Cigara Wa Kas with Samia Gamal

I just finished watching ‘Cigarah was kas’ with Samia Gamal. It is a remarkable movie, not only because of Samia’s delightful dancing, but because of the precision with which it portrays the controversy regarding the way dancers are perceived in Egyptian society.

Fananas (female artists) are admired and worshipped by the general public, yet their shameful conduct is condemned along with other disrespectful activities that are attributed to their working environment, such as drinking, smoking and homosexuality. However, they could redeem themselves by giving up their careers and independency in favor of starting a family. The ideal wife should be attractive yet modest, loving yet not jealous, witty yet ready to sacrifice everything for her husband and children.

The movie also provides a glimpse into the dancer’s daily routine: late night performances, followed by dinner, retiring to bed in the daylight. The hardships of foreign entertainers aren’t forgotten either: Azza, the Tunisian singer, laments the restrictions of her contract: foreigners only get a six-month visa and work permit, despite being in demand. Eventually the go-getting Azza settles for a “visa marriage”.

There are several dance scenes, each one with distinct music and costumes. The opening scene is my favorite, where Samia, dressed in white assuit with black head scarf and hip sash, dances in a rural setting while Kouka(Azza) accompanies her by singing and playing sagat.

The movie is distributed by the Arab Film Distribution and is available on Netflix. For an in-depth study on Egyptian female entertainers I recommend “A Trade Like Any Other” by Karin van Nieuwkerk. Bear in mind that this book is based on a PhD, its language is rather dry and academic, but the content is well worth the effort.