Belly Dancing, Istanbul
When in Turkey, one should go see the belly dancers. Pictures don't do justice to the expertise and talent these women have. There was nothing great about the dinner itself, but the show was spectacular. The belly dancers were amazing!
Tip: Don't buy your tickets from your hotel. It's double the price (the hotel gets a cut). I made reservations with http://www.backpackerstravel.net/
I also used the same company for tours and airport transfer.
Bellydancing is something that we shouldn't ever consider of being something naughty or something like strip tease. First of all, these women do not take off their clothes. Secondly, they are well trained professionals.
I learned to respect them, as I saw how sporty they have to be; and also have a very good physical condition. They must know how to control each and every muscle they have - keep some muscles in standby and yet some muscles are moving. It was just amazing! And how they could do it with music; follow the music. So well trained.
Some places (our place was called Sultana's) offer dinner or drinks to the package, some only the show. Sometimes (also in our case) the show may include also some traditional Turkish dancing (men and women).
We had many hilarious moments, when the host of the evening started to choose ladies...he said he would need background dancers when he sings soon. He would teach the basics of the oriental dance to the girls. He chose four girls from very different countries - and I was among them. It was a fun and nice experience. Not easy, though...but we got enormous applauses from our husbands and supporters and afterwards a nice Syrian couple told me it was "very good bellydancing" :)
Shop around before you go. With so many people studying Oriental Belly Dancing, it is now popular to take classes when visiting Istanbul. My first contact was a highly advertised organisation who quoted me 30 - 35 euros for a class. This shortly changed to them wanting 100 euros for the same thing. One blistering email later and I never heard from them again.
My second contact wanted 300 euros for two classes. Now the going rate is around 50euros -for an hour's lesson - a little more for 1.5 or 2 hours, and then start moving around classes for 1, 1,3, people etc. Finally I actually found two more teachers - one for oriental belly dancing and a second for Rom/gypsy style - all within the correct price - and all sounding wonderful.
Will report more when I get home as to what they were like.
In Turkey belly dance is called 'gobek dans'. It developed through the influence of many different cultures and continues its long process of development today. One of its origin could have been the Greeks which participated in esoteric religious rites which included dancing throughout their history. Some dancers think Egypt is considered to be the source of belly dance. For Saudi women, the dance itself was considered to be sacred, and not intended to be seen by men at all.