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Welcome to April's Zameena!

Spring is here and we have an exciting issue to get you out of winter hibernation!

We are overwhelmed and honored to have with us the QUEEN of Iraqi dance: Assala Ibrahim (see photo above). She will be doing an interview with us ahead of her visit to the UK in July to Raqs Sharqi London Festival. Want to meet Assala in person and LEARN FROM HER? Then book yourself tickets to the festival. We have an exclusive discount for Zameena Subscribers *valid until the 20th of April, so don't miss it!  

In addition to this we have Music Corner, with some translations to get you singing along to the  latest Egyptian hit. How do you like your coffee? In Info Spot Zara Dance does her first vlog and tells you how to order the perfect coffee on the streets of Cairo.  

We hope you enjoy and if you do be sure to share and tell friends about Zameena  - spread the bellydance LOVE ❤️  

a fun yet revealing interview with Sandra
Assala Ibrahim is arguably the most renowned dancer and teacher of Iraqi dance in world.

Often referred to as the The Queen of Iraqi, in July the UK will be honoured to have her visit. She will be performing and teaching at the Raqs Sharqi London Festival (ticket info below). 

This international star is a busy sought after woman. However, we manage to catch up with her for a fun set of quick fire questions and more - ENJOY!
Assala thank you for taking the time out to do this interview!! Let's jump right in!
Let's.. . 
What star sign are you?
Lion - Leo
Have you ever been married?
Can you drive?
Yes, but prefer to walk or fly
Can you swim?
What's your favourite food to indulge in?
Nuts, I am crazy about all kinds of nuts!
Where is your favourite place to holiday?
South Turkey, Bodrum, I like the whole ambience there, people, nature, sun, sea, food, music, and street dogs.  I never had a real contact  with dogs before travelling to this place. In the best tourist areas you could see some dogs walking around with no owners. I discover that dogs are very fascinating creatures, very smart and each dog has a different personality and shows its feelings in a different way. Each time I walked from the beach, back to the hotel, I ended up walking with a small  group of dogs. I wish that these animals will get more attention from the local authorities there, but the local people are very  kind to them. I saw people who woke up very early in the morning to feed them and they do the same with the cats.
What do you love more  shoes or bags?
Bags,  I love bags more than shoes. Shoes are not on my passion list. I prefer to walk and dance bare foot and when I have a pair of shoes they should be very comfortable.
What’s your favourite colour?
Black and red
Do you have any phobias?
Yes, looking down to the earth from a very high building
Who's your favourite dancer of all time?
Some unknown dancers in Iraq specially the countryside dancers from south of Iraq. Unfortunately, I have no names, as nobody documented their names during the films and movies they made in the 50s or 60s but they inspired my work a lot.
What is your favourite style of dance? Why is it special for you?
Raqs al Kawliya/Iraqi dance  is absolutely my favourite dance style, I feel very free when I dance this style. I love the sacred femininity and the wild spirit in this dance. When I dance this style I feel very connected to the spirit of Mesopotamia. It is so precious for me becasue I consider it as an incredible beautiful gift from our ancient ancestors. 
Please tell us about the workshops you are offering at Raqs Sharqi London Festival
London has a very good Iraqi dance community and Sarah Malik believed in my work first as a dancer before organising the festival, This is very inspiring for me as a teacher and I created a kind of intensive program for them. I will teach during the festival 6 hours. I will start with Raqs el Kawliya, then we develop to Raqs el Hachaa, dagger dance. Then I will take them with me to feel the dance spirit of the city of Basra and we will learn a very feminine dance style called Khashaba. This dance style is a very good challenge for oriental dancers and they will discover some oriental dance moves which are melted in the Iraqi dance spirit. Then we mover between Basrawi and Khaleeji dance, as both dances have similarities and diffrances. Each dance style has its own story and history and we will discover this together.
What’s your favourite music? What's your favourite song? 
If I talk about Iraqi music with only the purpose of listening, then I love the Iraqi tarab and maqam music a lot, but to dance I like very much the Kawliya’s music style, Khashaba and Hachaa and for Iraqi Sharqi the songs of Kadim al Saher
Other than Raqs  Sharqi London, what's your biggest dance project during the coming time? 
Inanna International Iraqi Dance Festival it is the second edition and it will be from 10-13 of October. I am the founder and director of this festival. My goal is to create a home with this festival for Iraqi dance with an international dance family.
Due to the hard times that Iraqi dance has passed through in recent times, in Iraq itself, it is really necessary that we continue to dance and spread this culture. We needs the efforts of all dancer around the world to preserve and develop this dance and to keep its rich culture from disappearing.

