A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Life Magazine, 1952: Samia Gamal's Contribution to Science

I thought I'd contribute this bit of academic historical research to the ongoing debate between Islamists who want to ban belly-dancing in Egypt, arguably the land that made the art famous, and those who see it as an art. I think we took my daughter to a restaurant with  belly-dancing for the first time when she was about six. As an indication of its mainstream nature, I thought I'd present this piece from Life Magazine from 1952. Older Americans will be aware of the enormous power Life  once had in American life before its weekly existence ended in the 1970s. It was a photo magazine that formed American images of the world before television took over completely. It was as mainstream, white-bread, middle class Middle American as it could be, and never more so than in 1952.

And it ran a photo feature on Egyptian belly-dancer Samia Gamal (1924-1994), considered by many as one of the immortals, second only to Tahia Carioca herself, which not only relates to her dancing but to her important contribution to science, by illustrating via a flashlight how her hips move:

The immediate source of the photo is here; the full article in the issue of March 24, 1952 is here. At the time Samia Gamal appeared in this mainstream American magazine she was also a familiar figure (sorry) in Egyptian magazines as well.

This second photo doesn't have any direct connection to this Life story that I know of, but it is also of Samia Gamal in her prime so I'm sending it out to President Morsi, Supreme Guide Badie, and Muslim Brothers everywhere. If she was OK for Life Magazine in 1952, lighten up.

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