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Egypt's Leading Women

Egyptian women, like many other women, have great potential once they unleash their power. Eva habil, Passant Refaat, and Radwa Saad El Din are three women who took the lead in three different fields.

In December 2008, I quoted Muslimah Media Watch who blogged about Eva Habil, a 53 year-old Christian lawyer, who became Egypt’s first female mayor on December 14, representing Komboha, a rural town in conservative Upper Egypt with a Coptic majority community.

On her blog, Ayam wa Ayam, Shaymaa El Gammal interviewed Passant Refaat, Egypt's first Female DJ:

Shaymaa: And what about the rest of your family? Did they support you? How?
Passant: Without the support of my family I wouldn’t have been the 1st female DJ. Starting from my brother Tarek who taught me the art of DY-ing, and also gave me support and help in any thing I got lost in. As for my mum, I was only 15 years old and it was hard for me but she was always helping me and pushing me to go further and better. Also Ahmed my brother always accompanied me, because it is very hard for a girl to stay out late especially in clubs and parties, they supported me and helped me to unleash this talent I got for DY-ing.

Shaymaa: What obstacles did you face as a female DJ?
Passant: I used to stay for 12 hours a day mixing and tying out things, it was sometimes very difficult, but I have to say that I enjoyed every second of it. Nothing can replace the feeling of doing the thing you love to do most. I tried to work at some places, but the answer was “you are very young and we don’t have a permission for girls to work here, but I didn’t give up, I was determined to do something that brings me joy, as u know everything is always difficult at the beginning. The biggest of all obstacles was my studies besides DY-ing. It was very hard to have a party till very late at night and you have a university in the morning, and some times there are parties during my exams, but I could totally manage my time and I did both at the same without one interfering the other.

Shaymaa: How do men think about you as a female DJ?
Passant: Actually they thought it was very nice, they used to come and speak to me and encourage me.

In another post[AR], Shaymaa El Gammal wrote about Egypt's first female tanoura dancer:

رضوى سعد الدين.. أول راقصة تنورة أكدت أنه لا فرق بين رجل وامرأة
رغم سنواتها التى لم تتعد الثامنة عشرة، إلا أنها صممت على المضى فى طريق لم تفكر فيه فتاة من قبل، لتخترق مجالا قاصرا على الرجال، وهو “لف التنورة” الذى يعد من الفنون التركية التى ظلت لفترة طويلة بعيدة تماما عن المرأة. رضوى سعد الدين أول راقصة تنورة مصرية، قادتها الصدفة البحتة إلى التنورة، حين اختارها راقص التنورة الشهير سامى السويسى مع مجموعة من راقصات الاستعراض ليتم تدريبهن على رقصة التنورة التراثية، كان يرغب فى تقديم شكل جديد للتنورة، ويثبت أن المرأة قادرة على لف التنورة مثل الرجل تماما، إلا أن بعد عدة شهور أخذت أعداد الفتيات تتناقص، ولم يبق منهن إلا رضوى التى دخلت التنورة إلى قلبها، وقررت أن يكون مجال عملها الأساسى. جرت العادة على أن يكون راقص التنورة رجلا، كما أن الجهد المبذول فى الدوران المستمر يجعل من الصعب تصور أن تقوم به امرأة، لذلك ينبهر الجمهور بمجرد رؤيتهم رضوى تلف التنورة على المسرح، وقتها لا تركز إطلاقا على الجمهور، حيث يكون كامل تركيزها مع كلمات الإنشاد الدينى التى تشعر بها لتحولها إلى حركات صوفية. تشجيع والدها المستمر لها لتصبح أول راقصة تنورة رغم رفضه لباقى الفنون الاستعراضية التى تقدمها، يجعلها تبذل مزيدا من الجهد “نفسى أبقى أحسن راقصة تنورة”، وتلفت الانتباه إلى أن التنورة هى فى الأساس زى خاص بالمرأة، فلماذا تكون قاصرة على الرجال؟؟ 15 كيلو هو وزن التنورة الصوفية التى تحملها، هذا الوزن الكبير لا يكون له أى ثقل أثناء عملية الدوران التى لا تتجاوز مدتها ثلث الساعة.
Despite her green 18 years of age, Radwa Saad El Din was determined to take a path that has never been trodden by another girl to set foot in a field that used to be male-specific. Tanoura dancing is Turkish heritage that the young female dancer stumbled upon by pure coincidence; famous Tanoura dancer Sami El Seweisy chose her among a few other girls to train them on the techniques of the dance. He wanted to introduce this art in a new form but day after day the number of girls began decreasing until no one was left but Radwa who fell in love with this art and took it up as her profession. The crowds cheer upon seeing a female doing all the spinning when their eyes were only used to men; but Radwa does not focus on the crowd as she is totally engulfed in the Sufi words and her moves. Her father, who refuses the other forms of art, encourages her to be a tanoura dancer. Radwa tells us that the “tanoura” originally means a skirt – a female attire – so why would the dance be masculine? The weight of Radwa's tanoura is 15 kilograms that seems to vanish when she is doing her 20 minute spin.

2 comments

  • Dear Marwa ;
    Thank you so much for reading those articles and for referring to my blog :)

  • Princess Emmanuelle

    Peace to all you strong female Egyptian leaders and innovators!

    Marwa Rakha you are an Inspiration not forgotten, first time i hear about Passanr Refaat and Radwa Saad el Din… Positive idols for young females in Egyptian society.. and Thank you Ms Shaymaa for all the information.

    I too am a Female Egyptian, I am British and Lebanese too.. but motamaseka with Misr aktar haga!! Hence the fact why I graduated with aDegree from University of London, (SOAS< UCL), but am now developing my ‘fan’ in Misr ;)

    I am an Actress, Dancer/Choreographer and Rap-Poetess, with two albums and many stage/tv/radio performances, I first performed my HipHop in Misr in 2002, and since have performed with ‘Al Wazza’ (Sudanese Reggae), Ustaz Fathy Salama, ‘West el Balad’, Sahara, rania Shalaan, UNR, etc etc.

    My Debut One Woman Show with a live band, dancers and a traditional A3rabi poet, was in The Sawy Theatre in Sep 2005 “A Hip-Hop Poetry Story”… Now I have just had the second Solo show (with features) at The Sawy Theatre, in January 2009 which was the Launch for my
    ‘Rap Renaissance’ 2009 Misr Tour…

    I also have just completed Directing and Filming my first EGYPTIAN short “Regalet el Zamaan Dah” which will be screened very soon! and my Monodrama “I Need a Counsellor”, which will bless the Sawy Theatre stage very soon!

    For more info please contact me on: 0191 531 940

    princessemmanuellealbum@hotmail.com

    Here is a *Exclusive* snipet of the show, a track entitled:

    ‘Kan Ya Makan’ with a very IMPORTANT MESSAGE!…

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1339733&id=625430055#/video/video.php?v=61703475055

    My group page is::

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=48847326712&ref=ts

    Shokran jazeelan
    ~*~

    1BlesS!

    http://www.myspace.com/princessemmanuellempress1

    (My non-muzik page but i mainly use this right now it has a reverbnation player)

    http://www.myspace.com/empress1princessemmanuelle

    (My muzik page that is being uploaded…yet worth checking out NEW TracK!! My BIG old muzik page is not accessible any longer! ;( )

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