Letter from the Editor:
Greetings everyone! I’m excited to bring back “Egyptian Chick Magazine” after a long hiatus and bring you some fresh and inspiring content. Our guest dancer who we profile along with her mother “Samira” and her daughter dancer “Elayssa.” In fact, the “mother daughter” dynamic is also at play here in a remembrance of my own dancer mother Johanna and a favorite hat of hers.
On another topic there is an article I actually wrote about a year ago about the legalization of hemp and it’s uses in “Ancient Egypt,” etc. Think of this article as “better late than never.” Also, we remember actress “style icon” Valerie Harper who passed away at age 80 last week.
There are a few shopping ideas at the end of the issue- some for lovers of “Turkish” coffee.
Hope everyone enjoys the end of Summer and is prepping for a beautiful Autumn season.
(Donations for the publication can be made at my “Artistic Fund” at this link: https://social.fund/pkbvqt/ )
Thank you, Aziza
My Mother and Her Spanish Hat
by Aziza Al-Tawil
One of the many memories of my mother I was left with since her death was the way she loved her “Spanish Hat.” My mother Johanna, before belly dance, had given her all not just to ballet but the study and professional performance of “Flamenco.” (I would learn later that our Roma Gypsy ancestor had a similar fetish for a similar hat, only with the ball fringe around it-perhaps proving just how much we inherit some “feelings” from our forebears, the memory they say “DNA” carries). Johanna’s Spanish hat was a favorite of hers that she wore quite often when I was growing up in NYC. By then it had been with her since probably at least the early to mid 1960’s when hats were still “de rigueur” – in fact the decline of hat wearing amongst men was blamed on John F. Kennedy around the time Johanna probably purchased her big, dramatic “Spanish” chapeaaux.
Despite JFK’s effect on the Men’s millinery industry, women’s hats and gloves to a certain extent continued in popularity into the early 1970’s with glove wearing fading first – hats seeming to have a little more “life” left in them being available rather “scattershot” even through the 1980’s. I’ll never forget though how, by the time I was a teen and we had left NYC for Charleston, WV., that hat of hers freaked me out. I was at an age where everything embarrasses you, you are worried about what everyone in school will think and that if you’re too different you will be the “butt” of jokes.
I will say that Charleston, WV always had a reputation for finely dressed citizens and some very “swank” department stores like “Stone and Thomas” and “The Diamond.” However, nothing prevented or balmed the horror I felt every time she put that hat on to go somewhere with me in public. (I already had classmates teasing me for wearing dresses, being a “Gypsy,” and it was not uncommon for some lusty, awkward boys to paw at my clothes in the hallway breathlessly saying “Sexy” or “Silky” or “is that color wine?”
Looking back, I think my mother and I should have been “Californians” if not “New Yorkers.” From people I’ve been in contact with from there it seems like it might have been a more “eclectic vibe” than the one in Charleston, WV at the time. After I got out of school we headed for Boston and I started belly dancing again. My mother was still wearing hats when she felt like it from Boston, to Orlando next, then to North Carolina where she passed away in 2012. A couple of years ago, I returned to Charleston, WV where I’ve run into a few school friends. Two things have happened to me since I was a teen. Number one, I’ve forgiven the awkward boys that called me “Gypsy”- I want their hands to touch me again – the light flicker of a finger on my skirt – the burning of my blush as I turned away – I want us all to be young again – only not afraid. After all, I thought a “Pac Man” arcade across from the school was some kind of “den of iniquity” – me who grew up in nightclubs gyrating in bugle beads to the sounds of “Opa!” and “plate breaking.” Just what did I think would happen in a room full of “joysticks?” One of the boys that used to chase me in the halls and try to kiss me died recently leaving a widow and little kids. Yes! I want us young again! Damn it! Tears now…(Oh, Chris, why did you have to die? Love you my friend….)
Then there is my mother. So many mothers leave us and when they do there is nothing to prepare us for this. Just nothing! When they are vibrant, creative, larger than life types it amazes us more. We thought they were “immortal” didn’t we? The second thing to happen to me is that I would give anything on earth to see my mother in that damn “Spanish Hat” again – putting the final touches on herself before we headed out the door. I cry for one more time – one more chance even to be embarrassed by her. In fact, I guess I outright beg God to see her in the Spanish hat again and hear her say to me the running joke: “Ole Sabicas!” As I write this though – I feel the gentle touch of something else. Her spirit beside me – telling me that everything is alright. On the other side our spirits retain all that we loved and we never fear what others will say. Yes, the tears that started are starting to dry. She is right after all. As she always said, “Mother’s are always right.”
“Of Lace and Dreams”: A California Dance Dynasty Keeps Traditions Alive
By Aziza Al-Tawil
I recently had the joy of interviewing Jenza, a wonderful dancer from California with some wonderful memories to share about the world of dance she knew and how her mother was a catalyst for the journey.
