Monday, November 14, 2016

Raqs Sharki 1-2-3 - Part 1: Favourites of the Fourties/Fifties

This is a post for background information, pictures, videos and links to go with the 'Raqs Sharki 1-2-3: Time traveling with Egyptian Stars' workshop series, a series I'll be teaching in the Netherlands (2016) and Denmark (2017) in the near future.

Here you'll find part 1: Favourites of the Fourties/Fifties.

Go to Part 2: Stars of the Sixties/Seventies
Go to Part 3: Modern Legends


About the workshop series - Raqs Sharki 1-2-3
This workshop series takes you on a journey in time with the great dancers of then and now. It can be taught as one combined workshop or split up into 3 separate sessions of maximum 3 hours each.
  • Raqs sharki 1 – ‘Favourites of the fifties’ – Contains combinations and techniques inspired by the legendary dancers of Egypt like Samia Gamal, Naima Akef, Nadia Gamal and Taheya Carioca.
  • Raqs sharki 2 – ‘Stars of the seventies’ – Inspired by famous Egyptian dancers from the 60-80s like Suheir Zaki, Nagua Fouad and Fifi Abdo.
  • Raqs sharki 3 – ‘Modern legends’ – Contains informationa about, and techniques and combinations inspired by the famous dancers of this age

Part 1 - Favourites of the Fourties/Fifties
Taheya Cariokka

TAHEYA CARIOKKA was born in 1915. She was discouraged from performing as a dancer by her family.

Due to family differences that could not be settled with her father and brothers, she moved to Cairo to stay with an old neighbour, Suad Mahasen, a night club owner and an artist.

Tahiya had asked several times for employment in Suad's nightclub but Suad refused to employ her due to the disreputability of working at a night club. However, many of Suad's associates and friends became acquainted with Tahiya through various visits to Suad's home. They all advised Suad to add her to one of the shows as a chorus girl but still she refused. Soon, Tahiya was mentioned to Badia Masabni, the owner of Casino Opera, one of the most prominent nightclubs of the time.

Badia offered a position in her troupe to Tahiya. Tahiya accepted and was given the stage name Tahiya Mohamed. She soon began gaining popularity as a solo dancer and as she became more experienced she learned a popular Samba dance from Brasil at the time called the Karioka.

After that she became known as Tahiya Karioca. Tahiya began starring in movies during what is dubbed as the Egyptian film industry's "Golden Age".

She was a talented dancer, singer, and actress. In 1972, the film “Watch out for Zouzou”, starring Soad Hosni with Tahiya performing the supporting role, was released to become the biggest box- office hit in Egyptian cinema to date.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Taheya performing different dance styles in a new year's celebration:
One of my favorite Taheya performances:
From 'Shore of love', 1950
Taheya dancing to Taht El Shibak
And.. one more :)

The amazing life of Taheya Cariokka (by Raseef22)
Tahia Carioka (
About Tahia Carioka (

Samia Gamal 
SAMIA GAMAL was born in 1924 as Zaynab Ibrahim Mahfuz in the small Egyptian town of Wana. Her family moved just months later to Cairo and settled near the Khan El-Khalili bazaar.

It was many years later that Samia Gamal met Badia Masabni, the founder of modern Oriental dance. Badia offered Samia an invitation to join her dance company, which Samia accepted. Badia Masabni gave her the stage name Samia Gamal, and she began her dance career.

At first, she studied under Badia and Badia's star dancer at the time, Tahiya Karioka. However she soon became a respected soloist and brought forth her own style.

Samia Gamal incorporated techniques from ballet and Latin dance into her solo performances. She was also the first to perform with high-heeled shoes on stage. She starred in dozens of Egyptian films next to the famous Farid Al Attrach.

Together they could be thought of as the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the Middle East.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, 1944

Farid and Samia in Afrita Hanem, 1949
My favorite Samia veil entrance: Don't tell anyone, 1952
From the 'Legends of Bellydance' DVD
Samia Gamal in Valley of the Kings, 1954
Samia dancing to 'Zanouba', 1956
Samia dancing to 'Zeina'
Samia in 'the way of the Devil', 1963

About Samia Gamal (by
Spotlight on Samia Gamal (Sequins and Shimmies)
Samia Gamal (by
Samia Gamal (by

Interview with Samia Gamal (translation from

Naima Akef


NAIMA AKEF (October 1929 – 23 April 1966) was a famous Egyptian belly dancer during the Egyptian cinema's golden age and starred in many films of the time. Naima Akef was born in Tanta on the Nile Delta. Her parents were acrobats in the Akef Circus (run by Naima’s grandfather), which was one of the best known circuses at the time.

She started performing in the circus at the age of four, and quickly became one of the most popular acts with her acrobatic skills. Her family was based in the Bab el Khalq district of Cairo, but they traveled far and wide in order to perform.

