Women who can shake their hips and may soon be able to earn an advanced degree doing so if Egypt’s Ministry of Education proposal to establish an institution of higher education devoted to the cultural art form is not blocked by lawmakers opposed to the idea.
The new belly dancing institution is to be funded and supervised by the Supreme Council of Universities and open to enrollment by young women straight out of high school, similar to any other college.
But some Islamist and independent MPs have objected to the school’s establishment saying it degrades the value and notion of a university degree.
Islamist MP Farid Ismail accused Egyptian belly dancers of pressuring the government to establish the institution and is seeking to question the education minister on the matter.
"It is unacceptable that the government would comply with the demands of belly dancers while it overlooks the suffering of the poor who make up 65 percent of the Egyptian society," he told Al Arabiya, adding that such a degree would strip the university degree of any respect.
Independent MP Gamal Zahran tthe establishment of a belly dancing institution a grave insult to higher education and the entire education process in Egypt.
"Did Taha Hussein, the Dean of Arabic Literature, know when he said that education is like the air we breathe and the water we drink that a day will come when belly dancers will go to university to study the art of hip shaking?" he asked.
Taha Hussein was one the most influential Egyptian writers and intellectuals and a figurehead for the modernist movement in Egypt.
Support from dancers
But belly dancers welcome the idea and hailed the acknowledgment a formal degree would bestow on a national art form, while also offering greater protection to professional dancers.
Retired belly dancer Fifi Abdou, who was not familiar with the Ministry’s new institutions, said that a degree would give value to belly dancing and support Egyptian dancers who face increased competition from foreign belly dancers.
"Belly dancing is threatened these days since Russians invaded the Egyptian market," she told AlArabiya.net, adding that there are many belly dancing institutions in the United States and Europe.
"Why then shouldn't Egypt have a belly dancing institution whether affiliated with the government or the private sector?"
Dina, another Egyptian belly dancer, also welcomed the idea and said she would be ready to teach if she were asked.
She also noted that the new institution would be the first step toward establishing a professional syndicate for belly dancers just as other professions have.
"The syndicate will protect belly dancers from all the problems they face whether from agents, employers, or the police," she told AlArabiya.net.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)