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Welcome to March's Zameena!

(Zameena by Zara's Zouk, aims to share knowledge, empowerment and love of bellydance)
So much to celebrate this month!
Today, 8th March,
is International Women's Day
Have a Wonderful Day!
The 20th is Mother's Day here in UK!
Plus it sees the start of spring!

We are celebrating the sacred feminine
(as related to Egyptian/Middle Eastern culture, myth and history)
as the mainstay of life, growth, decline, death and rebirth!
We hope you enjoy the experience!

The lovely Angela Wooi (in pic above) gets us off to a fabulous start by introducing us to some amazing, Egyptian, female icons
and also to her vulva textile art

Info Spot looks at...., well just take a look/read!

Sara Sarinha completes her story of bellydance in Northern Ireland
and invites us to her upcoming Dum Tak Festival!

Music Corner gives us the gossip surrounding the recent Egyptian Govt BAN on Mahragan music and there are some fun danceable tunes too!

There's more so, hold on to your hats and let's go!
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I’m Angela Wooi, a multi-disciplinary artist largely focussing on textiles and exploring femininity and female anatomy (mainly vulva) through history and mythology.

A former belly dancer I’ve been blessed with an incredible career, working throughout all of UK and abroad with countless highlights.
Some of these pivotal moments include dancing with my mentor Khaled Mahmoud’s troupe Girls and Boys, dancing weekly cabaret in the UK and founding and directing Anaconda dance troupe who once won JWAAD’s Fantasia Festival competition. 
I retired from performing several years ago so I could develop and focus on other artistic pursuits.

In collaboration with Zara’s Zouk who has
provided bellyware and broken bits and pieces of costume that were going to be thrown away, I’m excited and privileged to upcycle this material as recreations of Egyptian vulva.

This work acts a precursor to my forthcoming collaborative event entitled Wicked Women and Fierce Femmes. A celebration of femininity in all it’s beautiful manifold shapes and sizes, I am designing costumes of maligned and forgotten female figures from history and mythology to be modelled by everyday goddesses who will be photographed for exhibition.

The following piece then is an assortment of my
favourite women from Egyptian culture to coincide with
International Women’s Day.
[NOTE: Any historical inaccuracies are my own]


As obvious as it might be, where else could I start but with Isis? Isis’ name actually originates in Ancient Greece (her Egyptian name being Iset or Aset) but her mythology reaches across centuries from Egypt of course then through Roman times into Pagan cults and potentially (and controversially) into Christianity. Isis remains one of the strongest links to the mystical wisdom of Ancient Egypt still retaining great weight in contemporary thought.


But this is not surprising as you could not find a more perfect example of a Wonder Woman! Isis had the strongest magical powers of all the Egyptian gods, was regarded as both a goddess of the sky and the moon and also of rain (believed to be a Nile in the sky).

Isis’ resurrection of her slain husband Osiris led to her being believed to help usher others into the afterlife. At various points of history, she has been celebrated as a magical healer of ordinary people, inventor of marriage, protector of ships at sea, protector of the kingdom and actually hold power over fate itself.

This only scrapes the surface of the wealth of powers attributed to Isis and she still reigns strongly in popular culture retaining her reputation as representative of the feminine divine. What a girl!


Sometimes known as The Scarlet Lady, Sekhmet is sort of like a femme fatale but with the emphasis being firmly on fatale as she was goddess of war, destruction and plague. Viewed as being an aspect of the more mild-mannered Hathor, it is believed that she manifested as Sekhmet after being sent to Earth; the result of which led to her slaughtering quite a spectacular amount of the human race!

Legend dictates that she could only be swayed from her bloodlust after her father, Ra, turned the Nile red through his own special recipe of beer and pomegranate. Settling down to what she thought was her favourite aperitif of blood, the now alcohol drenched river knocked her out for 3 days with the resulting hangover turning her back in to Hathor!

As well as representing the heat of the sun (her daddy Ra, being the god of the noon sun), Sekhmet also had the ability to breathe fire. Fondly remembered as ‘She who Mauls’ or ‘Mistress of Dread’, Sekhmet was depicted as a woman with the head of the lion. Somewhat confusingly she also the goddess of healers and physicians and was renowned as a great healer. But then nobody ever said life in Ancient Egypt was dull!

Naima Akef:

A name possibly familiar to yourselves. I first saw extraordinary bellydancer Naima in a lecture given by Yvette Cowles on the Golden Age (1950’s) of Egyptian cinema. This was a clip from the film Tamra Hanna and I was completely captivated by her dancing and movement. 

