Tahaya Carioca Story
Life’s Joy and Incense
The Tahaya Carioca Story
by Nermine Azzazy
Not since the death of Om Kalthoum in the seventies has the death of an artist evoked the kind of press coverage Tahaya Carioca received when she passed away in el Safah hospital, Cairo, Monday the 20th of September, 1999, after a week on a life?support machine.1 The headlines called her Bint el Ismailayah—The Girl from Ismailayah. At her bedside were many famous movie stars, actors and friends. As a mark of respect the government of Egypt paid for the funeral.
Amongst the many tributes, Arab-sat TV screened an interview from its archives. At one point the interviewer referred to the famous incident in Istanbul when Tahaya had danced for Kamal Ataturk, the creator of modern?day Turkey. After the performance a lady approached Tahaya and gave her a diamond bracelet. At the banquet that followed Tahaya recognized the lady. It was Ataturk’s wife. The question came from the interviewer: why had women in particular seemed to prefer her style of sharki to all others? Tahaya was a very old woman by the time of the interview, shrunken and frail. Her voice quavering but firm she told him, “I was praying, not dancing.”
Ismailayah has never been famous for it’s dancers. Not now, not in the twenties! It was, and is, a port city. Not a bustling, two?fisted, my kind of town port city like Suez or Bur Said. No cabarets or red light districts here. Surviving sepia photographs show a facade of broad avenues where the occasional upright motorcar puffs and pants. Men wearing tarboosh with tight western?style suits hurry about their business. Even the palm trees seem subdued.
But it was not just Mammon that was worshipped here. In 1924 when Hassan el Banna founded the Moslem Brotherhood and began recruiting, it was in places like Ismailayah and the two other Canal Zone cities where he picked up most of his support. Mohamed Ali el Nidani, Tahaya’s father, was such a religious man, although he was no political activist. His claim to fame was marrying first cousins and then having them die on him—six in a row according to some accounts. When I questioned Madame Tahaya on the subject she didn’t remember!2 “Too many,” was her comment. In any event, by 1915 either the supply of first cousins had dried up or el Nidani had decided all this death was a sign from God that he should end the custom. His seventh wife, Fatma el Zahara, a lady some forty years his junior, was not a blood relative. El Nidani had plenty of time to wonder if he had made a mistake by marrying outside the family. It was four years before his new wife gave him a child and then it was a girl!
The child was called Badawia. From the start she was raised by her paternal grandmother after her mother fled back to her parents’ house, complaining bitterly of life with her in?laws. Apparently her husband’s family had been unable to accept an outsider in their midst and treated her accordingly!
Although the double stigma of not being “purebred” and being abandoned cannot have made her early life easy, it does not seem that little Badawia became the victim of later years while her grandmother was still alive. Her grandmother must have loved her because she took charge of the child’s upbringing, and when the time came she saw that Badawia went to school. For a few terms little Badawia attended the Mahdrassah Sabah Banat, where she studied French and drawing. We have no yellowing report cards from these years, only the bare fact of her attendance. It is something. Not every little girl growing up in Ismailayah in those days went to school. Not every little girl growing up there does now!
There is one story which is more than just conjecture: when she was six or seven her grandmother took her to a family wedding where she saw a well known dancer of the time Suad Muhassen. Opinions about Suad differ. Most arts seem to suffer a decline just before the appearance of their brightest star. But for Badawia she must have been a revelation. Suad was a product of Emad el Din street, the centre of night-life in Cairo between the wars, and if nothing else, she knew how to put on a show. Badawia was so entranced that she stood up and started to dance herself. Her first confidant steps were abruptly halted by a stinging slap in the face from her oldest brother Ahmad, then a man in his fifties. “Do you want to become a dancer?” he hissed. “Do you want to become a sharmouttah—a whore?”
It was the same Ahmad that Badawia was to move in with after her grandmother died. That was when it started. These days child abuse is a crime. There are social workers, courts, judges and foster homes. In Egypt, foreign organizations such as the Swiss-based SOS children’s villages have helped make the idea of orphanages and even adoption acceptable. But in the days of the English—big believers themselves in corporal punishment—complaints to the police were more likely to elicit a lecture from the neighborhood shawish (bobby) on the theme of “spare the rod and spoil the child.”
