Tuesday, April 29, 2014


 Sahra Saeeda is an international treasure, one of the grande dames of oriental dance. She is to Egyptian dance what Howard Carter and his discovery of King Tut's tomb were to the world of archaeology.

She’s taught and inspired thousands of dancers all over the globe during the course of her incredible career.  She is a generous and giving instructor, passionately sharing wealth of knowledge of raqs sharqi and Egyptian folklore, in both her international dance workshops as well as her popular four -part intensive, Journey Through Egypt, which she also presents around the world.  Her incredibly elegant, soft and thoroughly Egyptian style of belly dance is gorgeous, and she performs with command and grace, reflecting an almost otherworldly passion for the dance that is extremely rare. She has always been a huge influence on me, not only as a baby dancer, but also to this very day…and I’m sure many other dancers can say the same thing!

  Sahra is quite possibly one of the world’s leading authorities on Egyptian dance, and her position is unique: though scholarly and thorough in her approach, her writing and field research is never dry or boring because she adores her work.  And unlike almost any other scholars, Sahra didn’t just study the dance in its myriad forms, she lived it.

Sahra at UCLA with Mahmoud Reda & Farida Fahmy
  She is one of a small handful of foreign dancers to have really “made it” in Egypt, becoming a star.  In 1983, a fortuitous chance meeting with The Reda Troupe’s legendary diva Farida Fahmy at UCLA’s Dance Ethnology Masters program where they were both studying, lead to a longstanding and close friendship, which ultimately facilitated Sahra’s move to Cairo.

 Sahra recalls,
“I was doing my Masters Theses on the zeffah – the Egyptian bridal procession- and was asking questions but getting all sorts of different answers. When I asked (Farida Fahmy) about this, she asked me if I knew what cities, villages or areas the people I was talking to were from; or if knew anything about their class, socio-economical group, or that sort of thing.  She told me that the only way I would really find out the answers was to come to Egypt…so I did!”

Sahra with Sayyed Al Joker, in the Le Meriedien days
  In 1989, Sahra departed for Egypt, on what was supposed to be a three month long research trip. Instead, from an audition Fahmy set up, Sahra wound up living and working in Cairo for nearly six years, performing nightly at the chic Le Meridien Hotel doing countless shows with her own orchestra and back up dancers.

  As if that wasn’t enough of an accomplishment on it’s own, in between rehearsals and shows, she used her time to put her extensive scholarly background in Athrolopology and Dance Ethnology to work.   Throughout the years, Sahra’s creative output has been as significant as it is prolific- there are few artists whose body of work can compare to hers. Aside from making terrific performance  & instructional videos and recording music CDs while in Cairo, she also did extensive field research, filming all over Egypt.

Saidi Wedding, shot during a JTE research trip
 Journey Through Egypt is based on her work, study and lifestyle, and has been an absolute must for dancers of all levels for years. Recently, JTE has gone online, providing a much-needed resource   for dancers who really want to understand where these unique folkloric traditions stem from.

 And even more recently, Sahra has started a Kickstarter fundraiser to convert her   extensive library of over thirty years worth research to digital file before they disintegrate- and so they can be put on line.  She has hundreds of audio cassettes and video tapes to digital, so they can be put online, preserved as a resource for anybody- dancers, musicians, scholars, costumers, dance aficionados- to study and enjoy into the future.

“During my time in Egypt, I sought out people to interview about the various dances found throughout the country and more…. from stars to  “lower class” dancers- it doesn’t matter to me, it’s all valid, and all of it needs to be preserved!”,
Sahra says. Taking a breath, she continues,
“Recently I rounded up all of the old tapes that had been scattered about my office and storage unit and my assistant and I found over two hundred cassette tapes packed with research footage on the various dance zones of Egypt!”

Sahra with superstar Fifi Abdou, Cairo, 1990's

There are books in the works, too, which will be presented in both online and hardcopy format.
“ The way I am doing the series of books is similar to my Zeffah Primer. It will be a series, with each book about fifty pages,” she says,

 “The first "volume" of each region will be an overview of the area and the dances within it.  I like to structure my research this way:
1. To note which dances are of the indigenous (non-professional) population in their daily lives

 2. The local professional dancers & musicians and how they dance

 3. How the regional group represents the dances of each area of the country

 4. How Mahmoud Reda and the Reda Troupe represent this region's dances on the theatrical stage

 5. The way the Kowmeyya Troupe does the same

 6. How Cairo entertainers (particularly belly dancers) represent each region’s dances in the professional context of their shows. “

 Though this is a massive undertaking, clearly Sahra is more than enthused   to continue   her important work, her life’s work. The incredible response to her Kickstarter funding project has been more than she could have ever hoped for.

