Luna: Kisses from Kairo
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Cairo, etc.
I was born and raised to a working class family in Brooklyn, New York. In 2008, I graduated from Harvard University with a Masters degree in 2008 in Middle Eastern Politics, though I also have a B.A. in journalism and political science. I first became interested in the Middle East after watching the events of 9/11 from my home. Like the rest of us, I was scared and intrigued. So I dedicated my academic career to learning about Islam, Middle Eastern history, and mastering Arabic. At the same time, I was learning how to belly dance. Upon graduating from Harvard, I won a Fulbright scholarship to write about the history and development of belly dance in Egypt. That was the perfect way for me to mix my academic and artistic interests. I started working on my book, but before I knew it, I was presented with several opportunities to work as a professional belly dancer in Cairo. So I’ve been doing that ever since. I’ve also started my blog “Kisses from Kairo,” where I talk about my life as an expat belly dancer in Egypt.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
As you probably know, one accumulates many crazy experiences while living in Egypt. As a belly dancer, I accumulate even more. The things that would happen to me on a daily basis were just so absurd and fascinating that most people wouldn’t believe them. I thus realized that my life in Cairo has great entertainment value. That’s what inspired me to write. This, plus the fact that I have interesting insights into the culture, made me decide to share my thoughts with the world. And so far, it’s been pretty successful. I get excellent feedback from my readers—dancers and non-dancers alike.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Cairo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I didn’t really experience culture shock, as I had visited Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries before deciding to live here. I do, however, have a little difficulty adapting. I don’t like wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when it’s 100°F out. I don’t like being harassed every time I step out of my door, even if I’m covered from head to toe. And I don’t like being bossed around because I’m a woman. So, no, it hasn’t been easy. But it’s also never shocked me.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Cairo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I never planned on being a professional dancer here. It just happened. Fate took over, if you will.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The funniest thing that’s happened to me yet involved me visiting several hospitals for an incident that involved a tampon. I won’t get into details, but you can read all about it here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Cairo?
The first thing I would suggest is to come here with no expectations. Be flexible. Things never go according to plan here, so you have to be willing to improvise. You can’t be uptight about people rescheduling or missing appointments, or things not going your way.
The second thing would be to have thick skin. This applies to women more so than men. Living in Cairo can be downright painful sometimes. You need to be able to find ways to deal with harassment, lies, and other rude behaviors that can be quite common here.
Thirdly, be prepared to do things differently. You can’t expect to be treated as an American, or treat others as such. You have to understand that you are in their country, not the other way around. That might mean doing things you wouldn’t necessarily do back home, like being a little less independent than you would at home, for example.
How is the expat community in Cairo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Cairo is diverse and quite educated, so it’s easy to find like-minded people to make friends with. And the fact that we all have similar experiences makes it easy for us to relate.
How would you summarize your expat life in Cairo in a single, catchy sentence?
My life in Cairo is a perfect example of what happens when you drop the reigns and let life do the driving.