Of course she tried to run away! Of course that just made things worse. First she was taken out of school and made to work at home, doing all the hard chores of a big household in the days before Brauncorner and Electrolux. When she rebelled, Ahmad punished her. When she tried to escape he took to chaining her up. When she was chained he liked to whip her.
It is tempting to look back now and try to assign perversion; tempting and perhaps wrong?headed. Ideas about discipline have changed since those distant days. Catching her dancing in some dark corner of the house, he felt his honor threatened. Laboring away with his belt, Ahmad probably felt he was saving her soul from the devil. Even today women regularly suffer from such “honor”!
Badawia’s own mother, Fatma, living across town, reportedly informed the police about what was happening and tried to gain custody. Nothing happened. The beatings continued. And so the days streamed by. Somehow Badawia must have found the spirit to practice what had become her solace—dancing. It is easy to picture a scrawny little girl, putting down her pot to snatch a few steps in between the back door and the refuse tip, the startled goats her only audience, easy to see her face change each time the hated Ahmad appeared and she had to stop.
But Badawia was not without friends. In 1927 Ahmad’s own son Osman, a man her mother’s age, engineered her escape. One night, unchaining the leg irons that Ahmad had decreed she sleep in, Osman helped her jump onto the roof of the next building. Here she stayed hidden for the next two days, too terrified of Ahmad’s anger to move, forced to endure the long hours without food or water as the sounds of the search waxed and waned. Finally, on the third night, alone and penniless, she managed to slip over a wall and set off down the long road to the railway station and freedom. In later years she would recall that journey: how the shadows of the big trees made soft patches of darkness she stumbled through, hearing pursuit in every night time sound. And throughout this ordeal, inside her poor shaved head a voice was asking a question. The voice belonged to Suad Muhassen. It was repeating the question the dancer had asked when she saw what was happening and came over to take the motherless child in her arms, wipe her tear?streaked face and give her a kiss: “Do you want to come with me to Cairo, deary? You want to come to Cairo and be a famous dancer?’’
Heroines don’t need money, only self?belief. Concocting a story that she was an abused maid trying to get back to her family, Badawia conned a ticket to Cairo and food and water from the other passengers. Most of the time she slept, too exhausted even to swallow the little gifts of date and mango her kindly travelling companions bought her in each of the neat red brick stations where the train made its leisurely halts.
When Badawaia walked into the city swirl outside Ramsis station that afternoon she knew exactly where she was going: up Emad el Din street just around the corner from the Shepherd Hotel. A quarter of a century later, almost to the day, on Black Saturday 1952, when the whole of central Cairo was burned by the protesters in a wave of massive anti?British demonstrations, Shepherd itself would go up in flames. Suad Muhassan’s nightclub burned too, as did a great swathe of Emad el Din and most of the prostitutes’ quarter of Ezbekayah. But for the moment the hotel’s colonial verandas are bulging and so is Muhassan’s place when Badawia finally makes it, foot sore and weary, towards dusk. Giving in to her pestering, a doorman explains that while it is true Suad has been the star attraction until the previous week, at the moment she is up in Alex with the rich folk. The doorman may have watched the gamine’s face as she considered the news. Who can say? Perhaps he had a daughter Badawia’s age who had died. Child mortality was running at over forty percent in Egypt in the twenties. Perhaps he just had a good heart. What is sure is that evening on Emad el Din was no time for a young girl to be out alone, even if she did look like an exhausted little boy. Although it was still early, music was coming from bars up and down the street. Neon lights erupted overhead, dared each other to do it again. Trolleys slid and clawed through the intersection taking office workers home. Touts patrolled the crowded pavements stopping red-cheeked British soldiers with muttered offers. Meaty women linked arms and paraded down the centre line ignoring the car horns and the catcalls. Impulsively the doorman instructed her to wait under the marquee. When the last number was done, the last “Ingleezi Pasha” sent on his way with a smile and a curse, the place swept and the door locked, the doorman found her, tired eyes shining at the sight of all the rich people going home to their fine houses in their gleaming Packards and Lagondas, and way too excited by the breeze-born smell of women’s perfume and the harsh tang of the men’s cigars to think of sleep. But now it was time to anyway. As the early morning mist curled up from the river and crept across the city, the doorman took the child by the hand and they walked to his home on the far side of