A contemporary of Samia Gamal and Tayeha Karioka, Naima’s movement particularly appealed to me more than any that I had seen before. Her fluidity and percussive hip movements set a trajectory for the rest of my dancing career.

From a circus background, Naima was wholly unique, encapsulating the abilities to sing, act, dance and perform vaudeville. At 20 she married director Hussein Fawzi who was over twice her age and with only a few exceptions worked exclusively for him, cementing her incredible appeal. Naima’s career took a dive in 1958 alongside her marriage to Fawzi and she became lost in a few mediocre films, finally enjoying a brief resurgence in the 1964 film Prince of Cunning. Sadly, Akef died in 1966 from stomach cancer at the age of 36 robbing the world of a unique talent. Her place in history is cemented;  though these are films rarely seen or acknowledged in the West but to me they were the start of a journey that has yet to end.


                                         Um Ali:

I love to cook and am passionate about food from all corners of the globe so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about Um Ali which is a traditional Egyptian dessert - a bread pudding made from honey, milk and bread. Um Ali is different to most desserts though as it was created to celebrate the death of one Shajar al-Durr.

Shajar al-Durr was of Armenian or Turkic origin whose date of birth is unknown, but she arrived in Egypt as a slave of Sultan As-Salih Ayyub in 1240. And this is where her story becomes an epically convoluted soap opera of lust, betrayal and unrelenting desire for power.

Like EastEnders but with nicer weather. In short (and please excuse the quote but this is a very complex story, al-Durr “firmly established the Mamluk dynasty that would ultimately repulse the Mongols, expel the European Crusaders from the Holy Land, and remain the most powerful political force in the Middle East until the rule of the Ottomans”.

After she was made a Sultana by marrying Ayyub, she was highly influential on her husband who ruled Egypt until his death in 1249. Al-Durr subsequently decided that since Egypt was under siege from the Crusaders, she kept his death hidden and buried his body in secret. Working with the chief of the army they continued to issue orders and decrees from the Sultan under the guise of him being unavailable due to having man-flu!

Unfortunately, the enemy got wind of the death and marched on Cairo, but they were battered, and the victory led to al-Durr being temporarily put into power.

To sustain this power though, our heroine needed the recognition of the Abbasid Caliph and he was somewhat well… well basically he wasn’t all that keen. Shajar, as we have seen though, is not one for setbacks like regal acknowledgement, so she married the Sultan Izz al-Din Aybak and then worked behind his back to rule the land, isolating from his other wife and finally well… murdering him. This backfired, the truth was uncovered, and she was beaten to death under the orders of Um Ali, the mother of the new Sultan.

And that labyrinthian tale ends up with a bread pudding celebrating the vicious demise of a power-crazed but nonetheless ingenious former slave.


Moving away from more volatile emotions of our other goddesses we have Seshat who is basically a sort of genius patron of administration. Translating as ‘She who scrives [scribes]’, Seshat was the creator of writing who also found the time to rule as the goddess of architecture, astrology, astronomy, building, measurement mathematics, historical records and surveying (and if that doesn’t exemplify her administrative skills then nothing well).

 Whilst all this bookish behaviour (and she is indeed the patron of all libraries as the ‘Mistress of the House of Books’) might imply a goddess of somewhat conservative 

attire, Seshat is usually visualised rocking a dress made of cheetah, leopard or wildcat hide with the spots also doubling as a representation of the stars.

 As a goddess in Ancient Egypt
though, Seshat did not wholly avoid matters of death and recorded biographies of people’s lives thus retaining memories of their earthly existence.
                      Omm Seti:

Thank you for indulging me in this personal selection of weird and wonderful female figures from Egyptian culture.
As such I thought I would save the strangest for last, this being the bizarre tale of one, Dorothy Eady born in 1906

Dorothy was of Irish descent born in Blackheath, London. So far, so very un-Egyptian. At the age of 3 she fell down the stairs of her family home and at that point Dorothy’s life took a very abrupt turn to the strange, suddenly taking on a strange accent and demanding to be ‘taken home’. Beginning an obsessional study of Egyptology, she was confined to sanatoriums on more than one occasion until finally moving to Egypt in 1931 with her new husband Eman Abdel Meguid.

Her arrival in what can only be seen as her pre-ordained homeland led to Eady bringing revelation after revelation as to her status as the reincarnation of Omm Seti, the wife of a pharaoh who had committed suicide due to their relationship being forbidden. The wrinkle in Eady / Seti’s tale is that she became a renowned expert and source of information on Egyptology, guiding and revealing knowledge hitherto unknow to the most high-level of native experts.
Subject to dream visits and visions, Eady / Seti was held in huge esteem as a scholar and having great insight into ancient Egyptian life. Against all the major theories of the time Seti claimed that the location of Nefirtiti was in actuality much closer to Tutankhamen’s where nobody was searching. Recent investigations through sonar anomalies and explorations are leading to the conclusion that she could well have been correct. Respected by her fellow country-people she collaborated on countless books, texts and explorations.

