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In Defense of Sahar Hamdi

Sahar Hamdi 1Recently someone posted a critique of Sahar Hamdi on the Bhuz discussion board. Having known her, I felt it was my place to defend her, since no one else seemed to. She was extremely good to the people she cared about. In a tough business she had a heart of gold. She taught me a great deal, and not just about dancing. She had her faults, but don't we all? I loved her dearly and I hope that she has now found happiness.

. What follows is the original statement and some of the comments leading up to mine.


OK, I just got a whole video with Sahar Hamdi after having seen one of her comedy performances on a DVD I got hold of a while back. For some reason I am having severe problems with getting what she got famous for (except being raunchy!).

If anyone is more enlightened on Sahar Hamdi than I, PLEASE help me understand. I want to understand, but I just dont get it. This is the first time I've actually experienced to get stuck like this and not get a dancer at all - Im so frusterated. So any help and / explanation would be highly appreciated.


Sahar HamdiI don't think there is anything you're not "getting". I have only seen her on that video with Aida Nour and Lucy where got up from the audience and did an impromptu lip sych wearing tight vinyl pants tucked into cowboy boots.

From what I have heard, she was essentially paid to go into retirement because she was so bad. You have my endorsement to not watch the video again


Ok, I'm assuming you have the video where Sahar is wearing black and white with silver fringing and she is charging around the stage like a mad woman. Is that the one?

Sahar was not the world's greatest dancer though I do have a bootleg of her which has lost all it's colour where she does do a good drum solo without going too mental. She also comes out in a sheer black dress with bunches of grapes strategically placed (though the area around the bum and front has another layer underneath for those of you who were having images of grapes hanging off her bum!). I much prefer it when she dances and lips sync along to the songs. Her facial expressions are great and some of her gestures seem a bit dodgy but it's definitely taught me how to be a bit naughtier.

Sahar HamdiGenerally, her claim to fame was being rude (or what the Egyptian's considered rude, I suspect for us in the West we would have thought her tame) and it seems she was definitely popular at weddings. She also danced in London (ask Vashti for more details)and was equally very popular.

I haven't got anymore information than that and yeah, that bit where she lip syncs on the Lucy video, I think by then she had been "retired" and I think she's a bit past her prime and what she is wearing does not suit her at all. Sorry didn't meant that to be nasty she just looks a bit rubbish that's all, but I like naughty women and Sahar was definitely one of them!

Ah, thank you so much for the input everyone. I was worried that there was something I wasnt getting because I found her extremely rude and intrusive. It all makes sense now *finally breathes normal again*


I might be able to shed a bit more light on Sahar Hamdi's fame. I learned that once she realized she'd never be one of the best dancers, she decided to make a name for herself through another strategy--that is, being the worst dancer! I think the show with the tight satin pants and cowboy boots illustrate that.

Sahar HamdiThank you for the info... you wouldnt happen to know of any videos that show Sahar Hamdi being the best dancers? Seeing how "good" she is at being bad... Im interested in seeing her being "bad" at being good.


Sounds reasonable to me. When i saw her show in the mid-80s, she did a LOT of TnA (tits and ass in case someone doesn't know that abbreviation) in very brief costume back when very brief costumes were not generally worn in Egypt. According to a source I trust, she was also arrested several times for her dirty talk on the microphone. That same trip (1984) I saw Nagwa Fu'ad. Sahar Hamdi was in the audience and Nagwa invited her up on the stage to dance with her. Sahar really could dance well, which she had not done in her own show just a few days before that. She seems to have chosen to be infamous if she couldn't be famous.

In the early 90s, rumor had it that she'd been paid to retire AND to become devoutly religious and say that she retired because she had seen the error of her ways and quit that nasty profession



Sahar B&WI first worked with Sahar Hamdi in London, at Mona's club The Omar Khayyam. When I moved to Egypt, she was kind enough to "look out for me" since she too returned to Egypt at the same time. She took me under her wing, so to speak, and for close to a year I went with her to her jobs and parties. Sometimes I slept in her apartment and often she invited me for dinner.
I watched her interact with her musicians, her fans, her family, her employees and her friends. She was extremely generous with the people she loved. And she was extremely unpredictable. Like most of Egypt's famous dancers she came from a poor background and tried to teach herself how to maneuver in upper class society. Her family rejected her because she was a dancer, yet they needed the money she offered them. Like Tahia Carioka, Mona Said and many others, her love life was not stable. And she definitely had a problem with alcohol.
Audiences loved to watch Sahar because she was so outrageous. If you read Leila's wonderful article on Gilded Serpent, you will understand that in Egypt it is not technical perfection that endears an audience to a performer, it is their larger than life persona on stage. Most women can dance in the Middle East. They don't need to go watch a show to see the movements. They go to be entertained. And no one was better at entertaining an audience than Sahar. With the lift of an eyebrow she could have the entire room clapping. Her interpretation of a country girl flirting "would melt a stone". She was the persona of what I have read the 18th - 19th century street performers to be; an irresistible flirt that takes you down a walk on the wild side. Yes, she was crude. There was nothing funnier to me than watching her get down and hump the floorboards. But it was always done with this wonderful twinkle in her eye - even when she was stone drunk.
Sahar CUSadly, that was when she was her most outrageous, and the Saudi customers loved her best that way. By the end of the evening - she would do the weddings first, and then the late night clubs - she was often over the top. That was when she made most of her tips. She made a GREAT DEAL of money then, thrown on to the stage or pinned together in $1000 wreaths. She had many mouths to feed at home and she did love the attention. But she paid for it. The video you all have been criticizing was taken when she was a guest in the audience and the late Shoukuku got her up to dance with him as he sang one of her theme songs. For those who know her you can see that she was very drunk.
Sahar is a wonderful dancer, but it depends on what your definition of good is. She has the most beautiful hands I have ever seen, even better than Mona's. Her baby face is the perfect foil for the raunchy stuff her body did, which made for great entertainment. Her shimmies, when she worked with Khamis Henkesh (London and Cairo) were to die for. And her interpretations of the beledi songs she danced to were heart felt and amusing. But you have to understand the nuances of Egyptian Arabic to appreciate her lip synching.
She never choreographed. She always put her audiences first. She knew they expected her to be over the top so she complied. Was she happy? I don't think so. It is easy for Westerners to judge Egyptian dancers according to our standards. But her standards were different. The audiences were different then. The 1970s and 80s were a very different time. If she took the millions of dollars that were offered her to quit, it is probably because she had little saved and saw no point in continuing the hard work of running around, producing new shows and buying new costumes and wigs. Her motives for being a dancer were complicated. Her life was complicated. But to me she was one of the greats, if only because she managed to be over the top and still have everyone love her for it.


copyright 2006: Yasmin







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