Sunday, September 27, 2009

Egypt 2010

Custom Dancers Dream Tour to Egypt 2010 April 2-12

Join us in Egypt for an adventure of a lifetime! Let 2010 be a memorable year. Immerse in the beauty of the season amidst one of the cradles of civilization and the roots of our art, our dance, our spirit. The Dancers Dream Tour in 2010 will take you to Cairo for culture, shopping, dance classes at the Nile Group Festival, performance opportunities, and the humbling experience of the Great Pyramids..

During a cruise in the mystical Nile River we will stop and see some of the most ancient buildings remaining, and the dancers among us will be transformed into Queens of the Nile one night adorned by our beautiful costumes and dance. There! On the Nile ! We will dance everywhere we can along the way, and learn from the local native dancers how to feel what the music is telling us.

One of the extra features of The Dancers Dream Tour sponsored by Samra Iara is that the already economical price includes trip to the Sinai Peninsula , where you will relax on a marvelous beach on the Red Sea and experience one of the most magical moments on earth: The sunrise from the top of Mt. Sinai ! These highlights are not included in other available tour, especially for this price.

Egypt National Tour LLC, operated by Leyla Amir of Las Vegas and in conjunction with a sister company in Egypt , have been in business since 1976. Leyla Amir lived and worked in Egypt for many years and now returns there for extended periods. Samra Iara spent a month in Egypt traveling and exploring it alone. She is also an experienced world traveler, having traveled alone to many countries and several continents. She has led groups to Europe and started the yearly Lotus Dance Retreat in Bali . You will be traveling with a company and sponsor with decades of experience and reliability.

Read the itinerary for all the details and sign up as soon as possible because this tour is filling fast. We are keeping our group small to enjoy this unforgettable experience even better.

• Day 1...Depart from your home town to meet in NYC. Our non-stop flight aboard an Egypt Air jumbo 747 jet leaves for Egypt at 6:30pm . Please plan to arrive at least 3 hours before take off.

• Day 2...Ahlahn wa Salam... Welcome!! Arrive in Cairo . After checking into the hotel you will be whisked away to Khan el Khalili to shop till you drop. For dancers there will be plenty of fabulous ready to buy costumes available, plus much more! The evening will end with a Whirling Dervish show. (Seasonal. This event may be scheduled on a different day.)

• Day 3...After early breakfast, you will take off to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Continuing in the afternoon you will visit the famous Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where you will see many of the wonders of ancient Egyptian history. This evening you will have your Dinner/Show Cruise along the Nile ....

• Day 4...After breakfast, fly to Aswan . Sight seeing of this city before boarding your 5* Nile cruise ship. Enjoy your first night on the cruise with an ethnic show on the boat or at hotel nearby. Then from your cabin relish the mystical beauty of the Nile river at night, and dream about the days of the Pharaohs.

• Day 5... Port stops with included transport to see the temples of Isis, Horus and Sobek, and Kom Ombo

• Day 6...Port stops which include a tour to the Valley of the Kings and the temple for Queen Hatshepsut. Time to relax in your cruise ship lounge or pool or take an optional class with a native folkloric dancer *. Or ride on a Feluca boat. Show at night. DANCERS IN OUR GROUP WILL BE THE STARS.

• Day 7...End cruise in Luxor with a visit to the magnificent temple of Karnak . Flight to the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el Sheik . Evening free to enjoy the beauty of this city, relax on the beach, or an optional dance class with a master Egyptian Oriental dancer *

• Day 8…After early morning brunch, transport for early climb of Mt. Sinai to see the sunrise – one of the most spetacular sights on earth! Visit St. Catharine monastery.Evening free.

• Day 9… Return flight to Cairo . Citadel, Mohamed Ali Mosque, City of the Dead and Medieval Cairo . Evening free, or extra shopping

• Day 10. Arranged private class with another Egyptian master dancer*. Rest of day free. Optional trip to the Saqqara Pyramids may be arranged. Evening free. Khan Al khalili bazaar will be open or you can shop with the locals in the business center.

• Day 11...Departure for your home destination. In Egypt we say: "Salam Alakum". OR Optional extensions begin.

We always have non scheduled stops for food, water and shopping.

*Dance classes with Egyptian masters are scheduled after we have an approximate number of participants for each class and it depends on the Instructor’s availability. No company can guarantee a specific class without commitment from participants. At this moment these instructors are being contacted for class arrangements: Mona Said or Tito, Lucy, one of the Banat Mazzam sisters, and several others.

