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Welcome to our 100th Newsletter!

We are so so excited and proud to welcome you to this our 100th edition of Zameena. You can read Every Edition of Zameena HERE 

We are ready to celebrate (it's also Zara's Birthday)!
To help us celebrate we have Cairo Super Star Vanessa Raqs she shares with us 100 bellydance tips, pointers and stories from her many years of experience dancing at the top!

We then give you the chance to win a £100 gift voucher for Zara's Zouk OUR BIGGEST GIVE AWAY EVER!! 

We invite you to come and party with us at some of our up and coming events including a Saidi Workshop straight from Cairo and one of the MOST FUN Online Haflas you could imagine!

Finally take a walk down memory lane and go through the history of Zameena and check out the archives.
Are you ready? Grab a cuppa or glass of CHAMPAGNE (it is out 100th issue) and enjoy! 
With great pleasure, we hand over to Vanessa Raqs!

I would like to thank Zara and Zameena Magazine for giving me the opportunity to be the Feature for this 100th Edition.  It is a great honor!

In celebration of this wonderful milestone, I wanted to share tips, tricks, stories, and a little something for everyone in this issue—in fact, 100 things!!!

 So without any further ado, Yalla: 

10 Things In Every Cairo Dancer’s Bag: 
(besides her 3 costumes)—Most of you probably have most or all of these

  1. Copy of Mosanafaat Paper (License for Dancers)
  2. Extra Beige Shorts (required by law to wear under costumes)
  3. Extra Beige mesh Shabeka (which literally means “net”) bodystocking/belly cover (also required by law, but most dancers don’t actually wear—still essential to have in bag (to pretend like you do….)
  4. Safety Pins/ Emergency Sewing Kit (with extra hooks)
  5. Hair Pins, Brush, Elastics 
  6. Extra Hairpiece/Wig/Ponytail (you never know when you’ll need it, trust me…)
  7. Extra underwear….can use for as needed, or for extra bra padding in a pinch
  8. Perfume
  9. Rhinestone accessories
  10. Flash, CD, iPod….any form of emergency music (best to have all 3 available)

BONUS: I also carry zills, an extra veil, fake eyelashes & glue, a pair of socks, flip flops, fake nails & glue, water, baby wipes, hairspray, a pair of 2”-2.5” ballroom heels, bandaids, small sewing scissors, sweat towel, curling iron, and an auxiliary cable — but that’s just me….

10 Hacks
(that just might Save the Day!!!)

  1. Dental Floss - Sure, you might have something stuck in your teeth, but I use floss for sewing. (I learned this while in ballet school—we used it for sewing the ribbons to our new pointe shoes…very sturdy) Great for sewing hooks while in the back of a taxi, on the way to your gig…true story)
  2. Pour a bit of Cola on a rag to step onto (in your heels) before hitting the slippery stage….this is an old theatre trick to keep you from slipping….
  3. Hair elastic can also work for zills, to keep a broken shoe on your foot, and to secure the trim on your Saiidi stick—amongst other various uses…
  4. I’ve used many things for emergency bra padding….socks, underwear, and yes, even a *bra* bunched inside another bra….the trick is to always cut a slit in the costume lining on the side of the cup. This way, you can always add and take away padding as needed
  5. Forgot your skirt?! That extra veil will come in handy….
  6. Hairspray can get some stains out, plus keep your hair in place!!! WIN/WIN
  7. Cut your foot? Spray perfume on it. The alcohol should clean it in a pinch. Nail glue or super glue can close or seal a clean wound. (But it really stings—be ready to cringe!!!)
  8. Lipstick for blush, blush for eyeshadow, brown eye-shadow for contour, glitter for anything!!!!
  9. I try to keep a spare pair of leggings in my bag. They can be cut into shorts,  cut into a top, or worn after the show, or under your costume when traveling from show to show when its cold outside.
  10. Have a lighter with you at all times. You can use it to stop fraying on ripped fabric, light your candles for your shamadan, see in the dark, or soften any crusty makeup.

