Intellectual Edward Said met with Tahiya Carioca (1919–1999) several times. He was a big fan of her personality and art, and wrote at least two texts about her life and influence on “Eastern dance.” In one of his meetings with the iconic belly dancer, she told him: “When I danced, I felt I was entering the temple of art.”
Samia Gamal belly dancer performed in 1949’s “I Love You Only,” in which Egyptian spy Refaat al-Gammal (better known as Raafat al-Haggan) acted alongside Farid al-Atrash.
In 1949, King Farouk named Samia Gamal “the national dancer of Egypt.” She was among the most successful belly dancers, with leading roles in many films. Her most successful movie as a dancer and leading star was in 1947’s “Habib al-Omr” (The Love of My Life)
Nagwa Fouad was one of the most famous belly dancers of the 1970s and 1980s, along with Soheir Zaki. Presidents and high-profile world politicians attended their performances and were captivated by their unique styles. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was so fascinated by Fouad’s dancing that on one of his visits to Egypt he stood up and joined her in belly dancing.
In his memoir, “A Life Looking Forward: Memoirs of an Independent Marxist,” notable leftist scholar Samir Amin wrote about his joy to have witnessed, in the Port Said Cecil Bar in his hometown, the first steps of the woman who later became one of the country’s most iconic belly dancers. This “extraordinary dancer,” as Amin described her was Tahiya Carioca.
Almost half a century ago, rural areas were famous for a different kind of belly dancing called Ghawazi dance. This more traditional style, which is the origin of contemporary belly dance, has had little added to its repertoire from ballet, Latin American or modern Western dance. One famous belly dancer took it upon herself over the years to promote the genre and save it from dying out, attracting many Western amateurs to come learn the dance. She is Khairiyya Mazin.
The famous Kitty Fotsaty left the country in 1960 in mysterious circumstances. She was born in Alexandria in 1927 to a Greek family and was famous for fusing Western style dancing with the Oriental style. She danced in nearly 50 films, but she is best known and remembered for her roles and dancing scenes with film star Ismail Yassin.
For some critics, her life was simply a circle of struggle. Zeinat Elwy was born into a poor family with a cruel father. But, with steely determination, she chose belly dancing as a career. In her many interviews, she often told reporters that belly dancing was an art and that belly dancers should defend their careers. Her legacy included memorable dancing scenes in around 45 movies. She is also known for her attempt to struggle against the Gamal Abdel Nasser regime, which tried to impose restrictions on belly dancers, by trying to initiate a syndicate for belly dancers.