For those joining the Nile Group Festival extension, please, visit their website of master instructors: Their roster of instructors include legendary dancers such as Mahmoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, Aida Nour and many many more Egyptian and other international contemporary stars.



For those joining the Nile Group Festival extension, visit their website at: Their roster of instructors includes legendary master dancers such as Mahmoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, Aida Nour and many more Egyptian and international contemporary stars. The class sizes at the Nile Group Festival are smaller than other festivals, so one receives more individual attention, and the shows include the highest caliber of dancers! Also, all participants have one night they can perform, so no matter your level or status you can share your dance with fellow participants.


Alexandria was named after Alexander the great and it was the cultural center of the western world. The library in Alexandria is an example of the legacy of that period. The Romans built some of their finest architectural masterpieces there. Christians met, hid in were buried in Catacombs. The relics of Roman Empire are yours to explore in this magnificent city on the Mediterranean . We will spend the night there, beforing driving through the desert on our way to Siwa.

Siwa is an exotic oasis near the border with Lybia. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony bathed in the famous pools in Siwa. One of the most fascinating aspects of Siwa, besides its natural wonders are the local inhabitants. They originate from the North African Berber tribes known as Amazigh. Because of their geographical isolation they have remained relatively unchanged. Their colorful clothing and their unique music and dance styles inspired a dance named Hagallah created by Mahmoud Reda and now popular around the world in theatrical and cultural performances. The beauty of this Oasis is a bit of a secret unknown by the majority of tourists visiting Egypt. This is your opportunity of discover this “off the beaten path” pocket of culture and incomparable natural beauty.

All travel arrangements are made through Egypt National Tours.

To register, visit the site:

For more information visit:

Check for updates as details and FAQ details are posted often. If there are any questions, email Samra Iara at or or call 276-236-4533

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ho Chin Mihn City

HO CHIN MIHN CITY (Saigon) I didn't have as many days to spend in HCMC as I did in Hanoi. My schedule was also less intensive, so I had more time to rest, do a little shopping, and hang out with my kind hostess, Sandrine and her family who had just arrived from an extended holiday in their home country of Switzerland. They have a lovely small mansion in HCMC and her husband and teenage sons were also very patient and generous in sharing her time with me during my stay at their home. They also treated me like a member of the family and even invited me for an evening at some friends' house, where I tried to test my French listening skills and see how much I could understand -- not much. I was also invited by Donald and Lauren with an invitation extended to Sandrine, who accompanied me to their fantastic Lebanese restaurant named Byblos. If you visit HCMC, you must go there. The food is delicious and authentic, the atmosphere very inviting (especially upstairs) and they feature Belly Dancers. I patronize anyone who supports dancers and our beloved art form. Plus Donald and Lauren are extremely friendly and warm. We enjoyed the performance of two of Ngan's (a local BD teacher) students. They were lovely young dancers and very energetic. They used traditional music and were very enthusiastic in their renditions. I really enjoyed the evening. Then, we had a bit of audience participation and we all got up to dance. Sandrine is the Oriental Dance instructor at DanCenter where I conducted my workshops, and she is now also teaching with Ngan at another location. Belly Dance is very new in Saigon, but there is a huge interest and some students are pursuing this art very seriously.

Whereas in Hanoi the
majority of the participants in class and workshops were Vietnamese, the majority of participants in HCMC were from other parts of the world, either living there or passing through. It was very interesting for me to teach students from Eastern Europe, which was a new experience. It always amazes me how dancers from all over the world can get together and share this beautiful dance as a common bond. One of the highlights of my cultural experiences in HCMC was the night that Sandrine and I went to see a show of water puppets. I have a fascination for puppets and seriously pursue the art of Shadow Puppetry (after visiting Bali several times), but I had never heard of Water Puppets. This art is also popular in Hanoi, but I didn't have time to go see a show there, so I was as delighted as a child when I got a chance to see it after all. I even took pictures with the lifesize puppets outside. I totally enjoyed the show and was amazed at how precisely the puppeteers can manipulate the puppets on the surface of the water and standing in water out of sight of the audience. Finally the day arrived that I had to leave Saigon and say good bye to Vietnam. My sweet memories and gratitude to all will always remain. I was now on my way back to Malaysia, where I would again stay at Esther's house (she deserves so many thanks from me), and teach workshops at her son's studio named Outcast located in the greater Kuala Lumpur area. My next blog will be about those incredibly intensive two days. My flight back to Malaysia was calm, but my heart was stormy due to the news of my puppy back home being very ill.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Belly Dancing in Hanoi

Hanoi : I will never forget it.