Photo below: Vanessa at Nile Group Festival

10x Practice What You Preach:

  1. Know your Rhythms
  2. Know your classic songs and composers
  3. Have at least a general understanding of the various (Egyptian) folklore dances, Arabic styles & genres—so that you can use the proper movement vocabulary when the music calls for it
  4. Improvise
  5. Lay down on the floor and listen to the nuances in the music. Really Listen. Do not dance thru accents—dance INSIDE the music. BE the music.
  6. If you get stuck, ask a respected Teacher or Colleague for input or feedback.  Take a break, and then return to it when your mind is fresh.
  7. Study with a variety of people to understand the differences in techniques and styles of teaching/learning.
  8. Learn from what you like; Learn from what you don’t like.
  9. Be kind and patient with yourself—art, skill, and evolution take time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  10. Be open to ideas, constructive criticism, and varying opinions.

10 Technique Tips:

  1. Transfer your weight (don’t get stuck in the middle)
  2. Keep Your Knees Loose (more mobility for hips and range of motion)
  3. Free your Feet” (let your feet accommodate the movement—don’t glue them to the floor, and twist your knees…that would be a knee surgery waiting to happen!)
  4. Don’t “MAKE it Happen…. “LET it Happen” (if you follow steps 1, 2, & 3 this will be easier)
  5. Point your ankle (I call it “Barbie Doll Foot”) ….and when you can, point your toes too!
  6. Shoulders down, Darling! 
  7. Ballet class never hurt anyone. 
  8. Chin up, Buttercup! (it will avoid the double-chin we dislike in pictures)
  9. Basics are what everything is built on. Don’t forget it’s all based on circles, twists, figure 8’s, drops, slides, undulations, and all variations thereof…
  10. Layers Last—don’t lose the quality of what you’re doing (for the sake of looking fancy) because you layered too many movements on top of each other. Be clear and concise. 

Photo above: Vanessaa in a favourite Eman Zaki Costume


10 Pro Performance Tips:
  1. Be prepared — but know that anything can happen. Have backup.
  2. Acknowledge your audience — they are going on a journey with you.
  3. If you are working with musicians, deal with them in a kind and respectful manner. Same goes for DJs, waitstaff, the managers, hostess, hotel owner, and the cleaning lady!
  4.  Please wear underwear or lycra shorts that match your costume. For the love of God.
  5.  Adapt to your surroundings— your audience, the venue, the stage, the general setting…all these things come into play.
  6.  Go with the flow.
  7.  Be sincere. People can feel  when someone is “fake.”
  8. Have a sense of humor. If you get upset over a mistake or a mis-step, the audience will remember or feel uncomfortable. If you smile and shrug it off- they will forget it, or love you even more!
  9. Say thank you. Be gracious. Thank your audience with a gesture, thank your musicians, or DJ, sound technician, stage manager, or whoever helped make the show happen. You didn’t do it all alone.
  10. Be nice backstage.

(All of these things have personally happened to me, and if you’re in this business long enough, they will likely happen to you too! LOL)

  1. Your bra hook will pop.
  2. You will slip and fall.
  3. Your heel will get caught on your skirt.
  4. You’ll forget an important part of your costume.
  5. Your zill will fly off, and possibly land in someone’s hummus.
  6. You’ll forget your cane for Saiidi, or better yet, break it on stage.
  7. Your music won’t work, and you’ll have to dance to some random song you’ve never heard before.
  8. Your veil will get stolen.
  9. You’ll step on a sliver of glass, or cut your foot. 
  10. Someone will try to make you dance on a chair, a table, or a bar top.
Photo Above: First contract in Egypt 2008 - waiting to go on stage!

10 Things I Learned Along the Way…

  1. Have a plan. And then have a plan B, C, D, E, F & G
  2. If it seems “too good to be true” it probably is.
  3. It’s ok to sayno thank you”, and to pass on a job or opportunity if it doesn’t feel right to you. Trust your instincts.
  4. Some people want to be your friend. Some people just want to know what you’re up to. Know the difference.
  5. Nobody else’s beauty or talent takes away from your own. There can be many stars in the sky.
  6. Be your own Brand of Excellent.
  7. Success is subjective. Respect is respect.
  8. You will be the “New Kid” — and then you won’t.  Appreciate what each phase in your career has to offer.
  9. Nobody likes a showoff.
  10. Pay your dues. Give credit where it’s due. Respect your elders. Stay humble.


