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 Welcome to November's Zameena
Resident Writer Special

As the leaves continue to fall and the days get shorter, we hope you'll settle down with a nice warm cuppa to enjoy this super edition!

Facebook Live: If you haven't seen her regular, Live broadcast, Sandra invites you to join her on Monday evenings at 7.30pm (UK time) for Zara's Zouk Facebook Live! It's a fun show with a mix of  tips, news, sales and a fun competition. Hope to see you there!

Cassandra's Last Edition as Resident Writer: In her last article, as Zameena's 2019 resident writer, Cassandra Fox (in photo above) takes a look at how bellydance, dancers (and the female body in general) can be negatively viewed. She tells the story of Prof. Mona Prince who also features in the video in Info Spot. But on a positive note gives us ideas on how we can and should support each other.

Cassandra Fox's 2020 UK TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT: Although we say goodbye to Cassandra, as our resident writer,  we have exciting news: It is not the end. Cassandra will be touring the UK in October and November 2020, visiting Torquay, London and Glasgow, more details below.

Resident Writers Updates: We catch up with our past resident writers: Farah Haraf, Sophia Furber and Kay Dance!

Next Year's Resident Writer: There's a competition! Can you solve the anagram to find the name of our resident writer for 2020 and win a lovely, sparkly, diamante necklace and earring set? Have a go!

There's lots more too, with our regulars: Info Spot and Music Corner so make sure to open the full email as we hand over to Cassandra!

Reading from an external link? SUBSCRIBE TO ZAMEENA HERE

The “S” Words and Dance

by Cassandra Fox

 You’re possibly wondering which “S” words I am talking about.

Shimmies? Sex? Sensuality? Shame? Slut? Slut Shaming?

The answer is all of it, all of the above, but specifically “slut shaming”.

Before you roll your eyes and say, “Not this again!” I ask you to just hear me out and give this article a chance. After all there is no course without discourse.

Ask yourself how old you were when someone first sexualized you (the earliest you can remember anyway).

I was pudgy 13 year old,  with freckles, a pony tail and a retainer that I hated, but that also had a horse on it being its only redeeming quality.  I was riding my pony down the road to a local river when some man rolled down his truck window and shouted “nice tits” as he drove by.
True story.  I was alone but I felt my face get hot, my ears started burning and I knew for certain I was blushing, not a rosy flush but the type of flush that is your face being engulfed by a neon red hue that almost seems unearthly. I felt an instant sense of shame and embarrassment. I did not want to talk about it or tell anyone but in hindsight I wish I had. My solution at the time was to not ride down the road for a while. There I was,  just entering puberty when I  was first forced by the act of a random grown man to feel shame for my body that had not even developed yet and for a sexuality that I did not even have a concept of yet. I feel confident many of us, if not all of us have had experiences like this. If you’re like me you probably buried it/ repressed it and moved on, or so we like to think. But when we experience and internalize something like this it shapes us whether we like it or not, and many of us go on to judge others in the same ways, for the same reasons. However, if/when  we do acknowledge it,  it can be an awakening to the fact that from a young age, our perceived sexuality is something that we will be consistently judged for, for our entire lives.  You might be apathetic about this, maybe sad about it, or if you’re like me you’re low key pissed off about it so you write an article.

Female sexuality is heavily commoditized. It is the basis of many of a marketing campaign and many a media and societal archetype. It is the foundation of the dichotomy of the good girl/bad girl trope. Good girls save themselves for marriage, find a “good man” and then be a good wife and mom. 

She is innocent, sweet and loving. She is beautiful but modest. She is never showy. She knows when to hold her tongue and she is ever supportive of her husband. The bad girl disregards everything I said previously. She is rebellious and overtly sexy. She is independent. She makes the first move. She is unmarried. She goes for what she wants. She is untraditional. She is loose. She is a homewrecker. She is a slut.

You’re like, “Cassandra, you’re describing ‘Mad Men’ or the 1950s, things are different now”. And yes I am, and yes they are different now, on the surface anyway but while things have moved forward and evolved the undercurrent of those female archetypes still persist to this day and impacts how we view the women in our communities and in our homes.

