Some 80 professional dancers from around the world have gathered this month at a luxury hotel overlooking the pyramids in the Egyptian capital Cairo to take part in an intensive dancing workshop, aimed at improving their technique and offering them style tips.
From Kazakhstan to Brazil, Italy and Indonesia, lovers of oriental dance flock to Egypt to pay homage to the cradle of this ancient art.
"If you haven't danced in Egypt, you are not a real dancer," said Raqia Hassan, Egypt's most famous dance teacher who organizes the winter workshops and who is also responsible for the Cairo Dance Festival held every summer since 2000.
"It is absolutely necessary to be trained here. Egypt is the source after all," said Nadia Sement, a French oriental dance instructor attending the workshop.
With colorful sequined scarves jingling around their hips, the dancers who each spent 1,000 euros (1,437 dollars) for the workshop, train vigorously for eight hours a day and listen to lectures on the dance's history in the evenings in order to truly capture the spirit behind the moves, the organizers said.
And cursed be those who reduce the ancient art to a simple form of seduction or who dare call it "belly dance", says Carolina Vargadinicu, who goes by the stage name Morocco.
"That would be a false, colonial and racist interpretation by the West," says the 70-year-old New Yorker whose family roots lie in Romania and who has been dancing professionally for 47 years.
Legend has it the dance was originally an ancient fertility rite. And while Egyptians like to trace it back to the Pharaonic times, the dance actually comes from India and was brought over to Egypt by gypsies.
In Mexico some still believe that the dance has the power to help fertility, says Grinnelli Sandoval who runs a dance school in Ensenada in Baja California.
"I have some students who have been sent by their gynecologist, because the movements help massage a woman's internal organs, which helps support the uterus better for childbirth," she said.
The workshop has also drawn local creative talent eager to showcase the accessories that must accompany the perfect dancer.
Displays of shiny, sequin-studded or pearl-embroidered costumes hang on display next to stands overflowing with music CDs and dance DVDs, and posters of the dance legends.
Not only has the golden age of the dance, embodied in the legendary Samia Gamal or Tahia Cariocca, long gone but foreign dancers working in Egypt are subject to strict restrictions aimed at keeping the art in Egyptian hands.
For Raqia Hassan, the dream would be to set up an oriental dance academy granting recognition to an art that she feels has not been given its rightful dues.