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Yasmina of Cairo

Yasmina’s Belly Dancers’ B&B




What would you do if a life-changing opportunity came out of nowhere – would you be brave enough to take it? Meet three women who were….

Francesca Sullivan, 39, lives in Egypt with her husband Safaa, 39. She’s a professional belly dancer and works in Cairo. ‘I’ve always yearned for adventure. When I was a little girl, my imagination took me to wild and exotic places, but I had to content myself with writing stories about them. Whe I left school I started to earn a reasonable living from photography, but then in the early Eighties I went to Morocco and discovered a passion for Arabic music – it’s so hypnotic and enchanting.

As soon as I came home I took up belly dancing classes and found I had a natural gift for it. At first it was just a hobby, but then I discovered I was good enough to be taken on professionally. When I was accepted at a club in London, I started to rethink my life. I’ve always loved the paradox of belly dancing – it’s a sensual expression of femininity that comes from a society where such sensuality is traditionally repressed. It has glamour, exciting music and graceful movement. I fell in love with it, and the seeds of an ambition to dance in Egypt, where the dance began centuries ago, were sown.

‘But the reality required a huge leap of faith – by whole life was in England. Then there was the fact that only the very best dancers can expect to find work in Cairo. There’s a lot more to belly dancing than a fancy costume and Arabian audiences can certainly tell the real thing from a fake.

‘I put in months of training before I was good enough to get an agent and find work in Jordan, Morocco and Dubai on short-term contracts while continuing my life in London. ‘But moving to Egypt remained my dream and, in 1995, I decided it was now or never. So, at a time when many of my friends were settling down and starting families, I did the complete opposite. I let my flat, packed up my dance costumes and flew to Cairo.

‘I just knew that the only way of turning my fantasy into reality was to go for it 100%. It was pretty scary and I did a lot of soul-searching, but the excitement far outweighed any worries I had. And fortunately, my family and friends accepted that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t take the plunge. ‘The minute I steeped off the plane I felt like I’d come home. I’ve been in work ever since, performing at weddings and putting on shows in hotels. I certainly haven’t made a fortune, but I live in spacious apartment near the pyramids and have an Arab horse which I ride out in the desert every day. ‘I also have the satisfaction of knowing that, against all the odds, I’ve made it in an extremely competitive world. I’m not one of the stars who are household names here, but in the world of dance everyone knows my name. ‘In addition to dancing, I now write and take pictures for Egyptian magazines. There have been times when I’ve missed

England but I’ve never regretted my decision. Moving here was the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken, but it’s also been the most rewarding.’

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