I remember seeing 2 girls in the hall in highschool fighting over a guy who had been dating both of them. They were yelling at each other over him, blaming each other for HIS actions, instead of joining together to yell at him or realizing he is not worth it and moving on with their lives. I have seen this situation persist into my adult years. The good girls blame the bad girls and the bad girls mock the good girls and the system that cages these women in these narrow, ridiculous roles continues unchecked. The guy is somehow unscathed, and both girls are temporarily made infamous on the walls of bathroom stalls. 

If you bellydance and use the internet (which you obviously do because here we are now) you have undoubtedly seen the term “slut shaming” come up, and you have, more than likely, seen a comment on a thread disparaging a certain dancer for their perceived lack of costuming, inappropriate costuming, overly sexual costuming or overly sexual dancing.

“That’s inappropriate”



“She is just doing it for attention”

“Ugh some girls will do anything just to be famous”

“She has no self respect”

“This is why people don’t take this dance form seriously”

“That’s not dancing, that’s just plain vulgar”

“That’s not bellydance” (sometimes this might be the case and a video is mislabelled but those are not the instances I am talking about here).

Look I get it. Like actually entirely get it. I have slut shamed. I have been slut shamed. It’s generally seen as normal behavior, because most of us grew up with it being normal behaviour. We continue it and perpetuate it.

Now I know you want to jump up and say, “I have lost bookings because of people’s misconceptions of this dance”. I know, so have I. I know you maybe feel hurt, embarrassed, or upset when someone says “Bellydancing?! Isn’t that like stripping?”

You may have even had your romantic partner say, “I don’t want you dancing like THAT in front of others”.

You may have had your family or friends not want to see you dance because they are uncomfortable with it or outright ashamed of it. It’s natural to want to respond to these things by defending this dance that we are all here for because we love it.

I know in that moment it feels like it makes sense to try to pull it from any essence of sexuality, to distance it from stripping, to declare it is about feeling and sensuality, not sexuality. We want them to see it as the art that we do. We want them to appreciate the incredibly beautiful music.  I know this because I have felt it and acted on it. But somewhere along the way I started to realize how I was acting about it was not actually helping the big picture because the big picture isn’t about being sensual versus sexual. It’s about the fact that the world we live in is generally still uncomfortable with the female bodies when the female is in ownership of it, and anything that makes people think of female bodies or sexuality is seen as ”less than”.
Humour me for a moment with this metaphor.
Say there is a “Respectabilitybus” , and you are told you need to take this bus to get to where you are going, and so long as you follow the rules of the bus, you will be allowed on it.
Great! Seems simple enough. The rules are written on a chalk board.
You meet them and so you think you are good to go.
As you leave you realize the bus drove over some women that were thrown under it. You are confused and alarmed but you are told, “It’s because they did not follow the rules of the bus. But you do so you don’t need to worry”. They must have done something awful you tell yourself and the bus carries on. You chat with the woman next to you. She is sweet, you have a lot in common, you both love cats and baking. You have dreams for the future and past traumas you are working through. Suddenly the bus stops, a man goes to the chalk board, erases the rules and writes new ones. The girl sitting next to you no longer meets those rules, she is in a short skirt, and you’re in a knee length one. Off she goes, tossed under the bus. Did she deserve that? You tug at your knee length skirt, wondering when/if  they will change the chalk board again.

See where I am going for this. The lines that distinguish “Appropriate” from “inappropriate” are drawn often in a temporary means and as such they are just as easily erased and redrawn. If respectability is a bus and in order to get on and stay on that bus, you have to support other women being thrown under it do you REALLY want to be on that bus?

What about when the rules changes and you’re the one getting tossed? How much cleavage is too much cleavage before it transitions from being flirty, to overt? Or sensual to sexual?1 inch? 4inches? 6 inches? That will vary from person to person, from environment to environment. We are all never going to agree on it and we don’t need to. We need to just respect the choice of others. 