Ezbekayah, stopping only for bread and to say the first of the day’s five prayers in the chilly dawn air inside Sultan Hassan while Badawia sat outside with the shoes, munching a piece of still warm bread. Then at home and explanations over with, or at least put on the back?burner, they sat down for a meal of bread and eggs and goats cheese and the hard black olives as shiny as their little guest’s eyes, the doorman joked with a bashful glance into the hard pair belonging to his wife. But joking aside, and making no bones about how it was just for this one time and she had better clear off sharpish after a quick nap, his wife did find Badawia a blanket and a shady spot as another day got under way. And sure enough when she woke up and had drunk some water, Badawia did announce her intention of leaving. She was off to Alex to find Madame Suad Muhassen, repeating the name to herself like a litany. The doorman tried to change her mind, unsuccessfully. Finally, in desperation, he hiked all the way back to the station to show her how to hop the next Alex train, then got aboard himself. He even helped her slip unnoticed into the astonished presence of Suad Muhassen as she reclined full length on a brown leather sofa in the lobby of the Hotel Cecil, eating the mango compote which was the speciality of the cake shop that time of year. It says something about both of them that Suad remembered the slap at the wedding, and what she had said, and everything else, too! Perhaps Badawia collapsed into her benefactress’ arms sobbing in relief. Probably she didn’t. Her brother’s school of hard knocks had seen to that. In fact, as she herself will later muse, the one lasting legacy of those early years is her inability to play the woman’s role convincingly—outside of films!
Like so many of those grainy black and whites, it is difficult now to make out exactly what is happening during the next part of the story. Forgotten dancers come on stage, wiggle their hips and wave their arms. They smile and bow, pick up their veils and run off. Badawia’s determined little face stares out of a back row where it seems to be raining, the quality is so bad. Next thing we know she is behind the curtain in Suad’s club, quite the little lady now, and even impudent in the effortless way she imitates Horraya Hassan, who is busy working a roomful of men, each one waving a handful of bank notes and demanding to be her next victim. For this is not the modest, homely stage where Badawia has been growing up for however long it’s been—several years at least. Another actress seems to have taken the part, an older, more developed girl. Suad has retired to Beirut where she is to die of old age as Phantoms marked with the Star of David overfly her adopted city. Her club has been sold for fifteen thousand pounds—a fortune! As part of the deal, Badawia has moved to Casino Badia’a, where writers and musicians like to meet, a place with the atmosphere of an old time music hall. Only a few years older than Badawia, Horraya Hassan is the star attraction.
A revolution is under way in Casino Badia’a, and in all the Nile?side clubs, on Mohamed Ali Street, and down Emad el Din too. Badia’a is Badia’a Masabni, herself no great shakes in the dance department, but a lady with the keen eye of the impresario. She promised Suad before she left to give Badawia a home, and has kept her word. The revolution is the surge of Latin and ballroom rhythms that have swept the dance palaces of the capital. All the other girls in Badia’a’s troupe, except Badawia—or Tahaya as she is insisting they all call her—are foreign. One day Badia’a is putting her stable of girls through their paces, and pointing to Tahaya’s legs, shouts out, “Now those are real dancer’s legs!” She promptly tells Eddi, the long haired, foreign trainer, to find a solo for her young charge, “toot sweet as you Franks say!”
Well Eddi, who isn’t French, but who is sweet on one of the other girls, puts together some silly cha?cha thing that Tahaya, gritting her teeth, performs to perfection. The audience loves it, but all the time she’s dicing to do a proper sharki tableaux, the kind of thing Madame Badia’a only permits herself and Horraya Hassan to perform.
First she needs a costume, and costumes are expensive—twenty pounds, according to the tailor she visits on her day off, enough to make an established dancer stop and think! It’s out of the question. And because it’s out of the question, never been done before by anyone in this cold hearted, bloodless business, and because the tailor is a notorious old skinflint of a Turk, Tahaya convinces him to take a two pound deposit and a monthly installment of one riyals, which in those days was a coin equivalent to twenty piastres.
When she hurried home, hugging her purchase, and told Badia’a Masabni the news, she was met with a question: “Where will you get the music from?”
“I’ll use one of yours!” the girl replied.
But Badia’a didn’t seem to mind that either.
“Come out after Yassin,” was all she said, taking the whole affair very casually, not caring if it came up sixes or double ones. Why should she? This was the period when Badia’a had them all: Ismael Yassin; Farid el Attrash; Asmahan; Kamal el Shinaowi.