Aziza: “I know your mother was in the belly dance scene and like many “mother/daughter” scenarios it was something great you shared together. Tell us what got your mother interested in the art form and how did she get started?”
Jenza: “My mother was looking for something to do, so a close friend urged her to go take belly dance with her……belly dance classes presented by the City of San Dimas in 1975. The instructor was very overweight, but moved like a gazelle – light as a feather. I think her name was Elaine, but I am not sure. She was impressed with the instructor, and immediately was hooked. She got me to join her in the winter session in late 1975. By then, she began making costumes. By the end of 1976 my mother had a troupe (of which I was a member), made the costumes, and we were involved in performing at the 1976 Centennial celebrations for the City of San Dimas. She did not become a professional dancer, but instead continued to dance with her troupe in local showcases, and became the best costume designer in the area. She went into business as Samira-Costume Maker. She designed Persian Lace costumes, highly embellished Afghani style dresses, and even beaded bra/belt sets. (she hated beading, but she was commissioned to do these and she did not want to refuse). Within another year my Mother was the national representative in the field for Lion in the Sun Persian Lace fabric, designed costumes for them, and traveled the USA to festivals and workshops to sell the fabric and her costumes. She was a mover and a shaker in the belly dance scene, becoming the first Vice President of the Middle Eastern Cabaret Dancer’s Association in 1978.“
Jenza and her lovely mother Samira, 1970’s California.
Aziza: “Tell us what intrigued you the most about belly dancing and any memorable events or shows with your mother?”
Jenza: “Belly Dancing intrigued me because it felt “exotic” and “freeing” for me because I was painfully shy. I was performing after a year in my mother’s troupe. My first solo performance, however, changed my direction and changed my life. It was in the Centennial Celebration put on by the City of San Dimas. I performed to “Inta Omri,” though I wanted “Zaina” as first choice. The music was prerecorded by a friend from a record. I stepped out onto the stage shaking, terrified. Something changed, I found I craved the attention of the audience. It became exhilarating.”
Aziza: “Tell me a little about your journey as a soloist, being in nightclubs. What were favorite clubs or music/musicians to work with? What was your favorite song to dance to?”
Jenza: “On October 3, 1977 I auditioned for a job at the Cascades in Anaheim, CA owned by Lou Shelby (who owned the Fez prior to this) I was paid for my audition and was hired for 3 nights a week. This was my first gig and lasted about 8 months. I was in heaven, the music was heaven, and Lou Shelby the best boss ever. He always sat down with me every so often to check in and make sure I was enjoying the job and to get to know me. He did this with every dancer. There was no one else like him. I can’t remember all the musicians that were there, but I do remember dancing to John Bilezikjian for the first time at this club. And, the up and coming Aziz Khadra who often appeared with John, and made a few record albums of his own.”
Mr. Lou Shelby decided to put together an ensemble show with some of the girls. I was only interested in solo work, so instead of just letting me go, he called up Van, (can’t remember his last name) the owner of the 7th Veil and got me hired for a new gig. I began 3 nights at the 7th Veil in Hollywood, CA. in the summer of 1978 and my career exploded after that. The music there was fantastic but the most memorable thing I remembered was either in 1978 or 1979 the Middle Eastern music students from UCLA would come in to “jam” on Saturday nights for a month of so. IT WAS SO FANTASTIC…. Extra musicians/students with extraordinary talent joined the house musicians…..it was heaven on earth. I have never danced to such joyous music.”
“One of the biggest influences I remember was Suhail Kaspar, a drummer who worked everywhere it seemed. I got to know his style so well and eventually could anticipate every thing he could throw at me. He had a reputation for quite a big ego and this was true. I got a taste of that ego one night as I came in to “Haji Babas” where we were working together. I walked past him and did not say hello. Later, during my show, he and the other musician’s changed the pace and music to get back at me. He played something totally unknown with sudden changes in rhythm. I realized what they were doing and started laughing during the show…as I could not help it. I could keep up with everything and I surprised the hell out of him. He had respect for me ever after and I loved that.”
Aziza: “As you went along in your dance life, looking back, who would you say were your biggest inspirations/influences in belly dance?“
Jenza: “I saw Bert Balladine and Tonya Chianis in performance when I was a student dancer. Later I attended workshops by each of them. Bert taught me how posture, gesture and the breath can bring power to a performance…adding drama to my own style. I loved Tonya’s exuberant Turkish styling…lively and fun. I literally took years and years of classes from her. As for Delilah (of Seattle), she took my breath away. I saw her after I had been dancing for a couple of years. Her style was quintessential cabaret….with a heavy influence of Turkish. To me, she was a goddess. I wanted to dance like her so much. I learned floor work from her workshops. She was my top influence in my early professional years – and I don’t want to forget, Marina of “The Itinerant Dancer.” She taught folkloric styles to dancers from all over southern California. We all were influenced by her and her classes made us all better dancers.“
Aziza: “In your area of the country did you notice the “dying out” of the club scene and if so how did it effect you?”
