As tourist season approaches, Egypt's professional belly dancing association has reported a surge in the number of professional belly dancer applications, including for the first time, from men.
The men who applied for permits already work as belly dancers on an unofficial basis, the head of the permit committee of the Egyptian Actors' Syndicate, Sami Nawar, told AlArabiya.net, adding that many have feminine- or gay-sounding names.
Nawar said the syndicate – which he descried as a "respectable" organization – would reject applications from men on the basis that it violates the social norms of the country, and said it would penalize male dancers.
"The syndicate will never encourage them [male dancers] to become part of the social fabric and will not play a role in creating controversy about how religion accepts what those men do and wear," Nawar said.
Male belly dancing, a centuries-old Egyptian tradition, is making a comeback despite suppression by government and religious officials due to its association with homosexuality, news agency Bloomberg reported.
Male dancers were in fact preferred by 19th-century Cairenes who thought women should not to expose themselves, it said, adding that from 1834 to 1849, women dancers –ghawazee -- were banned from the city.
Male belly dancing all but disappeared in the 1950s during the reign of Gamal Abdul Nasser because it smacked of monarchical decadence.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).