But things still had a habit of going wrong for little Tahaya, even when she was getting her own way! The dancing part went fine—no surprises there. Although there was a moment at the end when, dragging her eyes from the audience, Tahaya saw Badia’a standing motionless, listening to all the applause. And then before the room was really silent, Badia’a gave a flick of her horsetail fly whisk, a present from a real life Pasha, meaning they should get on with it. Only get on with what? There was nothing to get on with. And the band leader was as helpless as anyone until Mahmoud the oud player, greatly daring, launched into “The Nile is my One True Love”, the boss’s signature tune. Tahaya hadn’t rehearsed it, but that didn’t matter. She knew all their songs backwards. They even brought her on for a third set which meant a costume change. Afterwards, Tahaya fled downstairs dreaming of sudden fame and invitations to the palace. It all turned into a nightmare when she walked into her dressing room and found her twenty pound costume ripped to shreds and strewn across the floor as if the colored chiffon and bright sequins were her hopes and dreams that someone had deliberately trampled underfoot. They got them separated eventually. Horraya was sobbing in fury, her pretty face covered with bite marks and the scratches from Tahaya’s nails. And then it turned out that it wasn’t her at all, but her mother who had done the deed. Badia’a paid for the costume some say. Others say that it was Horraya, that she was so upset that she sent her mother straight back to the countryside. When I asked Madame Tahaya for details, she dismissed the subject with a wave of one of her trembling hands. She didn’t even remember the color of the costume after all this time, never mind who ended up paying for it. She never liked to worry about money. Not after thirteen husbands. Perhaps blue! But Badia’a being a business woman and anything for a quiet life told little Tahaya better forget about sharki dancing which made the others happy again particularly the chorus who to a woman were outraged by her being given such a chance!
If women disliked her in the early days, then the men made up for it. Admirers started to come, the first of the many loves who would span her long, difficult life. They came to see the new dance phenomenon and stayed to gaze into her black eyes, fascinated by the world of amused confidence in their depths, the look which, like talent, God either gives you or He doesn’t! And being men, of course they had to wrap it up in words and ideas, and later even publish articles and whole books about what had made that time and that place the Egyptian moveable feast. By 1990 Edward Said could write: “Her dancing was like bullfighting. It was based on doing the minimum, not the maximum, and that heightened the feeling. Western dance concentrates on complicated steps. But sharki is concerned with feeling, the feeling of the music and the dancer’s interpretation. That’s the difference.” No wonder the rest of the girls started having fits of the giggles when one of these stern?faced critics or literateurs appeared at the casino, clutching another heavy tome and demanding to see Mademoiselle Tahaya. And when they weren’t intellectualizing her, the men set to work to improve her mind. Soliman Naguib, director of the Egyptian National Opera House, was the worst offender, first pestering her to study French symbolism, and if that wasn’t bad enough making her take up ballet as well! All in search of some vague goal expressed in the maxim: “To be a real artist you must be an all?round dancer.”
Casino Badia’a was set on the exact spot where the Cairo Sheraton now stands. Out for a stroll along the river towards the end of 1932, Tahaya came upon one of those open?air dance numbers so beloved of film directors at that time. A balding foreigner in riding britches was strutting through the ranks, rearranging an elbow here, a leg there, not helped in his quest for perfection by an armada of boats and boys drawn up in the shallows unable to get their fill of plump girls in shorts. But Tahaya had recognized this crazy foreigner. It was Issac Dixon. Yes, Issac Dixon! She could hardly believe it. Issac Dixon, the Issac Dixon, Europe’s foremost choreographer, staring at her from under his sandy eyebrows as if the last thing on his mind at that particular moment was dealing with some shrimp who thought she could dance! Dixon, being a big artist, had to see things differently. He decided Tahaya looked South American, a sultry temptress a la Carmen Miranda, with a melayah leif instead of a fruit basket hat. In the spirit of “The Road to Rio”, then packing them in, he was inspired to choreograph a song for her, and gave it a name—the Carioca. Even Badia’a Masabni was impressed when the master himself supervised hour after hour of rehearsal. And this time when Horraya complained, Badia’a scornfully declared: “The door is wide enough for anyone to leave.”