Jenza: “Yes, I did notice and was disturbed by the passing of an era. I danced professionally from 10-3-77 to 10/1994. The clubs began disappearing one by one until there were only a few left. I had to drive to another county to work by the 1990’s (Orange county) and there was a larger population of Persians and Lebanese in Orange county it seemed.”
Aziza: “And your daughter is carrying on the “tradition” I hear?“
Jenza: “My daughter began dancing at the age of 16. Her dance name was originally “Sa-Elayssa” which meant “with all her heart” in Romanesh according to her father ( a full blood Romani whose family came from Serbia and Russia). She later changed to name to just “Elayssa” both professionally and personally.
She was already very good by then, but came into her own in her 20’s. She worked as a belly dancer and as a “go go dancer” in Hollywood, CA and as a belly dancer in San Francisco.. She reached a high level within the community. You can see her in many IAMED video’s from the 90’s and beyond. She danced with the famous troupe Yalail (Janaeni and Ansuya Rathor) for a time, went to India with them. She was the creative director for the troupe Desert Sin, a troupe that performed Fusion pieces. She topped off her career with her own troupe called Elysium Dance Theater of which she danced traditional, Persian folk dance, and Fusion.
I believe I already talked about my mother. She continued to make costumes even after the store “Lion in The Sun” closed down in the early 80’s. During the 90’s and the 2000’s the gypsy skirt was popular. I saw a gorgeous full multilevel gypsy skirt at “Rakkasah” during that time period. My Mother was with me and said I know how to make that, lets make some. We made and sold many of those 12 yard monster skirts together.for about 10 years. I am retired now (though you never know, I might get into it again just for fun). My Mother is retired and 83 years old this year. My daughter retired from the dance to be a Mother and I am a proud grandmother of a beautiful 3 year old boy, Lucas. ”
Hopefully for all of us, “”Jenza” and Family will continue to delight audiences for years to come – Aziza
Hemp Legal In U.S.: It’s Uses in Ancient Egypt
By Aziza Al-Tawil
There has been a lot of talk about the recent legalization of “hemp” and “marijuana” and the products derived from them. There has been a long history of hemp and cannabis in the Middle East. In fact, “Qanbes” the Hebrew word for “Cannabis” is mentioned as the word for “Hemp” in relation to clothing that was made from the fiber.
Cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Rameses the II and all other Royal mummies.
The Goddess Seshat’s symbol from ancient Egypt is a contextualized seven-leafed plant (she is a scribe, which means she is a magician).
The first ritual acts of temple building were accomplished by the pharaoh, who played the role of the creator deities. He was aided in this and related tasks by Seshat, goddess of measure, who helped him stretch the cord used to survey and orient the plot. Pyramid texts identify the plant used to make cord and rope as “smsm,” the Egyptian word for hemp.
There are types of Cannabis that come in 5, 7, and 9 leaf varieties
It is known that cannabis was used recreationally during Nile-flood celebrations in the 12th Century, and that it was present in Egypt thousands of years before that found on the mummy of Rameses II (1275-1229 BC), and in the tomb of Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC).
Modern research shows that Egyptians used cannabis, and knew about its aphrodisiac properties. For example, experts at L’Oreal perfumes recently teamed up with the Centre for Research and Restoration of French Museums, and reconstructed “Kyphi” perfume, an aromatic mixture used by pharaohs to prolong their lives and enhance their sex drives. These perfume experts and Egyptian scholars told the media that one of the key ingredients of the Kyphi perfume was cannabis!
Dabke Dance-Learn Easy: https://egyptianchick.com/how-to-dance-dabke-with-samir-hasan-2/
Remembering “Rhoda”: A Style Icon from the 1970s Has Left US
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Was terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Valerie Harper, the star of the quintessential 1970’s New York sitcom “Rhoda.” My mother Johanna met Valerie briefly when they marched together in the “women in communications” group in a street demonstration against the prevalence of “smut and crime” that proliferated in Mid-Town Manhattan at the time.
For me, “Rhoda” represented the kind of woman I yearned to grow up to be. One bold enough to say what was on her mind yet feminine and still retaining a touch of vulnerability.
Rhoda’s creativity in work as a “window dresser” and in her own personal style was also encouraging to those of us girls who embraced our “free spirit.”
God bless Valerie! She outlived the diagnosis given her a few years ago through will power and sheer “joie de vive.” Any girl should be glad to have such role models.
Some Exotic Gifts for Everyone
Whether you like belly dancing, or Turkish coffee even, you’re bound to find something in Aziza’s shop on “Red Bubble.” The items featured below just “scratch the surface” – the same designs are available on up to 60 or so different products. Visit http://trashpunk.redbubble.com for more great ideas.
Egyptian Goodies at Amazon: https://egyptianchick.com/egyptian-goodies-at-amazon/