To clarify it is 100% okay to be uncomfortable with cleavage, other people’s and your own. That’s not an issue. The issue is shaming another woman for having a different idea of what okay cleavage is. Sew in modesty panels over the slits in your skirt or pull the seams out to make the slits higher. That choice is yours. You have to be comfortable with what you wear and how you move, that is a paramount aspect of performing. And yes obviously as performers we have to take into account “appropriate choices” for appropriate venues, but even when you please 99% of the audience there is possibly still that 1% covering their children’s eyes or completely taking them out of the restaurant (true story).

Fun Drum Solo with Cassandra - enjoy!
I did a show at my regular restaurant on a packed night, in one of my usual costumes. I like big slits and I have some cleavage, bare midriff, maybe I did a tittie tornado, who knows( I definitely did). During the course of this show I had one table gush and tell me how “adorable” and “cute” I was. Another exclaimed how “sexy” and “hot” I was, and that it was the sexiest dance they have ever seen. I think we can all agree that adorable and cute are not generally synonymous with hot and sexy.
So what was I?
All of the above, and none of the above. I was something different to different people. That’s the way art works. I am sure there were those who were annoyed with my half naked gyrating  presence, those who were apathetic, those so consumed with their phone or with the hockey game on the TV by the bar (because Canada) that they did not even realize there was a dancer. And some who were thrilled and entertained by my presence. That is the nature of being a performer, or as I like to call myself now, a “Performancer”. I am going to dance like me, and some will find it charming and classy, and others will whisper, “attention whore” or just, “ew” under their breath.

Last year English Literature Professor Mona Prince was fired from her job as a professor at a University in Egypt. For what you ask? Because she posted a video to her own Facebook page of herself dancing in her own home, in normal civilian clothes.  Here is a link to the news article  (Mona also features in the video in Info Section below) but I wanted to point out this quote specifically, He said that Prince has been penalized not for practicing dance, but because she posted her dance on social media.

“The decision to oust her was taken because the university job has its prestige. Dr Mona Prince’s conduct negatively affects the stature of the job,” 

Let that sink in. Her video of herself dancing negatively affects the stature of the job. Are you upset yet? Because I am.  Here an Egyptian woman was embracing her Egyptian dance and culture publicly, in Egypt and this was the result.  Why? Because no matter how “appropriate” or “classy” or “covered” you think you are as a dancer, to many we are still all “sharmutas”. All "sluts". All less than.  You can be following all the “rules” and still not be respected and it’s not because of those who maybe didn’t follow them all. It’s because the system is set up this way, to divide and conquer, to pit us against each other instead of pitting us against what is upholding the system in the first place.

Maybe you have already come across Ghader Ahmed, but if not I am thrilled to introduce you to her. She is one of my dance heroes, an activist, a feminist and a writer,  and you can read more about her story and experience here and follow her on Instagram  

I first heard about Ghader from BBC news. The story of this young Egyptian woman who had sent a video clip of herself dancing to a boyfriend and when they broke up he threatened to post it online in an attempt to shame her and her family.
He did, and a nightmare unfolded for her that I cannot even imagine going through. 

But she was fortunate and strong, and when a group of men tried to shame her for the video she posted it to her own Facebook page along with this caption that she wrote:

“Yesterday a group of men tried to shame me by sharing a private video of me dancing with friends. I am writing this to announce that, yes, it was me in the video, and no, I am not ashamed of my body. To whoever is trying to stigmatize me, as a feminist I've got over the social misconceptions about women's bodies that still dominate Eastern societies. I don't feel ashamed because I was dancing happily, just as I did publicly at my sister's wedding, where I also wore a very short and revealing dress. Now, I want to ask you guys: what is it that really annoys you? Me being a slut, or me being a slut without sleeping with you? My body is not a source of shame. I have nothing to regret about this video."

Ghader’s words resonated with me.  “My body is not a source a shame” is such a powerful statement and it’s one we all can benefit from reminding ourselves. NO body should be a source of shame for anyone.

And neither should sexuality or sensuality. We cannot control how others view us or the dance. We can only control ourselves and how we want to present ourself as an artist. For me personally this dance is sexual, and sexy, and sensual, and beautiful and artistic, and classic, and technical and natural and feminine and oh so powerful. For me this incredible dance celebrates our femininity, our whole humanity including our sexuality and I am not ashamed of it, in fact I am proud of it and thankful for it.

