When you learn oriental dance in a non-oriental country, like myself, the fascination to get to know the origin of the dance grows with time, and with knowledge. It is only natural, that after some years of dedicated learning one wants to go and see the country of origin of the dance and wants to learn from the source. My fascination with the Ghawazee began soon after I started to dance oriental dance. Maybe because I started learning from a teacher of a gipsy origin, or maybe it was because of my love for dance with finger cymbals and that-up beat feeling that upper Egyptian music gave to me...but for sure I fell in love with it when I bought Aisha´s Ali DVD Dances of Egypt. I knew I had to go to south Egypt. For more than 10 years I deepened my knowledge of oriental dance and some Arab folklore, travelled to Cairo a few times, but never had the opportunity to learn Ghawazee. It seemed that everything needed its time to thrive, and so did my Ghawazee experience.

It was the 24th of October 2015, that I first smelled the air in Luxor and felt the warm ground of upper Egypt. From the first minute on, I completely loved it. The following day our hosts, my dear teacher and friend, an amazing woman named Brigitte and her husband, a citizen of Luxor, Mohammed, arranged a meeting for us with the last of the Banat Mazin, the living legend itself, Khairiya Mazin. I am not going to write about Banat Mazin, because I am sure all the oriental dancers know about them.

We were to meet with Khairiya at Mohammed's restaurant Nile View on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor. If you have ever experienced what it's like to be a fan, to have an idol, well, then you know how I felt. I was sitting in the Nile View with my friends, waiting for Khairiya to come. First, the musicians came, then, there was a very elegant lady in a black galabiya, wearing black hijab. That was Khairiya. Oh, my god. My eyes filled with tears and I started trembling. Just a few metres from me, there she was. A legendary dancer, the last of the Banat Mazin. I told my friends: »My dear girls, we are witnessing a historical moment. Do you know how lucky we are right now to be sitting here with her? «

After we met and had lunch, we had a private workshop, ten girls from Slovenia, Kshatriya Mazin and their amazing Shaba musicians for Luxor. What can I say? During the next three hours, magic happened. Khairiya was dancing for us, telling us about her dance, her life and we were totally enjoying each and every moment with her. She is a wonderful person, soft, gentle and sweet. Her dance is very earthy but at the same time very feminine, very natural and a pure joy to watch. She showed us all of her repertoire and we knew we wanted more, but at that time we already had some other plans to travel around upper Egypt, so we said goodbye to her and we were hoping to meet each other again soon.

all of us with Khairiya 2015

So, we came back to Luxor again, one year later. Our dear hosts, Brigitte and Mohammed arranged to spend a whole day with Khairiya on a beautiful dahabeya, from Luxor to Esna. Could we ask for more? It was the 29th of October 2016, and Khairiya came together with her translator, Aza. Khairiya speaks only Arabic and as I wanted to have a short interview with her, she was accompanied by a young Egyptian woman, a tour guide, writer and most amazing woman by the name of Aza Lofty. I will not speak about Aza at this moment, because that would take another story to write, I just hope her books will get translated into English at some stage, so we can all share the pleasure and enjoy reading them.

Aza, me, Khairiya

Let's get back to our second encounter with Khairiya. She came to our dahabiya in elegant black, like first time we met. She sat with us and we had a short interview, that you can read at the end of this article. The interview was very relaxed and we laughed a lot, trying to find the right words and sentences not to »lose them in translation«. I would like to say how much we all enjoyed talking to Khairiya and Aza, two strong Egyptian woman, with amazing life stories, vast spirits and big hearts.

After the interview, Khairiya went to change from her galabeya into an elegant red dress, in which she also performed.

Khairiya & the band

The amazing Shaabi band we had with us on the boat, a nye, rababa, tabla, duff and oud began to play and Khairiya began to dance. We were mesmerized by her dance. Her finger cymbals as being part of her body, her hips, steps, and floor work, everything so perfectly melted with the music and the ambient of the Nile and upper Egyptian countryside. We could recognize some basic ghawazee steps from the video of Aisha Ali Dances of Egypt, and from the lesson we had the previous year.

After the performance, Khairiya taught us her steps and combinations, her way of moving, her style; the Ghawazee style and the Banat Mazin style. We had a great time dancing, learning, enjoying the music and Khariya´s company. Khairiya also perfomed so-called raks Jihayni, a dance with a stick, which is considered to be one of the oldest ghawazee dances. Her moves with a bamboo stick were slow, graceful and very skilful. Some moves reminded me of Tahtib, a men´s marshal art of upper Egypt.

We all danced with finger cymbals and after some hours of dancing Khairiya asked me about my finger cymbals. I had Saroyan professional finger cymbals that I usually use for practicing and for performances. She liked them very much so I gave her mine to try them out. Khairiya loved them and asked me where I bought them. I decided to give them to her as a present. My small present to my big idol, a historical figure, our dear Khairiya Mazin. This was the thing that really made my day perfect. What more could one want?

Our dancing lessons went on until late afternoon and early evening. Apart from dancing, our workshop and the interview, we also had lunch together. We talked a lot and had a great time together.

When we arrived to Esna, Khairiya and Aza left the boat to go back to Luxor, by car, as we were going further down the Nile, till Asuan. Khairiya left us with unforgettable experience of learning from a living legend and yes, we will go to visit her again soon.