We speak exclusively to one of the top producers of the controversial belly dancing reality show set to hit TV screens on El Kahera Wel Nas tomorrow to find out more about the concept and contestants...
Once upon a time there was American Idol. Now subtract some singing, add some provocative dancing and hot half naked women and you’ve got yourself a winner! Move over typical talent shows, El Raqisa is hitting our screens this week and it's got more skin, sequins and hip-shimmying than any other show on the airwaves. The show, which is set to air on El Kahera Wel Nas channel tomorrow (cancel your Monday night plans guys) at 10 PM, is an international belly dancing competition, where women from all around the world compete on stage for the title of ultimate hip-shaker. If this isn’t every guy's fantasy, we don’t know what is.
The show, produced by Love Media but distributed and broadcast here, is essentially "the first time belly dancing has been taken on at this scale," one of the Al Raqisa's producers tells us, "It's the first time it's been brought to light in this way." The show aims to highlight an art form that's deeply ingrained in Egyptian culture but rarely regarded as such. "We don't have a wedding without a belly dancer, but yet we shy away from calling it an art form," the show's producer tells us.
It'll work much in the same way as American Idol, complete with auditions, judges and eliminations. Though belly dancing is what Egyptians are notorious for, the bulk of the show's booty-moving babes do not actually hail from our Pharoanic land. FOR SHAME! We thought this was one thing Egyptians could lord over other nations. Apart from, y'know, pollution and sexual harassment. Apparently not. Casting, which took place in Cairo, Moscow, and online, saw thousands of women from around the world apply and only 27 make it into the competition. Out of those only seven are Egyptian. 3eib ya gama3a. We really thought white people couldn’t dance. That the hip-shake gene was purely found in Egyptian DNA. Clearly, we were mistaken. "We were really taken aback at how big belly dancing has grown outside of our borders," our source tells us. With contestants from Australia to Russia, it’s a veritable melting pot of nationalities, and apparently, "you wouldn’t believe how well these women dance!" We'll reserve judgment till we see some really good ra3shas.
The judges include (no surprise here) Dina El Ra2assa, who needs no introduction really because her hips pretty much do that for her; Reyal Youssef, newest It Girl of the Tunisian acting world, and Tamer Habib, the mind behind Sahar El Layaly. We wonder who's the Simon Cowell of the group? Our bets are on Habib.
The show is also sure to be overflowing with drama as it follows the backstage, behind-the-scenes lives of the 27 women living locked together in a hotel, America's Next Top Model-style. Oooh, we can't wait to see what goes down. We're imagining a whole load of sharsha7a on the part of the Egyptian women and we expect them to scare the foreigners into subjugation. EL BETT DI AKHADET SESHWARY DANA 7AWWAREEHA! It's gonna be really good.
Drama aside, the show will also be threaded with the history of belly dancing and how it evolved and permeated our culture. So really, it's an educational programme. With glitter and pushed up cleavage.
The show's creators are entirely aware of its controversy factor but embrace it wholeheartedly. "It's definitely going to create a stir," one of the producers tells us, "but the most important thing is that the show will depict a different treatment of belly dancing – it gives the art form its dues." By bringing it into the spotlight in a very public forum, they want to instigate questions and debates about the artistic aspect of belly dancing.
So, we personally can't wait for the drama to unfold, the kaleidoscopic costumes, the lessons we'll learn about belly dancing… The show will be airing Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays so prepare yourself for three back-to-back nights of bootylicious moves and the consequent national social media debates about it.