi. All the workshops are held in 2 huge classrooms in the Pyramids Room building. Also available there vendors selling music, dvd's, Sahara Costumes, Aida Nour and her brother's costuming, and more. All great quality products with excellent prices. A small bar is set up to serve those hungry during breaks between workshops.

Lubna Eman - Pop Baladi workshop
A very focused teacher with a western style of teaching. She gave us 2 choreographies in 3 hours, she wanted to give us as much as possible in the 3 hours we had. First Lubna taught the combinations and after this formed them into a choreography. We were all happily surprised when she told us that we could film the choreographies after we finished them. (Now why did I leave my video camera back in Athens? *&*%%(&(^)

Nour - Oriental Tabla workshop
Maybe the most crowded class I've ever been to in my life. I counted more than 80 people in the class. All the Russian women were there plus the rest of us. She explained the choreography in Russian and English. Maybe it was because of the number of people in class, but I didn't enjoy this workshop.

Later on I took a cab from the hotel and went to Cairo to meet Rhea and Belinda. We took a long walk in Khan Khalili to look for costumes, just to find out that I preferred the ones we had at the hotel. I came to find myself flirted with by 100 Arabs (who all thought I was Arab). The next day I found out that it wasn't that I was so gorgeous, they flirt with all women this way. But I wasn't bothered, it was kind of sweet. Never felt threatened for a second or any fear.

Wednesday April 19th, 2006

I'm getting used to this routine. Waking up, breakfast, going for a workshop. I really like it. Meanwhile I'm getting to know more and more of the participants in the festival and having interesting conversations.

Allae Abou Lela - Shabi Teqnics
The teacher spoke little English so we had to primarily follow what he was doing. It was my first time with this style and I found it different and interesting. I'm lucky because I had warmed up before class, because there was no warm up offered. But I learned that this is the Arabian way.

I'm having a relaxing afternoon by the pool and enjoying the Cairo sun with my book and having great fruit juice.

The Gelebya Party night
We all got prepared and a bus picks us up at 9pm, driving a short distance we reach Barry's place. It turned out to be a roof top garden, just the opposite of the illuminated Pyramids. A stunning view. The night was full of joy, dance, folk groups doing a great show, food, food, food, sweets, and nargile. Dead tired we went back to our hotel.

Maria Aya for OrientalDancer.net