By Virginie Nguyen Magdalena Monti was five years old when she discovered her passion for dancing. Going from classical courses to tango, she eventually developed an interest in Oriental dances. This led her to Egypt, where she found not only her lover but a place to live out her dream. Magda is from Tucuman, a city in the north of Argentina. She decided to visit Egypt in 2009 to see her boyfriend, Mohamed, whom she met on Facebook. Both of them belong to the world of music and show, which is how they were connected through the social network. Magda started belly dancing when she was 13. She didn’t have to wait long before beginning to perform on stage. Excited to arrive in Egypt and practice her passion on the The Pharaohs Nile cruise boat, she was soon disappointed, as the perception of belly dancers in Egypt was not what she had expected. Although she says she receives angry looks when she performs, Magda keeps on dancing.
Magda's boyfriend works at The Pharaohs cruise restaurant on the Nile as a keyboard player. In 2009, belly dancing shows occurred daily on The Pharaohs. When Magda was in Egypt for the first time, she had the opportunity to replace one of the women, who couldn't come for one evening on The Pharaohs.
“When I arrived at The Pharaohs, it was like a dream for me to dance on a Nile boat and with an orchestra. This never happened to me in Argentina,” she says. After the show, the manager suggested that she stay and work for them as a belly dancer.
Before the 25 January revolution, Magda performed everyday during the high season. But for the last year, she has been dancing only four days a week. As the number of tourists has decreased, The Pharaohs boat is rarely full these days.
At 6 pm, Mohamed or his father comes to pick up Magda to bring her to the boat. Mohamed’s father is also a musician who has been traveling around the world. He and Magda get along well, but it’s not exactly the same with Mohamed’s mother: “She’s very religious and it’s not easy for her to accept that I’m a belly dancer and that I’m the fiancee of her son.”
Five minutes before the show starts, Magda begins to feel nervous. "It's normal. If I don't have this feeling anymore, then I can stop dancing," she says.
"When I arrived in Egypt, I felt very disappointed. I didn't understand why belly dancers have such an image here, and I had a very big shock with the culture. Sometimes I feel very frustrated because I can't show or say what I am, although I'm very proud of what I do," Magda says.
Coming from a strict Catholic family, her father didn't appreciate that Magda was dancing in front of many people with "light" clothes. However, she kept taking classes and became a teacher herself. She was able to pay for her dance classes, and transformed her home into a dance space.
Magda met Mohamed on Facebook in 2009. They found each other through their passion for music and dance. Magda came to Egypt the same year to visit him and decided to live in Cairo.
At 6 pm, Mohamed or his father comes to pick up Magda to bring her to the boat. Mohamed's father is also a musician who has been traveling around the world. He and Magda get along well, but it's not exactly the same with Mohamed's mother: "She's very religious and it's not easy for her to accept that I'm a belly dancer and that I'm the fiancee of her son."
“One Thousand and One Nights” is Magda’s favorite book. Her father bought it for her when she was teenager.
In 2006, Magda decided to move from the north of Argentina to Buenos Aires in order to study dancing. But after some days in the capital of Argentina, her father fell ill and died suddenly. “My mother died when I was 5 years old. After my father died, I didn’t have any family in Argentina anymore. From then, my life was a bit messy, and I started to express my pain in my dance.”
Magda lives in a quiet area in Heliopolis. Everywhere in her apartment, we can find items that are linked to her passion.
In the morning, Magda usually cleans her place or cooks. She also keeps a blog up to date in order to share her experiences and feelings as a foreign belly dancer in Egypt. At the beginning, it wasn’t easy for her to face the looks from people, as belly dancers can be seen as prostitutes in Egyptian society.
Since Magda has been in Egypt, she feels like she’s living a dream. “In my prayers, I say thanks, thanks for where I am now.”