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The Downside of Progress in the Middle East


From Bloomberg:

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) — Farid Mesbaah, male belly dancer, hopped on a car in Cairo’s Shobra district and strutted his stuff.

He clanged metal castanets, magically converted his hips into pistons and twirled his head around like a centrifuge. The crowd at tables lining a dirt alley clapped rhythmically. Young men in jeans jumped up to wiggle along.

Mesbaah was performing at the opening of the Old-Time Moon Cafe, a gig that — along with weddings, birthdays, night clubs and circumcisions — is typical for belly dancers. Untypical, at least in recent years, are performances by men.

Male belly dancing, a centuries-old Egyptian tradition, is making a comeback — against the odds, considering its periodic suppression by government and religious officials. The problem for Mesbaah is that his craft has long been associated with homosexuality — a taboo in Egypt.

“I just like to dance,’’ says Mesbaah, who has seven children. “It’s very sensual. I’ve been doing it since I was little.’’


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