How the bellydance museum started
Welcome to the bellydance museum, dear bellydance history lovers. Wait, I will stop myself right here. Can I call it a museum? Maybe a pre-museum or a mini-museum would describe the reality a bit better. So far, you can visit the pre-operational version at my home in my little dance studio: there are two big vitrines, where I expose the most interesting items from my collection, some of them more than 200 years old. I’ve got more than 300 of them; therefore, not all items can be exhibited. But I will get there, give me some time. One day, I wish, I will open a full Bellydance museum, with all the items exhibited, with proper descriptions, explanations, with some interactive quizzes and games, and maybe… maybe with a small café, where lectures, dance performances and music concerts would take place. You would be able to order Badia’s homemade tea, Samia’s mango pie, or Carioca coffee (of course from Brazilian fresh coffee beans). It would be cosy and as we say in Belgium, gezellig.
Dream creates a dream
Let’s go back to 2007. I was a very young, 21 years old, enthusiastic dancer, sitting in an audience of a big festival in Prague. I felt excitement all over my body because the main star of the festival was about to enter the stage. It was Jillina, one of the biggest stars of the bellydance world. During her first steps, I literally burst into tears. Her performance was breath-taking. Her presence was felt not only on the stage, but she was also in the whole theatre, the city, the whole world… I was seriously in love.
And suddenly, like a fresh breeze, an impossible dream crossed my mind. I wanted to dance with Jillina. In her troupe, it wouldn’t matter if I would be in the last row, or just holding a prop (with some shimmying, hopefully). I had no idea how I would do it, but I felt it so strong.
Two years later, Jillina announced her new project Bellydance Evolution. With a beating heart, I participated in the audition for Europe. You cannot imagine the scream of happiness when I got a positive reply. The dream came true.
Now you are thinking: Wait, shouldn’t this article be about a bellydance museum? Well, stay with me. I got the auditions and from that time, I danced with Bellydance Evolution for 10 years. Not every tour of course. But I danced around 60 shows around 13 countries. I loved it. It was a dream. All of us, the troupe, lead dancers, musicians, technicians, we were part of something bigger. I was extremely satisfied, dancing in the troupe. In 2013 I participated in the Japan tour when a big surprise came with an email of Heather, the assistant director. I was offered to dance one of the lead roles! This was not included in my dream, that was even impossible for me to dream about. Yet, it came true. And on that same tour, when my dream reached the stratosphere, Jillina was selling some of her older costumes. And one of them was the one I saw her dancing in at the festival in Prague when my big dream was born. Holding the costume and becoming the new owner felt ecstatic. Well, and at that moment, another dream came up. This costume, I thought, is the first item of my future bellydance museum.
Holding the past in hands
That dream was still floating in the back of my thoughts for a good five years. On Christmas day in 2018, I received a special gift from my husband. It was a lobby card from the 1954 movie Ali Baba and forty thieves, featuring Samia Gamal.
Holding this more than 60 years old item made me feel in shock, respect and awe. It felt like going back to the past, like nearly witnessing Samia Gamal dancing, holding a piece from her own past.
Well, I will not pretend that I stayed humble. I needed more. I started to research and purchase more items. Some were easy to be found on eBay, sometimes I had to contact several sellers to search for me, sometimes I had to search in libraries to find what I needed. And the process continues nowadays. Every day I go through my 100 searches and try to look for new things. But honestly, I wish I can come back to Egypt soon and spend a good 2 weeks just hunting for items and getting lost in the past. I guess it will take me some time, as I am right now starting a new episode of my personal life.
Café Badriyah and Bellydance Museum
I hope the museum, or at least its online version, will serve dancers in their research, inspire them and get them intrigued in the history of bellydance. Understanding the roots gives so much inner power, inspiration, and fulfilment that every dancer deserves to reach. And hopefully, one day, you will come to my Café Badriyah, order some AwaLime pie with freshly made Bamba’s lemonade, listen to an old vinyl record of Naima Akef’s singing, and after that, go with me upstairs to the attic, where the bellydance museum will open its arms for you.
If you would like to support the Raqs Sharqi Museum, in searching for antique & vintage items, buying them, archiving them, preparing scans & translations, and publishing them online so everybody can see them for free, you can become museum's PATRON. Thank you for your help!