The circus disbanded when Naima was 14, but this was only the beginning of her career. Her grandfather had many connections in the performance world of Cairo and he introduced her to his friends. When Naima’s parents divorced, she formed an acrobatic and clown act that performed in many clubs throughout Cairo.

She then got the chance to work in Badia Masabni's famous nightclub, where she became a star and was one of the very few who danced and sang. Her time with Badeia, however, was short-lived, as Badia favored her, which made the other performers jealous.

One day they ganged up on her and attempted to beat her up, but she proved to be stronger and more agile and won the fight. This caused her to be fired, so she started performing elsewhere.
(Source: Wikipedia)

More about Naima Akef:

Naima playing finger cymbals in Tamr Henna, 1954
Performing baladi with Mohamed Abdul Muttalib
Naima's spins

Mahmoud Reda & Farida Fahmy (and the Reda Troupe)

MAHMOUD REDA, born in 1930, is a pioneer of dance theater in Egypt. He is best known for co-founding the Reda Troupe.

He was the eighth of ten children and his father was the head librarian at Cairo University. His older brother Ali was a dancer and through his influence (and that of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire films) Mahmoud became interested in dance.

Mahmoud Reda originally trained as a gymnast, representing Egypt in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He attended Cairo University where he received a degree in Political Economics.

However, his main interest was dance and he joined an Argentinian dance troupe after graduating and toured Europe. While on tour in Paris he resolved to start his own dance troupe back in Egypt, but due to lack of funds he had to work as an accountant for Royal Dutch Shell.

He joined the Heliolido Club in Cairo where he met Anglo-Egyptian baladi dancer Farida Fahmy who became his dancing partner. After the two performed in the Soviet Union in 1957 they decided to start a folk dancing troupe in Egypt with Ali Reda.
(source: Wikipedia)

As a soloist, choreographer and director, Mahmoud Reda made four world tours to 58 countries with his troupe. He performed on the world's most prestigious stages such as Carnegie Hall (New York, USA), Royal Albert Hall (London, UK), Congress Hall (Berlin, Germany), Stanislavsky & Gorky Theaters (Moscow, USSR), Olympia (Paris, France) and the United Nations (New York & Geneva). The Reda Troupe has performed for many world leaders and Heads of states.

Mahmoud Reda draws from techniques of jazz, ballet, Hindu dance and folkloric dance from the USSR. His work has shaped and influenced what is known today as Oriental Dance (Raks Sharki). Many former troupe members include master teachers Raqia Hassan, Momo Kadous, Mo Geddawi and Yousry Sharif

(source: IMdB)

About Mahmoud Reda (WikiPedia)
A history of the Reda Troupe (by Farida Fahmy)
About dancing Muwashahat (by Farida Fahmy) 

Interviews with Mr. Reda:
Farida Fahmi and Mahmoud Reda:
Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda:
Muhawashat - to Agaban Lel Gazal:
Reda Troupe - Egyptian folklore (Halawet Samsnenah)
Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy - Workshop in Hungary, 2009:

Bonus dancer: Katie Fotsaty

KATIE/Katy/Kitty Fotsaty was born in Alexandria in 1927 to Greek parents, and was famous for fusing Western style dancing with the Oriental style. She danced in nearly 50 films but left the country in 1960 in mysterious circumstances.

See also:

Bonus dancer 2: Zeinat Olwy

ZEINAT OLWY, whose stage name was Zurah, (1930-1988) was one of the leading belly dancers in Egypt in the middle of the twentieth century. She appeared in many movies from the Egyptian Golden Age of cinema. One of her most famous performances was in Henry Barakat's 1955 movie Ayyam wa layali - Days and Nights
(Source: Wikipedia)

Zeinat performing in Ayaam W Layaly, 1955

 About Zeinat Olwy (by 

Bonus Dancer 3: Nadia Gamal 
NADIA GAMAL, born to a Greek father and an Italian mother as Maria Carydias in Alexandria, Egypt, first began dancing as a part of her mother's cabaret act which performed at the Casino Opera in Cairo.

Trained in piano as well as several kinds of dance such as ballet and tap, Gamal initially performed European folk dances in her mother's act.

When she was 14, an ill dancer in her mother's troupe gave her the opportunity to dance raqs sharqi in Lebanon, which her father had forbidden her to do because of her youth. After this debut, she became a popular dancer and went on to star in many Egyptian films.

She is often credited as the originator of the modern style of Lebanese raqs sharqi.

(Source: Wikipedia)

About Nadia Gamal (by the

Nadia Gamal performing in A Promise of Love, 1955
Nadia Gamal in Hindi movie Prem Pujari, 1970


Go to Part 2: Stars of the Sixties/Seventies
Go to Part 3: Modern Legend
xx Khalida

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