  1. Try to be fair and not step on toes if you can — respect the Entertainment Managers, or those booking the venues…especially the House Dancer.
  2. People undercut to get work. Don’t be one of those people.
  3. You might lose a job or contract for any number of reasons. Learn from it and move on. Six months later, they may want you back…
  4. What goes around, comes around.
  5. Avoid drama. Don’t gossip. Don’t tell people your business.
  6. It’s a small world.  Be kind to staff and musicians. You’ll probably see them again somewhere.
  7. When you do a good job, or become “successful,” people can get jealous.  This goes with the territory. 
  8. Don’t burn bridges — especially with Social Media…a small bridge can turn into the Brooklyn Bridge!
  9. If you make a mistake, apologize. If you did something wrong, or mishandled a situation, try to make it right. If you need to stand up for yourself, do it with respect and with integrity. 
  10. Don’t lose sleep over idiots. You’ll never get any rest if you do!

10x Some of the Best Advice People Gave Me…

  1. “Watch And Learn” — Gamila El Masri (NYC) my mentor giving me a Reda Troupe VHS tape and encouraging me to expand my knowledge of Egyptian Folklore. (This was just one of the many gems she gave me.)
  2. “You’re a good dancer, but sometimes it looks like you’re doing gymnastics out there. You need to calm down.” Ustez Hassan Afifi, (2007 in NYC) the year before I worked with him in Luxor. (On a side note, the show in Luxor, “Memories of the Sphinx” in 2008 was my first official contract in Egypt, and one of the last big shows he choreographed, and I was too happy to have the opportunity to show him I had taken his advice to heart. Indeed, I had calmed down!)
  3. “Always make the women feel comfortable. Smile at them and make them feel important and included in your show.”Miabella of Ft. Worth (my first bellydance teacher)
  4. “The veil is your friend. Treat it kindly and gently. Fight with it, and it will fight back!” — Miabella
  5. “It’s not about the tricks—the jumps, leaps, and turns. One day, you might be asked to simply walk across the stage. What will you bring to that?”Ann Reinking (Star of Broadway, actress, dancer, choreographer)
  6. Vanessa, you of all people— if you care about this dance so much…you need to visit Egypt. You need to go there to gain a greater understanding of the culture, the music, the people, the dance.”Dr. Mo Geddawi
  7. “You can’t just do whatever you want—you have to have an understanding of the music and the context!”Farida Fahmy (during a lecture I attended)
  8. “A dancer must costume herself for her body type and style of dancing.”Eman Zaki, my beloved costume designer
  9. “Don’t ask ‘WHY?’ in Egypt. The truth is, most people don’t know the reason why, but they’ll likely make something up just to give you an answer!” — Sara Sherif Farouk Ahmed (Director, Actress, Friend)
  10. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”my dad

