Sunday, 19 August 2012

Istanbul: The birthday bellydancers.

Today is the first day of the Eid holiday to mark the end of Ramadan and all the major sites and most of the shops were closed for two days.  So we decided to take a wander round the local area starting near Gulhane Park. We walked up Sogekcesme which is a street running between the outer walls of the Topkapi Palace and the Aya Sophia mosque. Sogekcesme is a cobbled street with houses on one side which back onto the palace walls. These houses are some of the few remaining wooden Ottoman era houses in Istanbul. Mostly used as pivate hotels the houses are now painted various soft pastel colours and are notable for their covered verandahs on the second floor. As you walk past you also notice the lattice on the bottom half of the windows which ensured that the women of the house could not be seen from the outside.

We walked further into the Sultanahmet area passing numerous hotels and cafes which were doing busy trade. We also passed Les Arts Turc, the headquarters of an artist collective who can arrange classes in everything from tile painting, bellydance, Turkish language lessons and cooking. Eventually we arrived down by the sea and we followed the road that would around the walls of the Topkapi Palace walking along the footpath by Kennedy Caddessi which runs along the edge of the Bosphoros. The cars and buses whizzed by which could be a bit disconcerting at times. The huge walls were built in the mid 1400s and are massively thick. In several places we saw that recycling isn't a new idea, as in some places the builders had used sections of unwanted pillars to make the walls. We went inside the walls at a couple of places where there had been collapses.  The walls seem to be hollow in places with corridors. Kelly said that sometimes false passages were put in to confuse any invadors who breached the walls. 

After winding our way back to the hotel we rested up for the afternoon and in the evening the bus picked us up for our evening at the Orient House. Yes its a tourist-centric show but I wanted to see the bellydancers and it was my birthday so there! There were 3 dancers, all gorgeous women. The first, Oya Man, is a Russian dancer, real name is Olga Roussina. Dressed in a pink sequin skirt and bedlah she put on a terrific show, technically accomplished, professional and a pleasure to watch.  Her style was almost exclusively Egyptian.  The second dancer was dressed in biege and seemed quite disinterested, a bit of a shame.  After another couple of folk troupe numbers, the final dancer, Birgal appeared.  She was wonderful and for me the highlight of the show. While the other two were technically proficient they just didn't have *it*, in fact the second one looked a bit bored. No Turkish Romani, karshlma, 9/8 or zill playing from any of the bellydancers, though each of the dancers used a bit of modern Turkish music.  It seems that Egyptian style rules with some crowd pleasing American tricks (fan veil for instance) thrown in.

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