Not long after these prophetic words, and around the time the Carioca turned into a city?wide craze with everybody whistling the thing, Om Kalthoum invited her to dance on stage beside her during the first performance of her new song: “Ghanili Shiwayah, Shiwayah” (“Just Sing Me a Little Bit More)”. The performance of any song by Om Kalthoum was an event, never mind the unveiling of one destined to become a classic. She was also a lady who could teach a young dancer a thing or two about becoming a successful prima donna. If anyone so much as let a pin drop during one of her lengthy renditions, she immediately quit the stage and refused to return. Appearing with one kind of royalty quickly led to another: to a command performance at the wedding of King Farouk to Queen Farida. And Tahaya showed herself to be worthy of her teacher some years later when Farouk, after divorcing Farida, asked her to dance at his wedding to his new Queen Nazli. She told him, “I have already danced at the wedding of the Queen of Egypt!” The entire country loved her for that one. Farida even wrote her a “thank you” letter. The two became friends. But not everybody loved her when she told Nahed Sabri to her face that sharki dancing was not an alternate career for out?of?work maids. And not everybody laughed one night after a Nagwa Fouad show, when Tahaya announced that in her opinion modern dancers looked as if they were trying to pass a kidney stone. Nagwa, being Nagwa, just smiled. But plenty of others didn’t take it so well. Throughout her life, and particularly during the sixties and seventies, the tabloid press was full of Tahaya’s sayings and the ensuing battles. Like many street fighters before and since, as she grew older she came to love a brawl for its own sake.
It is a sad fact that nobody loves a girl with a smart mouth. Maybe realizing her time as a femme fatale would be limited, Tahaya got the early films out of the way as soon as she could. In the process she struck up an unlikely partnership with Samia Gamal, who shared the stage in Casino Badia’a with her for a couple of seasons. Samia was the complete opposite of Tahaya in terms of style, and that may have been one of the reasons why they never clashed. Tahaya was always generous about her rival, predicting a great career from the moment she first saw Samia perform. Their friendship was even commemorated in a charming film of the forties called Habibi el Asmar (My Brunette Lover) in which Tahaya was judged austere enough to take on the role of the world?weary dancer whose rags to riches saga Samia is so desperate to emulate. Later Tahaya settled naturally into this mature persona. Over the years, as her figure broadened so did the parts—notably in Souk el Khouder (The Vegetable Market), as the retired almah in Khali Balik Min Zozo (Watch Out for Zozo) and ending up when the final divorce had left her penniless as the needle?tongued old Ustah in daytime soaps.
After all the early struggles, the traumas of her childhood, the record of success that comprised her life for forty years seems curiously confused and shapeless. There is too much to write about Fayez Halawa, husband number thirteen, the dreaded thirteen, unlucky thirteen, who used up all her money and prestige to put on a series of plays in the sixties and seventies criticizing the regime. Or the eight year court battle between them, her last fight and the one above all others she needed to win. “I’ve paid my way,” she conceded with no sign of rancor over the loss of the apartment, the car, the bank accounts—even her jewelry. In the rueful elegance of that smile, I had a sudden vision of the gilded world she had inhabited for so long: villas at Agami gleaming like snow in the midday sun; snow in Lebanon on a skiing holiday with Rushdie Abaza, the Egyptian Clark Gable, who she married before she went to Lebanon, and promptly divorced when they got home. Or perhaps that was someone else entirely, she didn’t really recall. Certainly Rushdie was a very good looking man, maybe the best looking of the lot! Who would want to divorce him? No, what was clear and unalterable: men had made her life hell! And perhaps the fault was not all theirs. Even when she was young, even when she was broke, I defy anyone to find a picture of Madame Tahaya which doesn’t show her eyes alight with mockery. What love can withstand it’s glare? And as she herself told me in so many words, men did not desire her. At first I heard deserve, but no, desire was what she had said, and desire was what she meant. A soft clap of disdain followed, washing her hands of all men. No, the husbands, all thirteen of them, were in love with “Tahaya Carioca,” whoever she was! And, as if to underline the point, Tahaya treated all of them with a man’s directness, divorced them like a man, paid them off like a man. It was as if only by playing the tough little businesswoman could she underline the gulf between who she was on the screen and stage and who she was in reality. There was one difference. Unlike any man who ever lived, she was reticent to a fault. And so what follows is mostly conjecture. A nod here, a wink there, a half spoken phrase—once even a tremulous snatch of a long forgotten song that came bubbling from her old lips like a sudden shaft of sunlight illuminating a disused room:
My life’s joy and incense: recollection of those hours
when I found and captured pleasure as I wanted it.