10 Most Memorable Moments (Egypt Edition)

  1. Snake in the Jacket. I thought the guest was reaching into his jacket to tip me. I was wrong.
  2. Rogue Camel. Four Seasons Bedouin Dinner. Camel breaks away from his handler, and trots across the stage in the middle of my show. How do you come back from that?!
  3. The most Hazardous Stage ever rigged…8-10 feet high…over a pool and patio. 2 inch gap between the two pieces, covered in fabric, shaking in the wind. Yes. 
  4. Home Run! Slipped and fell like I was sliding into home plate. Round stage. Packed Audience.  Absolutely visible from all directions, with nowhere to hide, 45 seconds into my 30 minute show. Got up so fast, some people actually missed it. But most saw it in all its glory.
  5. Double Stick Saiidi: dropped a stick in front of Fifi Abdo. Picked it up and kept going.  Realized that she still enjoyed the show, and I never stressed about dropping my stick ever again. 
  6. Dancing while so sunburned (day at the beach….) it hurt to sweat. I wore my brightest neon pink costume to make my skin appear less lobster-like. I still looked like a lobster. A dancing lobster.
  7. 3 hour show. The dancer who was supposed to go on after me at a Cabaret never showed up, and so I just kept going, and going, and going. At some point, I thought I was gonna pass out, and I asked for a juice. I knew it had been at least 2 hours….but as soon as I realized the time, my body literally stopped. I excused myself from the stage. The next day, I felt like I had run a marathon…
  8. My show getting interrupted by police, and being hauled off in a van to the special Police Office on the 12th floor of the Mogamma Building in Cairo.  Fortunately, I did not get into trouble, but I missed all the rest of my shows that night! Two weeks later, the same police came into a different Cabaret, and when they saw me, they waved hello and left. I later found out that they were speaking with the manager about me, and how I was one of the only artists they had encountered who had remained nice and calm, and who had treated them with respect. So in the end, I gained an office full of fans! 
  9. Dancing for the King of Bahrain — it was my first VIP Party in Egypt, and I was really nervous. The agent told me that sometimes if he didn’t like the dancer, he’d make her leave before she even finished the song.  That information didn’t really make me feel any better! In the end, I did get to finish my show, so that was good. But boy, was I on edge the entire time!!!
  10. Scaling the fence while in costume (with abeya on top). New Year’s Eve. Running late to my next show (5 of 7 if I recall correctly—it was a schedule destined for failure) Now I’m trapped backstage, and the usual exit is padlocked closed for security reasons on such a busy night. I have zero time to find help, get the guards, find the key, unlock the door, say thank you….A decision had to be made. It was a ‘007’ moment for me.  I took a look at that fence—that tall, black, rod-iron gate. I saw a complete stranger on the other side of the gate, and so naturally, I asked if they could take my handbag. Next came my luggage.  That was harder to hoist over.  Good thing I lift weights! And now, I had to hoist myself over this thing. Hmmm. Where will my foot fit? Up, up, up I went. I grabbed the fence with one hand, and my abeya with another, and threw my free leg over the other side. I couldn’t see below me, but the adrenaline was pumping, and I felt like a super hero. “Oh, to hell with it!” I said to myself and then jumped the rest of the way down. Not very smart in heels, but I was feeling no pain. “Thank you” I said to the stranger, who looked quite befuddled. And away I ran…Of course I was late to my next show, and the manager was very angry. He was about to cancel the show altogether, but then I told him the story of me climbing the fence. I did my show that night, and I worked at that hotel for a good solid 5 year stint.  Sometimes, you gotta go the extra mile!
Wow, what a wonderful read, so many helpful tips and pointers, Fantastic!  
A great  big Zameena THANK YOU to Vanessa

Vanessa has been living and dancing in Egypt full-time since 2008

Photo above: Vanessaa in a specially made Eman Zaki Costume

For more informatio follow Vanessa on: 

Vanessa Raqs  & Vanessa Raqs II

Instagram: @vanessa_raqs

YouTube: Vanessa Raqs



We can't let Vanessa go without seeing her dancing - enjoy!!!
Thank you again Vanessa!

Vanessa is Performing at NYCairo Raks Festival 2017 - Superstars Gala show!

❤️ ❤️  THIS IS COMMUNITY!  ❤️ ❤️
To find out more please read this from Vanessa:
Please help me support the musicians, singers, dancers, & tech staff of Egypt - Many who have worked with me over the years in Cairo.
Donations of any amount are helpful!

These artists have been out of work for months, and almost everyone who worked with me has families who rely on them, but there is no possibility for them to work during this time due to corona-virus.
Please PayPal
via “Friends & Family” to avoid fees
Include in the notes for our records:
1) Full Name /Facebook Name
2) email address
3) Artists Fund Donation

Thank you all for your support! It is a stressful time for everyone, but with your help, we can make it thru this tough time - Vanessa x  
❤️ ❤️
To celebrate the 100th issue of Zameena we are bringing you our bigget give away yet, win a £100 Zara's Zouk gift voucher! You can spend it on any of the physical items in the Zara's Zouk Shop*! And it is SO easy to enter just follow these easy steps..... 
Make sure you are subscribed to Zameena - especially if you are reading from an external link. SUBSCRIBE HERE
Like the Zara's Zouk Facebook Page, FIND THE PAGE HERE
SHARE THIS ISSUE OF ZAMEENA on facebook, saying something nice and tagging the Zara's Zouk facebook page: @ZarasZouk
You can share this issue of Zameena by clicking on the facebook icon below here:
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And that is it.... it's that simple YES! THAT SIMPLE. Entrants who have followed the 3 steps will be entered into the draw to win the £100 voucher. You have until the 28th June to enter. The draw will be made live on the Zara's Zouk Facebook page on Monday 29th June by Sandra (and her saucepan) . The winner will be informed by email.