As a little girl did you ever dream of being a dancer?
As a little girl in Iraq I was the one who always stood  up and danced whenever there was family or relative festivities, As a child my family gave me a lot of freedom and my mother showed me her admiration and encouragement to dance, but when I grew up I faced very tough and hard restrictions against the dance directly and indirectly. 
It was made clear for me that dance is something that you can’t be proud of as a career and that it is only a social way of expressing joy among women and close relatives at festivities. So it was beyond imagination and any strong passion for me to dream to be a dancer.
I finished my university studies but the dance was never something that I could separate from, it was like a secret best friend, always present in my life. I remember how often when I was in Iraq that I locked my room just to dance alone for myself. I never missed any chance to dance at school projects, as boys and girls were not studying together, so it was ok to dance, especially in Basra city, my home town, which was rich with traditional dance styles.
A short time after I left Iraq the dance overcame my life and took me into its beautiful, creative and turbulent world.  
Has becoming a dancer meant you've make sacrifices in your life?
Yes of course! In addition to blood, sweat huge effort, time and some tears, as a dancer generally and as an Arabic dancer especially, you must struggle with a lot of resistance and clichés with family and society. I am so privileged to make my own way and win my freedom. I am proud of each dance experience I made around the world. I appreciate and am very thankful that the dance has chosen me to be part of its world. Dance changed my life completely.
Do you have any tips or a message for our dancers?
Well, I would like to tell them to be patient with themselves, easy coming is easy going. I mean hard and deep training with knowledge is very important for them to be true artist and helps them a lot to get self-confidence. Sharing their art on stages with an audience is a privilege and it might be that they will influence even the next generations with their dance, so it’s worth the hard work and sincerity.

I would like to tell them as well to make personal connection between the techniques they have learned and themselves. I have seen many technique perfections but very few dance movements that really come from deep within. The road between their soul and techniques should be very short and honest. This will help them a lot to develop their own style. With all the creativity and innovation they have they should always pay respect to the roots and origin of the dance culture they practice or perform.

I see that the tendency of making out that the dance is only sexy, hot.and beautiful. Dancers are growing worldwide, they should protect themselves from this modern consumption, it is like brainwashing and fake glamour. I wish them strong will to stay true to themselves so they can be influential artists and a huge inspiration for others.

Wow, that is an inspirational message to end on! I want to thank you Assala for this interview and we look forward to you coming to the UK in July! 
As do I !!

Want to learn with Assala?
And other great teachers such as Randa Kamal
and Khaled Badawy?

We have an EXCLUSIVE discount for Zameena subscribers on tickets for the Raqs Sharqi London Festival. 
Exclusive Discount
Full pass ticket are now £350. HOWEVER, if you quote Zameena (and you book using an email address that you have subscribed to Zameena through) you get an EXCLUSIVE £15 saving on tickets meaning full pass is only £335: This discount is only valid until April 20th so book now. 
Book Now
Shop Here
Music Corner
with Zara Dance

Ever heard of the saying,  all publicity is good publicity???
You may remember just over a year ago a Russian dancer named Joharah (pronounced Goharah by Egyptians) was arrested in Cairo by the ‘Bellydance Police’ for her apparently unsuitable costume and too sexy moves in a clip, filmed in a Cairo Bar/Club, that went viral. It was BIG news in Egypt, reported on by all the TV channels. Joharah was held in prison a short while and had to pay a fine to be released.

(My article  in NADA, Shorts and Shabaka, reported on this story)

This “bad” publicity however has been flipped on its head by her and her Manager, Basim. Since her release she has become an over night STAR. her name is very well know on the scene and even in Egyptian households.

I can’t help thinking a lot of other dancers are trying to replicate this fast track to fame with risky videos they want to go viral on Facebook. You may have seen some going round. Also, you have to ask, is it what clubs are demanding now?
Are they too seeking instant, widespread exposure?   

But back to Music Corner: Over a year on and Joharah has JUST RELEASED A NEW SONG with singer Hassan El Khelley. Not only does she dance in the video (she’s got some fun shaabi moves)  she also sings. I have to say her Arabic and accent is VERY GOOD. I’m loving the toctoc (ricshaw) in this video PLUS HER EARRINGS we have the exact same earring available at Zara’s Zouk and similar dresses too, so CHECK THEM OUT HERE:

Want to have a go at singing like Johara? She says:
Hey you (female) give me a kiss: “inti ya hat bossa”
What do you want?: “inti ayza ey?”
You are still a baby, baby: “inti lessa nona, nona”
Why are you following me around (walking behind me)?   “meshya waraya ley?”

