Rhythmic drumming and the sound of a wind instrument wafted their way up to the balcony on the sea breeze and it took a couple of minutes to track down their source.
Walking along the beach were a group of three musicians, two were playing mizmar’s and one was beating a drum that was attached to a strap slung over his shoulder which he hit with a curved drumstick.
Well I couldn’t miss this opportunity so I grabbed my camera and headed down towards the beach with My Love (ML), they were playing I think folk music and all the Egyptians on the beach were smiling and enjoying it. Maybe it was a well-known piece of music or folk song, I’m not sure and I don’t think there were any words as nobody seemed to be singing along.
I was absolutely fascinated by the cheeks of the mizmar players as they suddenly popped out like he had pushed half a ball into each cheek like an extreme Vito Corleone from the film The Godfather
One man obviously felt the music more than the other people and started to dance in front of the musicians, one arm held aloft as he slowly twirled around. This was not made any easier by the deep soft sand that was underfoot. Joining in is obviously not seen as unusual and so they played on slowly moving down the beach with their accompanying dancer.
I managed to get some lovely shots of them all and was just zooming in on one of the instruments when a juggling clown came into view.
Well that brings you up a bit short, the sight of a mizmar band on the beach is unusual enough but, a juggling clown complete with red nose, checked trousers, striped socks and very large red and yellow shoes is somewhat surreal. He merrily juggled away unaware I think of the oddness of the two different performances side by side.
Can you have fusion entertainment like you have fusion cuisine?
In a moment of silence, the unmistakable sound of trumpets could be heard faintly coming from the other end of the beach. Off ML and I headed towards the sound – hard going in the heat of the day and deep dry sand. Four men in bright red jackets, black trousers and pale blue beret style caps were playing the music. The pockets of their jackets were edge in ribbon or braiding in the colours of the Egyptian flag and across their shoulders were black and gold tasselled epaulettes. Running from their right shoulder down across their body was a gold sash.
We took some photographs of the musicians and listened to their music but our eye was soon caught by two other performers. One was dressed in a long yellow coat with a full skirt and a red pointed hat and a false beard. He was carrying a metal container on a long chain. The other wore a similar long coat but this time bright red with white decoration and a small red and white turban.
The guy in the red suddenly threw into the air a cloth he was holding and began spinning it around with his hand, it was brightly decorated and the twirled in every which way showing of his dexterity as the cloth spun and twirled blurring the colours. As you can imagine he drew lots of attention and one of the trumpet players wasn’t happy with their loss of audience.
He moved closer towards the performer blowing his trumpet loudly and this didn’t go down very well as he seemed to lose concentration and the cloth he was twirling collapsed. There was a little contretemps between the two and the performer marched off down the beach and started twirling again. The musicians followed and the performer twirling the cloth got very cross with the musicians and folded his cloth and marched off in a bit of a huff.
All very dramatic and obviously diva like behaviour of performers is the same the world over.
When I got back to the room I tried to find some information about the style of dancing and I found it was a derivative of Sufi Whirling. I’m sure you have all seen film or photographs of men dressed in white twirling round their full skirts. The dervishes whirl in repetitive circles as a form of meditative prayer.
The performer we had seen on the beach would have been performing the Egyptian version of this called the Tanoura. In Egypt the dance has been adapted and become a folk dance performed as an entertainment. The tanoura is the colourful cloth or I should say skirt that the performer had been twirling above his head.
If he had been performing the dance on a hard surface rather than deep loose sand he would have been wearing the skirt over his long coat. As he whirled the skirt would stand out straight from his body as it lifted higher he would move the opening up his body until it was spinning above his head as we saw. I understand that there is a show in Cairo where you can see the dances performed and some of the dancers have up to four of the colourful skirts on which as the whirl are removed one at a time.
Having stood out in temperatures hitting the high 30oC we were both very hot and in need of something cool so headed off the beach onto the path which made walking much less effort than on the sand. On what is normally a small football pitch a small fairground had been set up but before you think of the travelling fairs with their lights and music and brightly coloured facades this consisted of small wooden roundabout and swings. Saying that the small children who were on them were obviously enjoying themselves.
As we headed down the path towards an ice cream we came face to kneecap with a stilt walker all dressed in red with a fez balanced on the top of his head waving to the children.
A somewhat fitting end to a very unusual afternoon’s entertainment.
PS: My apologies for the photographic quality, I dropped my external hard drive onto a tiled floor yesterday and can no longer access any data on it. I have had to pull the images of a post I did on Facebook but many of images I wanted to show you weren’t on it. I have everything crossed that when I head back to the UK in a week somebody will be able to rescue the data. I have a back up in the UK but obviously that doesn’t include the last 12 weeks of images and writing.
If you have enjoyed this blog you may want to read the blogs I kept when I lived in Vietnam and Costa Rica.