*Voucher cannot be used for any workshop or hafla tickets (live or online), only physical items in the shop.
Please come and support our up and coming live (online) events! 
Zara Dance presents to you her 
Saidi Workshop
ft Osman
Sunday 21st June - 7-9.30pm BST/London time
This workshop will be LIVE, ONLINE: on the application Zoom.

Come and learn Saidi with two Egyptian dancers based in Cairo. 
Zara and Osman have worked over a year together on boats, events and weddings in Cairo

In this workshop you will be learning: 
With Osman the basic steps/foot work and stick work of Saidi that comes with from the traditional male dance. 
With Zara you will learn more feminine accents and styling as well as history, context and execution. 
 With both Zara and Osman you will then also learn a small choreography so you can practice these steps

Bring your stick!! 
Click here for workshop tickets and info
50% of tickets have already gone 
Don't miss this ONLINE HAFLA on 
Saturday 27th June - 7.30-10pm BST
on ZOOM!


***---Vanessa Raqs ---***
***---Roxane Grant---***

***---Bellydancer Sara---***
***---and Zara---***

***---Double Saidi Stick Solo Osman---***
***---Mahragran Singer Mohummed---***
followed by a mahragan/shaabi DISCO

More acts to be confirmed. 
​Our last two online haflas SOLD OUT so don't hesitate to get your tickets now!
The amazing Anna Chandler will be co-hosting the Hafla with us at Zara's Zouk: Zara (And Sandra)
No matter where you are in the world if you would like to join this EPIC hafla please do!!
Tickets are only £7.50