Unafraid of death, believing she would be reunited with her husband, Seti passed in 1981, and was buried in the Coptic cemetery hopefully returning her to her extraordinary and mysterious past.

To watch a video documentary about Omm Seti, click here.

Some more Egyptian/bellydance fabric, upcycled as recreations of vulva:

A great big Zameena THANK YOU to Angela for introducing us to some
fabulous female
Egyptian icons! 
We really enjoyed reading about them and learnt a lot especially about Omm Seti and Um Ali!

We are also enjoying your textile art - thanks for sharing with us!! 

Angela teaches weekly Bellydance and
Fine Art classes across Kent in SE England

Connect with Angela and find out more about her and her work:

A big Zara's Zouk THANK YOU to Aretha and Rikki 
looking amazing and so happy in their costumes from Zara's Zouk!
To check out our costumes, just click here.
Mother's Day Gift Ideas:
SHAHRZAD is coming to London! Come and see this spectacular dancer perform on Saturday 25th April, AT THE SHAHRZAD HAFLA: doors open at 7pm, nibbles will be provided. The main emphasis will be on Shahrzad who will be performing twice, other dancers will be confirmed soon.

Venue: The American Musical Theater Academy
London E9 5LH. 

Tickets are £18 each or 4 for £52 

Cassandra Fox
is coming to LONDON 
31st Oct - 1st Nov 
4 workshops (8hrs of teaching) + Hafla 

Zara's Zouk is very excited to announce that we will be hosting WORLD SUPERSTAR: CASSANDRA FOX for an intensive weekend of workshops and performance
31st Oct-1st Nov 2020 
We are telling YOU, our Zameena readers FIRST before anyone else, giving you the opportunity to buy the 1st Release EARLYBIRD TICKETS which are amazingly priced:

ONLY TWO 1st Release Passes Left 

This is a crazy discount! It includes 8hrs of training with Cassandra plus a hafla pass to see the star perform two sets that will take your breath away!
2nd Release Passes (only 10) are £165
Full price weekend passes are £185!  

We will not be advertising these workshops/1st release tickets on social media till April. DON'T WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO BOOK BEFORE anyone else and get the Earlybird Price!
And, be a good dance mate, tell your friends! 
Book Your Cassandra Fox Weekend Tickets Here
Info Spot
With Zara Dance
Hi Dear Dancers and Dance Lovers
It's Zara, and I am taking over Info Spot to tell you about a little project I have been working on. I have launched a new YouTube Series teaching bellydance called, Yalla Nor2os Bel Arabi, which means, Come on Let's Dance in Arabic. And, yes, as the name says it is all done in Arabic... well my version of Arabic

This series is something that I have dreamed of doing for a long time. I wanted to do somethig to support the next generation of dancers FROM EGYPT. I saw, and have experienced, that the playing ground for Egyptian dancers versus foreign dancers is very unfair, favouring foreign dancers. This is having a direct effect on the industry here in Egypt. Just one example of how the the playing ground is unfair (there are many) is the training resources available for dancers. Yes, you may think there are lots of famous dancers/teachers here in Cairo but they are EXPENSIVE! Foreign dancers have driven up the price so, up and coming Egyptian dancers have no way to afford classes/festivals. Also, there are nowhere near the number of free resources on the Internet in Arabic as there are for English speaking dancers. 

I also wanted to empower women from their living rooms, regardless of if they want to be professional dancers or not. A chance to enjoy themselves and get active no matter their circumstances, doing what they almost certainly love: BELLY DANCE!! 

Though scared at first of launching the series, because dancers in Egypt can get arrested for anything and you never know, they may arrest me for encouraging young girls to be dancers!! Possibly classed as an immoral act? I went ahead anyway. 

I was only able to make this dream come true because of meeting a great director/editor through my other projects. When I told him of my idea his eyes lit up!! There is a main team of 6 of us who work on every episode (plus 3 more each time we film) and I am happy to say that 4 of us are women! In addition to me, there's Amie and Reem who do my make up and pick out my oufits and Istart, the main camera woman. The men, Ramy and Ehab, work on the editing.

This week, we launch the new season for which we were, due to the success of the first series, able to get a gym to sponsor and help with the filming costs. I have been overwhelmed  by the AMAZING response to the videos! Loads of Egyptian and other Arab women have been contacting me and commenting, non stop, on my videos. It has given me a drive to do the best I can in the new series. 

