Belly dance has a long tradition in Egypt, dancer hopes for UNESCO status

The floating nightclubs down the Nile are back in business as a trickle of tourists returns to Egypt.

In addition, belly dancers are once again in high demand in Egypt. Dancers in revealing clothes perform with a complete traditional musical background, attracting people from all over the world, particularly from Arab republics in the Gulf.

While many dancers are relieved and happy to be back at work, there is growing concern that the art form is becoming too tightly linked to drinking and nightclub life.

Some people believe that belly dance, which has a long tradition in Egypt, is increasingly equated with strip dancing, making life challenging for the dancers.

According to Egyptian dancer Amie Sultan, “We’re seeing this dance being buried in these underground cabarets and bars more and more.”

“An average Egyptian family going to see a show at the theatre will never see this dance.”

Sultan has initiated an effort to have Egyptian belly dance added to UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage as part of a push to shift attitudes of the traditional art form.

However, the dance is trendy in Muslim and Christian weddings, Sultan added, they always seem like sex workers rather than artists.

“A mother will hire a belly dancer for her son or daughters marriage, but she will never make her daughter a dancer.”

Born in Singapore, Sultan began her career in ballet, and she switched to a belly dancer in 2014. She was amazed that performers need to wear completely revealing costumes and frequently undergo cosmetic surgery and breast augmentations.

“I do not like to call this dance a belly dance because it is related to Egyptian culture, so it’s better to call it Egyptian dance.”

Callin belly dancers as sex workers make belly dancers life more difficult.

Belly dancers have been stigmatised in a manner that other professional dancers aren’t, according to dance master Aki Abdelfattah.

He added, “When people see belly dancers, it raises a lot of questions.” It’s a poor representation.

He added, most of his students attend his workshop without telling their parents.

Because of Egyptians’ difficulties, most of the belly dancers come from foreign countries, especially from Russia and South America.

People think if an Egyptian girl works as a belly dancer, it means she does not belong to a good family or have a good education. She is just doing it because she needs money. People are not ready to accept belly dancing as a career.