Being a professional belly dancer is not an easy path. It’s presented as this glamourous life but professional dancers work very hard and deal with much disrespect to do what they love, especially in MENA countries like Egypt where stigmas are heavily ingrained,  and especially for dancers of MENA heritage. If dancers are already having to face this from the general public and family, the least we can do as fellow dancers if provide a safe space and reprieve from the judgements. We can hold each other up when others try to tear our worth down. We can respond to misconceptions about this dance without having to “punch down” as they say.

One time during my regular restaurant show, one of the guests said, “What kind of show is this? You’re not going to take off the rest of what you’re wearing are you?” and they weren’t saying it to be funny.
I smiled and said, “Oh heavens no. This costume cost me hundreds of dollars and 60 hours of my life to make and is far too beautiful to take off and leave on the ground mid-show. Don’t be silly”.

So don’t be silly. We are all sluts to someone and we are all sweethearts to someone so...... 
Let’s be supportive to each other. 
Thank you for a great read Cassandra and for being our resident writer this year! 
Casandra has been a wonderful resident writer: it has been a PERSONAL PLEASURE AND HONOUR to have worked with such a kind, fun, intelligent, individual.
We have been delighted to have published all your inspirational articles this year ....


But we are happy to say this isn't the end!
in October-November 2020 
We will be co-hosting Cassandra for her UK TOUR
Click bellow for more details and to get booking:

23rd-25th Oct: Torquay Celebrating Dance Festival
with Nikki Livermore and Co

31st Oct- 1st Nov: London Intensive with Zara's Zouk and ZAMEENA
London tickets go on sale in January and will be released first to Zameena Readers in January's edition so STAY TUNED!
7th-8th Nov: Glasgow Festival of Arabic Dance with 
Ann McLaughlin and Co

Put these dates in your diary, contact the organisers and keep your eyes out for details on when tickets go on sale!
Until then: Connect with Cassandra: 
Instagram  FaceBook  YouTube  Online Classes at Patreon 
The 5 Best Christmas Gifts for Bellydance friends: 
Got a bellydance buddy you just LOVE and want to spoil for Christmas? Want to inspire a friend to take up Bellydance in the New Year? Or just want to treat someone to something sparkly and full of magic of the Middle East this holiday season? At Zara's Zouk we have all your gift worries sorted! Plus you will be  buying from a mother daughter owned business which aims to support the communities bellydance originates from! 
1) Bellydance Belts A sparkly belt is a classical gift you can't go wrong with. They are one size fits all so you don't have to worry about size! Most are hand made and crocheted in Egypt and all make you want to SHIMMY. SHOP BELTS HERE or if you're buying for a tribal dancer SHOP TRIBAL BELTS HERE
Shop Belts Here
2) Authentic Earrings Does the person you're shopping for have their ears pierced? Dazzle them with a pair of earrings. We have a great range of stunning authentic Egyptian  Earrings also Kuchi and natural stone such as TURQUOISE AND LAPIS Earrings.   How better to treat someone?
Shop Earrings Here
3) A Shamadan
Has your dancer friend got a head?!?!... We hope so! Then why not get them the ultimate crown: A SHAMADAN? This candalabra prop is so glamorous it will make any dancer squeal. An easy prop to learn for hobbyists, and great for professional dancers wanting lights to dazzle at their New Year's Eve Gigs! You can't go wrong (size is adjustable).
Shop Shamadans Here
4) Shahrzad Workshop Pass This is the ULTIMATE GIFT that will get any Bellydancer Excited: A full weekend pass to train with SUPER STAR SHAHRZAD: 4 Workshops and Hafla with this Cairo Legend for under £200 pounds! Your dance friend will love you forever!