She does hand actions to the words so you should be able to make them out!! For full song translations of this song OR any song contact my friend Ahmed and quote Zameena for a discount. 
with Zara Dance
Ahwah - Egyptian Coffee  
Ahwah!! Do you like coffee? I LOVE COFFEE… and Egypt does the BEST coffee: actually my friends take the micky out of me that I always claim Egypt does the best everything but this time I'm serious - IT IS AMAZING!

Trust me, it's called Ahwah. It is sometimes referred to as Turkish Coffee (but it is different, it's Turkish Coffee done EGYPTIAN STYLE). It is thick and expresso like, with the ground coffee called “bonn” sitting at the bottom. It is served in a little cup and is soooo aromatic and yummy.

How is it made? It is made by boiling the coffee in special little pots, if you don’t do it right, you get a grainy or watery Ahwah.

My auntie told me a story once about how, in olden days when looking for a husband, the potential in-laws would visit and they would ask the potential bride to make them Ahwah. Your suitability as a wife for their son would be party judged by how well you made the Ahwah.
Can I make it right? NAHHHHH but if any potential in-laws ask, I can let them know of some great coffee shops around Cairo that do and which also do a good shisha! (no wonder I’m single!!)

How is it served?
The important thing about Ahwah is how you like it served. There are FIVE WAYS you can order your black Ahwah in Cairo and it’s all to do with HOW MUCH SUGAR YOU LIKE – so much so there are 5 levels of how sugary you can have it:
“Sada”: this translates literally to plain. And you may have guessed this mean with no sugar.
“Areehaa”: this comes from the word “reehaa” which means smell – a bit like we use the expression “a whiff of” it means a tiny little hint (a whiff) of sugar.
“Masboot” this translates literally to exact/exactly/spot on. If someone is telling you something you agree with you can reply “masboot” “yer exactly”. When it comes to Ahwah this means it's not too sweet and not too bitter. It's in the middle.
“Maando” Apparently this word has no direct translation. The word was created by barristars just for ahwah, for people who want it a little more sugary than Masboot but not as sugary as the next level up.
“Zeyadaa” The ultimate level of sugaryness which only someone who is a true Egyptian at heart can handle. The word Zeyadda translates literally to extra/left over, so it is a level of extra  excess sugar, about 3-4 teaspoons in a cup: remember that Ahwah is about the size of an expresso, prepare for a double caffeine sugar high!!!

How do I like my Ahwah? Actually I don’t like my Ahwah black. I like it made with milk (still it comes as a very small coffee and made in the same way but with milk not water). For this you can ask for it with milk “bi leban” OR as the locals ask, “frans-awy” translating literally to "the French way". And the level of sugar I like? Areehaa!! Just a whiff.

And don’t forget

once you have drunk your ahwah, flip your cup over into the saucer and let it sit for awhile. Then turn it over and get a traditional Egyptian woman to read your coffee grounds .... a window into your future …. (if it's Zeyadaa I see a late night ahead lol)

In conclusion I like a Turkish coffee, done in a French style with a whiff of sugar and FULL OF EGYPTIAN MAGIC: “Ahwah, Areehaa, Fransawy” mmmmmmmmm
Thanks to Ahmed for filming
 ZARA'S ZOUK LIVE -  find us at these events:
5th - 6th - 7th



Hope to see you there

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May 11th
Spring Hafla

Community Hall
Ledbury Herefordshire

Zara's Zouk
will be there


Tel: 07962 161081

May 18th
 Harem On The Hills Workshops and Hafla Birmingham

Hosted by the lovely Luisa Taylor
Zara is performing 
Zara's Zouk Stall will be there!
May 26th 
Norwich, Norfolk
Workshops with
Zara Dance 

and a

Hosted by beautiful 
Rosemary LeFevre
For Information:

07949 850322 
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Back to Basics Baladi
Bellydance Empowerment 
June 1st
 Kidlington, Oxford
Zara's Zouk
will be hosted by the amazing 
Hannah Newton 
See you there for a day of
Zara Workshops,

Thank you for being here
and supporting Zameena,
Zara's Zouk and Zara Dance
We appreciate you
Zara (in Cairo) and Sandra (in London)
A Mother & Daughter Team 
Reading from an external link? Subscribe to Zameena Free Here
Can't wait for next month? Read last month's Zameena where we had and interview with RANDA KAMAL
Read it here:
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