My life’s joy and incense: that I refused
all indulgences in routine love affairs!3
Perhaps triteness is all anyone is left with after so many ups and downs.
His name was David. He was an American airman based out at Cairo West, a Marauder pilot, a Jew and a bit of a hell?raiser. He stumbled against Tahaya one night in late 1942 when everyone was cheerfully predicting Rommel’s arrival in Cairo by the following week, Insha’ Allah!
On the verge of being thrown out then and there, he doffed his cap with a word of apology and there was this pause while the two youngsters—one a man killer, the other a killer of men—sized each other up. As usual, Tahaya was ready to take off her slipper and give him a good smacking. The young American must have sensed what a spitfire he had just sent flying because he grinned a crooked grin as he held onto her hand like he wanted to ask for the next dance. The whole of Casino Badia held it’s collective breath until they both collapsed in helpless laughter.
Was he her first love? Tahaya never said. But she acted as if he was. When Tahaya got off work, David would be waiting for her. They would stroll across the river hand in hand and go into the Semiramis for breakfast, laughing at the sentries that had made them wait either side of the bridge. Weekends were out. The war was making Badia’a seriously rich. Tuesdays they went to The Hanging Garden, to the Mena House on Wednesdays. David had a little red two?seater. They dodged donkey carts and ducked in and out of the military convoys. Tahaya covered her hair with a bright scarf and kept her famous eyes hidden behind the pair of dark glasses David had given her. (His missions were mostly at night.)
Once he drove her out of Cairo and into the desert. Tahaya had never been in the desert before. Almost immediately she began to feel its strength and silent purpose, the exhilaration this broad sea of sand gave to those who set out to cross it. Going into the wild blue yonder the English called it, ever the sentimentalists, especially about death. “Something to do with loosing an empire,” David muttered. With death all around them, the remark sounded properly cynical. But even those troops, even the young ones, going back into the desert to die, all felt the same crazy relief at the sight of broad?backed dunes unfolding relentlessly towards the glistening horizon.
For Tahaya, on that spring afternoon of 1943, as she went into the desert with David, it was life that held her in it’s grip, not death. The other things, the struggles of the previous years and the coming ones, all seemed to fall away, discarded like the empty ‘c’ rations, Players cartons, French letters, old letters and what have you lining both sides of the highway like the detritus from a passing flood. After an hour’s drive they parked and ran up some dunes, yelling like children, careless of sand in their shoes, hand in hand. The memory of it was so bitter sweet and piercing that even after half a century it seemed like the pinnacle of her life, atop that dune with her arms round David.
I would like to leave Tahaya there as the pair of them kiss and stand straight and tall in the sun, ready for anything life could throw at them, literally anything: ready to make a start on reclaiming the desert or go back to Cairo for a steak dinner. What did it matter? They were young and in love. Let what followed—the marriage and its demise, the waste, the anger, the regret—let it all drop onto the cutting?room floor of memory and lie there undisturbed. At that moment, as they stood together looking into each others eyes, it must have seemed as if no distance was too great to travel, as if it was all the beginning of another wonderful journey!
1.Tahaya is survived by an adopted daughter, who as a baby was left on Tahaya’s doorstep in 1993 by a person or persons unknown. The baby was given the name Atayat (God’s gift) in honor of her great friend of later years, Fifi Abdou.
2. Most of the information in this article comes from an interview with Tahaya Carioca conducted by the author in 1997. Additional material has been included from A History of the Egyptian Cinema by Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah.
3. From “To Sensual Pleasure,” by C.P. Cavafy, translated by Keeley and Sherrard in C.P. Cavafy: Selected Poems, Princeton U. Press, 1975.
Originally from the Egyptian Delta and raised in Cairo and Kuwait, Nermine Azzazy is a graduate of the American University in Cairo in Business Administration and Journalism. She developed her dancing skills in the folkloric style at the Balloon Theatre, home of the Reda Troupe. When not training foreigners for cabaret work and running her Zamalek studio, she travelled rural Egypt and neighboring Arab countries widening her knowledge of regional dances. Nermine is now based in the UK, where she teaches an authentic and expressive style of Egyptian dance.