WANT TO GO TO THESE WORKSHOPS YOURSELF? Then treat yourself for Christmas. You've worked hard all year... or even better forward this email to a loved one and say HINT HINT I want gift suggestion number four....  ;)
Book Shahrzad Workshops Here
5) A Zara's Zouk Christmas Bundle
Still don't know? Then why not check out one of our CHRISTMAS SPECIAL BUNDLES, with savings of up to 50% when buying these carefully selected packages This will be a treat they won't forget and they will truly believe comes from Santa himself! 
Shop Christmas Bundles Here
A big Zara's Zouk THANK YOU to Oona, Louise and Rikki  
The adorable Oona in a costume she fell for at Celebrating Dance! Shop costumes and dresses 

Lovely Louise dancing happily in her rose chiffon skirt!  Shop oriental skirts

Adding a sunny, Spanish flavour is the splendid Rikki in her 25 yard skirt! Shop 25 yard skirts
If you don't see what you are looking for online, we have much more in stock so give us a call/text on 0785 402 3948 or email us and we will do our best to help. You can always arrange a visit too! 
Did you know that Zara's Zouk now goes LIVE on FaceBook  on Monday's at 7.30pm (UK time)?
Join Sandra for: tips, sales, a fun competition and a giggle! 
-------------- Resident Writer Special ---------------
An Update from past Resident Writers
It's always fun to see what our past resident writers are getting up to! So we asked them for an update!
Farah Haraf Resident Writer 2018:

Hello my beautiful people! How I missed you!
This year has been a shiny rollercoaster of changes for me actually, mainly influenced by this crazy idea to open my new business. As some of you know I opened a Dubai based company called
Bling Mafia, combining my love of Swarovski and art.
I embellish everything from bikinis to walls....
I really mean everything!!!
Little did I know I would actually find myself able to do actual portraits out of crystals!

The road is rocky and time consuming but keeping my eye on the prize. Always! So much so that new collaborations are coming and international branches!

I can’t wait to show you all the new projects! 
And, yes, I’m still dancing the night away. After all aren’t we all multitask queens?
If I can share a piece of motivation to YOU reading this: JUST DO IT (well okay I haven’t created that one)
But do it!!! Whatever you have in mind that makes you dream or feel good whether it’s an entrepreneurship, a trip or even learning a new language (myself currently learning Russian just for fun) : d-o i-t
Because the rewards are greater than the efforts and you never know who you inspire!
On that note I wish you a fantastic November & December. Make these last months of 2019 a blast and keep on shining! .

With love and sand - Farah x
Follow Farah's journey and work on her Instagram page and her Facebook page
Sophia Furber Resident Writer 2017:
Hey Everyone!
Here's my update:
It's such an exciting time to be a bellydance student in London, and 2019 has been jam packed with opportunities to develop my dance skills, learn about Middle Eastern culture and meet interesting people.

One of my personal highlights was Aziza of Montreal's visit to London for a series of workshops in May.

I also had my first crack at learning to play zills over the summer during a course with Fleur Estelle Dance School.
If you haven't learned zills before and find them intimidating, I strongly recommend you give it a go - it is so helpful for musicality and coordination.
I'm a journalist by day and I've long felt an urge to write more about bellydance, so my goal for 2020 is to make  that happen. Watch this space!
Yours Sophia
Connect with Sophia on Facebook
Lastly, but actually our first resident writer
Kamna (aka Kay Dance) Resident Writer 2016:
Hello lovely bellydancers!
This year has been all about settling into my role as a mother of two! I must admit, becoming a mother both physically and emotionally has brought a new depth to me as a person and as a result to my dancing too.

I have found a new love for bellydancing and I am looking forward to performing at my first event in several years on Sunday 1st December (click HERE for details or see flyer).
You can learn dancing with me on Sundays 11.30am - 12.30pm at Langley Leisure Center.
I am of course always available for 1.2.1s as well.

Also keep an eye out for an interview I recently did with Zameena's very own Zara Dance in a new project I am working on called: Kay Cares. Have a safe but sparkly winter and hope to see you in the near future.

Yours Kamna, known to all as Kay Dance.
Get in touch: 078 3434 0981 /
Thank you Kamna, Sophia and Farah!
We love all our past Resident Writers and this fun catch up!
Hope you do too!
The BIG question now is
We are sooo excited, honoured and delighted with who we managed to get for 2020!  See if you can guess and win the Competition:
Win this golden, diamante necklace set!