Info Spot
It's our 100th newsletter so here are some facts and milestones we hope you enjoy
by Zara
Read EVERY edition HERE
  1. 1st newsletter sent in August 2011 - a simple manual email. By the third month we decided we moved to a more interactive platform with a sign up option and joined Mailchimp. Our 1st Mailchimp Newsletter was sent October 2011.
  2. We did our first feature of a dancer in our 19th issue February 2013 which celebrated the Chinese Year of the Snake we featured Snakey Sue! 
  3. This was quickly followed by our first ever interview of a dancer in our 20th issue March 2013, we interviewed Delilah (aka Delia) former Miss Bellydance UK, promoting her, then new, book, which I still recommend today! 
  4. Since then we have had 6 dancer features and have done interviews with over 16 dancers.
  5. In August 2013 we chose to give our newsletter a name - Zameena - meaning intelligence. We just added a heading without even announcing the change!
  6. In that August 2013 edition Helan Santa Maria, wrote an amazing article “Is Perfection Holding You Back”. Helen contacted us and asked if we could collaborate, I write an article for her newsletter and she write one for ours!! It was the start of something magical, since this Zameena has been the platform for over 45 guest writer articles (including a second from Helen and our Resident Writer articles). How cool is that? All these artists sharing their knowledge about everything bellydance!
  7. March 2014 we had an interview with Farah Nasri. I was so excited to feature this dancer that I made the first Zameena “Cover” and advertised it all over Facebook. It had a great response.
  8. I started making covers for every issue and also went back and made covers for some of the older issues – especially those which featured guest writers or interviews.
  9. Unfortunately, we have lost 2 editions of Zameena from the archives, and in those were some amazing guest articles and dancer features, including a feature I did on Asmahan’s Sword Dancing, Kassandra wrote and article about Training at Home, Delilah wrote an article on Sexy Bellydancing and Clare wrote about Bellydance Muse. These two issues were special editions. We made them using a special magazine platform (like Issuu). They were virtual magazines that you could flick through.. The platform shut down and with it our 2 special Zameenas were lost!
  10. June 2018 - We updated the header to the current logo/header.
  1.  Our 1st Resident Writer was Kay Dance  (Kamna) in 2016.
  2. Kay wrote an article for usBellydance Love” for our Feb Valentine's edition. After writing the article she asked if she could write more..WE LOVED KAY and said yes! From there our resident writer was born (a dancer who writes for us, quarterly, for a year.) It gives our readers a real chance to learn about a dancer and go deeper than just one article allows.
  3. Our resident writer issues have been some of our most popular.
  4. 2017, Sophia Furber, 2018 Farah Haraf, 2019 Cassandra Fox
  5. We are NOW on our 5th resident writer: 2020 Serena Dance.
  6. I personally LOVE the resident writer issues and through working closely with each dancer for a year we really build a friendship. It's seriously been an honour.
  1. Jan 2018  saw the first Info Corner
  2. Sandra usually writes this section (uness there is a guest writer or I nudge her out like this month) 
  3. It's a chance to share snippets of info that she finds interesting either to do with Middle Eastern culture or bellydance.
  1. Not only wanting to promote diversity we also wanted to ensure that the bellydance community stays connected to the root countries and cultures.
  2. Less dancers were using Arabic music at haflas , from my observations, when I returned to UK.
  3. Music Corner, in Zameena, launched in August 2018 to make Middle Eastern music more accessible.
  4. Every month features SEVERAL fresh songs from the Egyptian music scene, giving readers the updates and celebrity gossip.
  5. I have talked about the context of the songs, the culture surrounding them plus meanings and translations.
  6. This is one of my proudest contributions to Zameena. I believe music corner to be an amazing resource to the dance community. It also means that  I do my bit and write in each issue
  1. Our motto is “empowerment of women through bellydance” and we believe true empowerment only comes from diversity. We have made it an aim of Zameena to be as inclusive and diverse as possible – this is something we are always trying to improve on!
  2. Feel free to send your suggestions.
  3. Some memorable articles, embracing diversity, include: "Never too late Dancing Whilst Over 60", "Dancing Whilst Living with Cancer - with Yvette Cowles", "Dancing Whilst Pregnant- Rachel Bennett", other articles talk about body image and size, healthdiscussing and addressing abuse in our community.
  4. We always try to get a BROAD range of different dancers to feature (hobbyist to pro).
  5. We have featured several articles discussing IMPORTANT topics such as appropriation of Chabbi Esra Warda,   and Ahava's article on Dancing whilst Black .
  6. One of our aims is to try and feature more dancers from countries of origin (Egyptian/ Arab/ Turkish women) this can be difficult due to accessibility and language barriers but it is an aim we have set ourselves
I hope you have enjoyed this look back through the archives!!
And that you continue to enjoy many more to come!
Here is to the next 100 Zameenas!
Music Corner
with Zara Dance

Ok so I wil ltry to keep it short as this month's Zameena has been pretty epic to say the least. 
I thought this month I would have loads of songs to share with you because usually there are so many new releases around EID time, but no one is partying and hence no one is releasing music. The charts, of course, have new songs but nothing I feel that is good fun for dancing. The song "Your Turn Will Come" by rapper Wegz and other hits by Wegz have been popular throughout the last few months but they are far from getting people up to dance - though there is dancing in the music video, see below.

So, we are still, like the past two months, going to look at songs coming from Ramadan series and this one has proven to be one of the most popular and one I haven't mentioned. It comes from the series "100 Wesh" which goes nicely with the theme of this Zameena as it means "100 Wishes" and the song  "Millionaire". It is a fun shaabi song talking about tomorrow: they know they are going to become millionaires. The singers are a selection of mahragan stars and several actors from the series including actress Nelly Karim who does a pretty impressive rap in the song.
The song is above, ENJOY! 
"Your Turn Will Come" - Wegz
From Sandra in London and Zara in Cairo (the mother daughter team behind Zara's Zouk) we would like to say a big thank you to all our subscribers, you are the ones we make Zameena for. 

We often say making Zameena is a “labour of love” (they are not easy to produce) but they are NOT - they are our thank you and our way of giving back to the bellydance community that gives us SO much!

Thank you for you support. 

Love and shimmies
Zara and Sandra
Copyright © 2020 Zara's Zouk, All rights reserved.

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