Although I made these videos primarily for Egyptian women, I like to think they are for EVERYONE. Well, everyone who loves to bellydance! Even if you don't speak Arabic, the videos are easy to follow along to and, dance is a universal language. I have managed to add English subtitles to the last episode of the first series, where I do  a short routine. The link is above - I hope you ENJOY!

You can watch all the other episodes (I am trying to add subtitles to them all) on my YouTube channel and please subscribe so you don't miss the up and coming episodes. We will be learning chest, shoulder, arm and hand movements this season! 
Yalla Bina!

(Photo Below: The Team)
Belly Dance
Northern Ireland
and the
birth  of

Dum Tak Festival

Part Two


Sara Sarinha
As the only certified Egyptian Dance teacher in Northern Ireland I thought that the only way of helping our community to grow and to raise the standards of our dancers was by introducing more international Master Teachers to our community and I launched my accredited teacher training called ‘Belly Dance Craft’ which covers musicality, safety, teaching & anatomy, somatics, technique etc and the cultural side of this dance. 

When there is lack of cultural appreciation and preservation there is also a lack of desire for further learning. Very few people commit to improving their dance quality and build up more knowledge of this art.
 It is difficult to get students to understand the art of belly dancing (Arabic dancing) and the concept of why studying with Master Teachers is so important.

Sisterhood here in Northern Ireland doesn’t flow the same way as in England for example. It feels as if it’s more normal to be divided here and  I feel that the past is still ingrained in some people, which probably makes this normal. In England women of all ages join belly dancing classes whereas in here it’s still a big taboo. I guess the troubles in Northern Ireland held us back  for a good while compared to the Republic of Ireland, Dublin and Cork for example. But we have enough fire now to commit with our growth in the North and also enough support to connect with dancers from around the world. 
At least this is our hope! 

So, Dum Tak Festival was born.

This year we have our second Dum Tak Festival, from the 3rd until the 5th of April 2020. 
We are feeling so proud for bringing the living Egyptian  legend ‘Dr. Mo Geddawi’ to be our guest of honour, my dear Egyptian teacher ‘Dalida Galy of Cairo’, the great ‘Nawarra’ and another of my teachers ‘Munique Neith’ as Master Teachers among other great dancers that are coming from the South of Ireland such as Ciara, Stacey, Ola, Katya and Ivana. In fact this year we wanted to offer something special that suits beginners as well so we have invited guest teachers to join us. 
 Our 2020 timetable is just WOW!   Click here to check it out!
What did we like the most about hosting our first Dum Tak Festival?

We absolutely loved the connection created with the Master Teachers as well as making new friendships with all the dancers, helpers, festival supporters like Sandra from Zara Zouk. Actually everyone that came to Belfast for Dum Tak.

We hope that everyone had an amazing time last year and that everyone will join us again in April. We truly love welcoming people and watching them having a great time. 
"Who is behind the Dum Tak scene?"

Sara Sarinha as the artistic producer, director and Dum Tak CEO.
Jennie Zayna works as Dum Tak organisation ambassador and 
Nicky Dudgeon as our Dum Tak PA. 
(Photo Above L-R: Sara, Jennie and Nicky)

For more information about Dum Tak Festival just email us at

A big Zameena THANK YOU to Sara for sharing her story with us!
Dum Tak is a fab and friendly festival -
we hope to see you there!
Music Corner
With Zara Dance 

Welcome to another edition of Music Corner and we kick off (and I mean that literally) with a song which has made A BIG STIR.  It seems there is rarely a month when I am not writing about a song that makes a stir in Egypt! As I have mentioned before, music is so much more than entertainment in Egypt; it is politics - it is LIFE! 

So, you may have read or seen the discussions on Facebook recently that the Egyptian Govt has put a BAN on LIVE Mahragan (a post revolution form of shaabi music) performances. This means that ANY Mahragan performer, no matter how big or small, will no longer be able to perform at events, such as weddings, parties, festivals, night clubs or concerts. The claim being that it is low art, immoral and promotes drug use..........
And the catalyst to this decision by Egypt's  Musicians' Syndicate?
The song "Beint El Gran" "The Neighbour's Daughter (girl next door)" that and a few  bruised, male egos if you ask me. 

