When I went to Cairo to photograph belly dancing I didn’t know how welcome I'd be.
After all, I'm a foreign male photographer, hovering around the dancers: I had no idea how far I'd be accepted by the artists and the audience.
But as a photographer, my experience in Islamic countries is that if you are friendly, sensitive and stick to the local rules of conduct, a lot is possible.
The day I arrived in Cairo I heard about a highbrow wedding in the Hilton Hotel where the famous belly dancer Lucy would perform. I didn’t have time to ask for permission and simply took a cab and hoped for the best.
It turned out to be the wedding of the son of a highly placed military person. I found Lucy in her dressing room, explained the purpose of my visit and asked her if I could accompany her to the party. She said yes. The party was huge.
Hundreds of guests gathered in an enormous ballroom. When Lucy entered, all eyes were on her. I started taking photos and at some point people started wondering who I was.
Security personnel took me backstage and questioned me for over an hour before letting me go. They didn’t ask me for my photos. Lucy thought it was very funny and later invited me to the film set she was working on. The lesson I learned was that not allowing myself time to get the know the people or the scene can lead to misjudgment and potential problems.
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