“ Now I can keep returning to Egypt to do even more research!”                               
Bedoiun girls from the Siwa Oasis

  She adds, “And I can also hire a professional videographer and sound person, instead of taking film on my crappy little camera, with the sounds getting drowned out by Cairo traffic! I’ve secured a fantastic interpreter from Aswan who used to work with National Geographic, too!’

 She stops for a moment before admitting,

“I’m so overwhelmed an honored that I get to do this… we’ve reached above and beyond even our Stretch Goals, and everyone has been so generous…. the comments and the things people are saying…well, I’ve actually been sitting here crying with happiness for the past three days!”

 If you would like to make Sahra cry even harder- and help preserve the history of our art for future generations by contributing to this important project, please visit this link, which will be live for only FIVE MORE DAYS:

Keep up with all of the news on Sahra’s JTE Facebook Page here:

In Situ: Sahra in Aswan, Egypt, 2013

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Younique Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes Mascara

Like all gals- and dancers specifically- I use a ton of make up on a regular basis, and in general, I just love to play with cosmetics.  High-end name brands or drugstore products- it doesn’t matter to me- there’s great stuff to be had in both categories, so I try to test-drive as many as I can. Every so often, I find some that are so great, I can’t believe I ever lived without them!

This is my Must Have list for Spring  2014.

  I use this power regularly and I just love it!  It provides full coverage, without ever caking or creasing, and looks fabulous no matter how sweaty I get during shows or in the course of a long day, shooting a DVD. The make up never gets absorbed into my pores the way other mineral products do, either. I was introduced to it recently on a movie set. At first I thought   was just a nice face powder with a silky feel, but the make up artist who was working on my face explained that this product was created expressly for film, so that it would look natural under any sort of lighting!  Apparently the secret to this product is that it contains powder particle of different sizes that reflect light and erase imperfections, as well as photo-chromatic pigments that actually self-adjust to any sort of lighting. It doesn’t just work for film; it’s great for the stage, too! I’m hooked!
Available online at Cargo.com, Sephora, and many department stores.

  Twelve brushes for around twelve bucks… are you @&#%$ kidding?  No, I’m not!  This is a gig bag essential, that can be found at almost any drug store.  The quality is amazing for the price, and the assortment of brushes are everything you’ll need to create an abundance of on-stage or off-stage looks. Included are a different eye brushes, a smudging sponge for blending shadow and liner, concealer brush, an angled bronzer brush, domed blush brush, a spoolie, a brow brush, etc. Get two sets and keep one in your dance bag!
Available at most drug stores or on line.

MAC Playland Collection
 If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that I’m a MAC whore…but even so, I don’t always adore everything they come out with. The Playland collection doesn’t disappoint- it’s utterly faboo!    The carnivalesque neon Brights are perfect for spring and summer, although   unless you’re Lady Ga Ga, you might not be too into the Playland collection's namesake, a lemon yellow lipstick.  
MAC Maleficent Collection
  Not to worry, there are five other pretty shades of corals and pinks. I like Red Balloon.  Aside from lipsticks, there are also four pigment colors, pencils, Lip Glass, and   three shades of Casual Colors, which do double duty for cheeks and lips. Even if you’re not as adventurous about your maquillage as I am, you’ll still find something here you’ll enjoy using…but check this collection out soon, some products have already sold out, the way they always do with special collections. 
And if you miss out on something you wanted in the Playland collection, there’s always this summer’s maleficent collection, collaboration with Disney to coincide with the release of the movie starring Angelina Jolie.  With eleven products including nail polish and marbled eye shadows, this is going to be a wicked treat!
Available online, at many department stores, and of course, at MAC stores.

  I use this great product for my every day make up and have even used it onstage in smaller venues.   Even though BB creams have been around for a while, some gals still don't know what they are or haven’t tried them.

 “BB” stands for Beauty Balm; they’re multi-purpose products that are designed to color, protect and perfect the skin.  I’ve been disappointed with a few BB Creams that I’ve tried, mostly because they usually come in only two or three shades (Fair, Medium, Dark) and the “match” to various skin tones-including mine- always seems to fall short. The Garnier BB cream features a broad spectrum SPF 15 sun block, as well as pleasing coloring that isn’t too sheer, but doesn’t feel thick, slick or oily the way others do. This cream hydrates and hides imperfections, so much so that you can roll outta bed looking like a mess, and minutes after application look dewy and well rested. I swear by this!
Available at most drug stores and online

  These little paint pots can be used as shadow or liner, and glide on silky-smooth, but stay put quite well, never creasing or fading, even during the course of multiple shows. They’re made to last for eighteen hours… but you’d have to be on a drug binge at Coachella to test that out, right?   They do last very well though, and come in really shiny metallics as well as matte shades. Being a belly dancer and all, I’m a sucker for the names of these highly pigmented gel eye colors: Iskander, Mesopatamia and Snake Eyes, though I’ve only tried Baalbek, a deep, rich, chocolaty bronze shade.
Available online or in department stores

 Ok- I saved the best for last.
 According to the instructional flyer that comes along with this product, Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes are supposed to give a 300% increase in the thickness and length of your lashes.  I was really skeptical…until I tried it.