The song, "Beint el Gran" (in video link above) is by shabbi singer Hassan Shakoosh and also features Omar Kamal. I love this song so much and so does everyone in Egypt.
It's playing non stop everywhere!
It is actually really beautiful and far less controversial than a lot of other Mahragan songs that have come and gone.  Songs like the one I featured last month, (considered heavily sexist) will not be affected by this law as it doesn't come under the genre of Mahragan.  Beint el Gran is basically a love song, sung to the girl next door and has some seriously lovely lines in it. One of my favourites is: 

"Inty laya, anna leeky"
"You are for me and I'm for you"
(implying you are made for each other) 

There are a few lines in the song that say that were they ever to break up he wouldn't know what to do and he would get drunk and smoke hash "haseesh" - you can here it clearly being sung in the song. 

Now here is the intresting bit ... and why this song led to this crazy ban: 
Not that long ago the Egyptian Musicians' Syndicate actually came out and said they were going to be more INCLUSIVE OF MAHRAGAN MUSIC. One of their board members, Hani Shaker (a singer himself )  was aired on TV saying that he liked this song and Hassan Shakoosh .......... Hassan was then invited to perform at an exclusive upper class "proper" Valentine's Concert at Cairo Stadium, alongside "acceptable" acts such as, Nancy Ajram, Tamer Hosny, Bahaa Sultan, and Wael Jassar.

You may consider it an honour that Hassan was invited but I personally noticed the only two singers not included on the poster were Hassan and Ahmed Sheeba, a fellow shaabi singer, (not really Mahragan - but very shaabi, I have featured his songs before) ...... Why?
In my eyes they are 100x more relevant than singers such as Nancy Ajram and Bahaa Sultan who haven't had a BIG hit in years! 

Hassan and Omar were given ONE condition by the Musicians' Syndicate and Hani Shaker for the performance - They weren't allowed to sing the line of the song that mentioned drugs as it wasn't suitable for family viewing. Hassan sung it anyway!!!!!!!!!! This undoubtedly enraged and embarrassed the board and Hani...... 

The result? The Musicians' Syndicate set a blanket ban on all Mahragan performers!! I don't know why Hassan and Omar chose to sing the line.  I don't believe their abject apology and claim it was a mix up but I am sure it has something to do with ego and pride. I think the poster is a small indication on how the very class conscious Musicians' Syndicate treat mahragan/shaabi singers.

Regardless, the ban is without a doubt an over reaction, and unfair to so many. In my eyes an exploitation of power by the Musicians' Syndicate and Hani for what I can only see as bruised ego. It is undeniably a class decision. They claim that it is not a silencing of free speech as artists are free to release new music via channels such as YouTube (which they can't  really control anyway) just that they can't perform them in Egypt

What's your opinion? 


Amr Diab's New Album
Anyway, in other news and talking of respectable singers, Amr Diab released his new Album on - guess when - Valentines' Day, of course! A marketing move that didn't go amiss.
On Valentine's Day I woke up to several people messaging me various songs from the album. If I am honest, I think the album is a little weak compared to Amr Diab's older work. I've never really been a big fan of his, but it seems I am ALONE in this opinion. It's playing in all the taxis, shops and everywhere I seem to go.  Below is a link to one of the cheesiest,  romantic songs on the Album (one that was sent to me ) called "Gamilla" meaning "Beautiful"... It's basically the only word of the song.  It's a cute song to bring you into spring - and good for class work - actually I've fallen in love with the song despite my dislike for such cheesyness.
ALSO, what's fun about this song, and makes it more endearing, is it features a small verse in English SUNG BY AMR DIAB'S DAUGHTER who is based in London!!!



Sa'af a Cute Song for a Group Dance

Also, singer Ramy Gamal has released a new song that has grabbed the hearts of everyone!  I think it should come with a warning,
to the point it is annoying.
It is called "Sa'af" meaning "Clap"
Basically, the song says that regardless of circumstances don't stop, just clap! 

It is the only song I'm featuring this month that has a proper music video and it's a video that is very popular. Ramy asked loads of famous names from the Arab world to send him home made or professional videos of them singing along and clapping to his song and the clip is a montage of those videos.

Have a watch and see if you recognise any of the stars. I think this would make a nice song for a beginner group dance. It has a simple rhythm and an easy to follow along chorus.  You could also work in some clapping!
The only question is, could you handle the torture of the song getting stuck in your head after every rehearsal?  lol  

Hope you enjoyed all the new music and gossip.
Do let me know and if you liked it, tell your frinds and spread the word! 
Amr Diab - Gamilla
Ramy Gamal - Sa'af
Click on the posters below for more information
on Zara's Workshops etc. 
Come if you can - Would love to see you - Will be fun! 
Thank you for reading 

Wishing you a
Magical March

Sending  Mothers' Day
xx Zara and Sandra xx

(The team behind Zara's Zouk and Zameena)
Copyright © 2020 Zara's Zouk, All rights reserved.

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