Re-arrange the letters to find who our Brazillian born 2020 Resident Writer will be:

**Raza Mesnery**

Email answers to us by Sunday 24th November. All correct answers put in a pot. One will be pulled out on Monday 25th November's Zara's Zouk Facebook-LIVE  and notified by email of their win.

We Are Soooooooo Excited!
Music Corner
With Zara Dance

Hello and welcome to another Music Corner.
I hope you are still enjoying last month's song that I shared with you: My
THANK YOU for all of the amazing comments, shares and messages everyone has been sending me about this song!
I've even been asked when it will be released to buy!
Hopefully, next year I will release it in an album (the dream).........

So, I hope you liked it because this month I am once again hijacking Music Corner for a little self promotion! Another song,  click video link above: "Ana Bahebek ya Zara" which translates to "I love you Zara"
It is sung by my lovely singer Hamdy who I am blessed to work with everyday in Cairo on the boat, where actually a lot of this clip was filmed. The Nile is such a beautiful background! 

Have a listen, I hope you like it! If you don't know my name by the end then I have no hope lol. The song was written for me and here are a few cheesy romantic lines translated for you:

"Zara, ya Zara. Ya Zara!  Zara, Ya Zara, ya Hayaty "
"Zara, you Zara. You Zara!  Zara, you Zara, you are my life"

"Zara, ya Zara. Ya Zara! Zara, ya Zara, ya nour eyneey"
"Zara, you Zara, you Zara!  Zara, you Zara, you're the light of my eyes"

"Ya Rough Elbee, halyky gambee - ana bahebek ya Zara"
"The drive/essence of my heart, stay close/next to me - I LOVE YOU ZARA" 

Feel free to sing it to me the next time you see me LOL 
If you enjoy the song and video it would really mean the world to me if you shared it.

I am hogging Music Corner too much?
Well here is a new music video (below) featuring bellydance super star Brenda.
Brenda looks lovely in the video. I love her costumes but unfortunately

I DON'T LIKE THE SONG by Wael el Ghamrawy!!


The song "El Bent Beda" translates literally to "The White Girl". This is the main line in the song because unfortunately being called white or pale is apparently a compliment.     Hmmmm ....
The cultural and racial issues that can be discussed from this song are well, endless, but sadly well known. It is something that still disappoints me about my Egyptian Culture.

I am sorry if sharing this song upsets anyone but I think it is IMPORTANT to know the translation because dancers may see the video and believe it is good to use for performances.....

A good reminder of 
"El Bent Beda"   by Wael el Ghamrawy ft Brenda
          Info Spot         
         with Zara Dance        

Last month I shared a documentary which, together with Mona Prince and other dancers, was a story of what it is like to be a dancer/to dance in Cairo. The documentary was in French. I am now happy to say it has also been translated into Spanish and can be watched here (link below).
I want to say a BIG thank you to Giselle Rodríguez for the translation. Unfortunately the documentry is not yet avalible in English BUT I SPEAK IN ENGLISH IN SOME PARTS for the rest you'll have to dust off what's in your memory from French/Spanish classes at school... 
Where to meet Sandra with Zara's Zouk

Monday 18th Nov

Tamar Bar-gil
Melanie Norman
Barbara Olyus
Frederique Assor Liscia

Also, more dancers and the fantastic
Arab Quarter Band!

and  Zara's Zouk
will be there!
Buy your ticket here!

With Jawahir Bellydance
Sat. 7th Dec 1-5pm

Always good fun!
Zara's Zouk
will be there! How about you?
Dum Tak Festival

Northern Ireland 

Fri 3rd - Sun 5th April 2020

So much excitement - parties - competitions - shows - workshops with top teachers - and much more on offer so, check out 
Dum Tak Festival's  FaceBook Page 
for all the news!
Thanks for reading and do have a go at the competition!

A big Zameena THANK YOU to Cassandra for another relevant article and for being our Resident Writer this year!

Till next month
Lots of Lovely Shimmies From
(Cairo) & Sandra (London) 
(The mother/daughter team at Zara's Zouk)

Photo: Sandra and Zara shopping  in Mahmoud's, Khan el Khalili, Cairo 
 Keep up to date with Zara on: FBProfile  FBPage  YouTube  Instagram

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