My eyes are extremely hooded, and that means that my eyelashes actually recede into my lids, even if I have on five coats of mascara, and believe me, I’ve tried dozens of brands over the years. I’ll be the first to admit that I lucked out in the gene pool and have many gifts: good skin, thick hair that grows really quickly and healthy teeth…but I'm kinda lacking in the eyelash department.  If  I don't  wear false lashes, you’d think I didn’t have any at all!

 I simply adore this mascara… in fact, I love it soooo much that I’m showing you a picture of my extremely hooded eyes sans any make up at all, (something I never , ever do!) except for two coats of mascara on one eye, so you can see what this stuff does- and THIS IS ONLY WITH TWO COATS!     
Spot the difference!  I'm wearing Younique Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes only (obviously!) on the left side

 The mascara comes in a darling little patterned black patent-leather case that contains two tubes: one of a gel, one of fibers. You paint the gel on with a flick of the wand, add the fibers (again, just like putting on any sort of mascara) and then seal it with the gel. It dries quickly, and you could apply as many layers as you like.  As I said previously, I only did two coats and the difference was incredible.

Younique makes several other great products too, right now I’m also rockin’ their Moodstruck Minerals Lucrative Lipgloss in  “Luscious”, a gorgeous blue-red that is great for any skin tone, and makes your teeth look pearly white.

 I got these marvy Younique products form Jovana Johnson, who is a make up artist and a belly dancer, as well as a Younique Presenter.   To purchase, go to www.youniqueproducts.com/jovana, or check out her Facebook Page here:

Younique Products,  "Luscious" Lip Glass in the foreground


 I test drive beauty products and write about them frequently, so if you represent a company and would like me to review your products, drop me an email here: princessfarhana@gmail.com or send samples to:

Princess Farhana
PO Box 29504
Los Angeles, CA 90029

 My latest book, “The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer” is available here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm

Friday, April 4, 2014


 Many years ago, when I was a baby dancer, I was given a piece of advice that literally changed my life. It wasn’t presented as guidance; it was just a simple statement.

 I was chatting with a friend, a well-known film actress who’d formerly been a professional ballet dancer.  When I asked how she balanced her extremely busy life- being a mom, a wife, a busy working performer and doing extensive charity work, she said,

“I make it a point to do just one thing that is good for  myself and one thing that is good for my career every single day.”

At first I was stumped.  It didn’t seem like a formula that would lead to success…especially not the kind she was having!

It was so obvious and simple.

 But then I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said.

  That evening, as I mulled it over, I realized that she wasn’t referring to simple daily tasks like sending out acting resumes, going to meetings, taking her toddler for a play date or outing in the park.

It was about making conscious decisions to enrich life and career every day.

It was about being thoughtful and taking deliberate action.

It was about taking baby steps to achieve goals and make dreams come true!

 I started putting this plan into action for myself.  If I took a walk in the morning, I’d think, “I’m doing something that’s good for myself!”  When I had to do administrative work, or go to a rehearsal when all I wanted to do was take a nap, my attitude would change considerably when the voice in my head told me I was doing something that was good for my career.

 Pretty soon, I didn’t stop at doing just one thing- it lead to doing many things, over the course of each day! 

Instead of procrastinating, I would embrace all my scheduled tasks with a sense of enthusiasm…  cause they were good for my career; and instead or running myself ragged, I began to take the time to do something good for myself, too. Whether that meant watching trash television or doing something that fulfilled me creatively and spiritually, I embraced it- I took necessary “me time” without feeling guilty.

 The whole concept allowed me to juggle a number of projects at once without feeling inundated with work or mentally taxed. It enabled me to look at life with a fresh perspective, and embrace everything I was doing in a considerate, almost meditative way, by setting large scale goals and then taking daily “just one thing” baby steps to attain them, making whatever I was working on  a reality. 

This concept can really make your dreams come true... it's like magic- just try it, and you’ll see for yourself!


 Get your autographed copy of “The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer” here:

Graphics and photo by Maharet Hughes