- Life Style
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By Ahmed Zaki Osman
An ancient art said to date back to pharaonic times, belly dance or Eastern dance, as it was coined by Orientalist visitors to the Middle East, has grown to become an integral part of Egyptian culture.
Every young girl prides herself on dancing at weddings and at home. Men often join in too. Egyptian belly dancers during the 20th century became cultural icons, particularly in the 1930s, when virtuoso dancers such as Badia Massabni and Beba Ezzedin rejuvenated the art form with new choreography and moves, and, along with their proteges, starred in numerous films and performances.
But this historical tradition seems to be in trouble once again by condescending cultural views linking it to sexual arousal. This is a viewpoint often attributed to rising conservatism but it may also be linked to the absence of star performers like Tahiya Carioca and Samia Gamal, who turned the dance into an artform.
Sadly, the time of the legendary dancers seems to have passed. Even Fifi Abdu, who rose to stardom in the 1980s, has withdrawn from the scene and now stars in soap operas. To celebrate its legacy, however, we offer you some of the more interesting incidents from the golden age of belly dancing in Egypt — the 1940s and the 1950s — through to present times. Take our quiz to find out how much you know about the art and its echoes in the cultural and political life of Egypt.