Everything was nearly perfect during my whole stay of 8 days!
The gracious owner of Apsara Studio (An) allowed me to stay in the studio complex, in a beautiful room overlooking a cozy tropical garden. Apsara Studio is also home of the project Hidden Hanoi. There, they offer cooking classes and basic Vietnamese language for tourists as well as an assortment of dance classes. The whole complex is beautifully decorated and welcoming. An designed the studio and came up with the concept.

The whole staff was so friendly and helpful that I can't describe in words. They simply treated me like a member of the family. Since Ara (the Belly Dance teacher) was in France during the month preceding my arrival, Giang ( a member of the troupe Bastet Douat) did a lot of the organizing of the workshops in conjunction with An and the Apsara studio staff. Their level of professionalism is just amazing! Ara arrived the day after I did and she is a delight to hang out with, plus a great teacher and dancer

The workshops and group private lessons were a lot of fun and I hope that they had as good a time as I had. Everyone also kept me busy in the evenings, finding great places to go eat, or inviting me to their own homes!!! The generosity and hospitality of the Vietnamese people is unforgettable and humbling, really. I felt totally pampered. Also in Hanoi I had the best massage ritual ever!

I could go on forever about how much I loved Hanoi. You just must go and experience it yourself. It is a very unique city with a rich history and culture and one of the most wonderful people on earth. They are getting ready to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary next year, I believe, so it will be a party!

The only regret I have is that I didn't have more time to travel around the area since I was happily busy involved in dance lessons, workshops and the Hafla, but I did get to spend two days at Ha Long Bay-- a MUST SEE for everyone. It is a bit overcrowded with tourists, I agree, but its beauty is worth it and that is why we all want to go there. I will always have a bit space in my heart for Hanoi and all the people who made it such a wonderful experience.

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First Stop in Asia Tour 2009

It has been a long time since I posted in this blog. Since I can't go back in time to share all the exciting things that happened since my last post, the direction to go is forward. Thus, I will start with my recent trip to Malaysia and Vietnam to do what I love so much: teach dance

First stops: Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, Malaysia.

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur is like arriving home away from home. Although it is on the opposite side of the globe, the palm trees visible from the train that runs 28 minutes from the KLIA airport to the Central is familiar and soothing. My dear friend Esther Tan recruited her friend and manager of her son's Outcast Dance studio to meet me and take me to her home. They brought a big van for my luggage. But to our disappointment, my luggage did not arrive with me and it took 3 days for it to be delivered to me in Ipoh, Malaysia.

After spending a very tired night at the comfortable home where I was welcomed by Esther, I rode the bus to Ipoh the next day. There, I had 3 days scheduled for workshops and private lessons hosted by Wendy at Dance Vogue Studio. Wendy is a very dynamic dancer and very friendly person. This was her first time hosting Belly Dance workshops at her studio. She had been traveling, and August was a vacation month. I was busy however, with small group workshops and private lessons. The most challenging workshop to teach was the scheduled double veil choreography because the level of participants was so different. Some dancers had never held a veil, while others were ready for the choreography. As usual, I explained that one gets from a workshop all they can, and the higher the level, the more they absorb because many of the concepts they hear in one workshop, they will have again at another and with time it gets easier. I hope that everyone got at least a new move or combination.

I really enjoyed teaching a 9 year old a new choreography with use of finger cymbals. She had never used them before, and still she got most of the choregraphy in a 2 hr lesson.

One of the highlights of my stay in Ipoh was to spend time with my dear friend Annie Ong who came from Alor Star to support Wendy's event and spend time together with me. I love to be with Annie because she is a true friend who tells you like it is, but also supports her friends with all her heart. We always laugh a lot and this time was no different. We got "invited" to crash a birthday party for a 21 year old by his Indian family. Wow, what a party that was! They insisted for us to come in and we finally did, and before we realized it we were dancing with the family, and I ended up on stage with the birthday boy... Really hilarious. Annie arranged this feat, but sat quietly taking a video as an excuse to not be dragged up with me.

Wendy and her family took Annie and I to an incredible seafood restaurant. The food in Ipoh is famous for its flavor and its thick, crunchy bean sprouts. Yummy, I always put on a few pounds in Malaysia.

After the workshops in Malaysia I had to tell everyone a sad good bye and return to KL by train. Again, Esther picked me up at the train station and took me to her house ( I can't express enough how sweet and kind Esther is). The following morning, I had to return to the airport to fly to Hanoi. Esther asked her nephew to take me to the Central and soon I was in the train along the palm trees on my way to my next adventure. I had never been to Vietnam and my heart was racing with excitement.

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