Cleopatra’s Belly Dance

The Turkish minister of tourism recently instructed his officers not to use the belly dance to attract visitors, on the grounds that it put the emphasis on an activity unrelated to the achievements of Turkey as a modern nation.

CleopatraAs far as we know, Egypt has not followed suit. The belly dance remains a legitimate attraction. How could it be otherwise when the whole world knows that it was Cleopatra’s belly dance that induced Julius Ceasar to spend time with her in provincial Alexandria instead of looking after his affairs in metropolitan Rome, the navel of the world. (Left: Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra)

Caesar was the first tourist for whom the belly dance worked. It would be foolish to give it up as a tourist attraction.

But, as far as Caesar and Cleopatra are concerned, let us face it – it is only a legend.

Incidentally, who exactly was the non-legendary Cleopatra?

She was not a descendent of the Pharaohs. She was the third daughter of Ptolomy Xll. Ptolomy I had been the Macedonian general who inherited Egypt from Alexander the Great. Alexander had conquered it from the Persians more than three hundred years before Cleopatra’s birth. Ethnically, she was Macedonian. At her Hellenistic court Greek was spoken. Egypt was a Greek word.

Egypt in Egyptian was “Kemet.” Cleopatra was the first ruler of the Ptolomean dynasty to learn Egyptian and even adopt Isis as her patron goddess.

Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph in perfect, classical Egyptian. But there is nothing in the legend to suggest that she performed a belly dance for him.


4 responses to “Cleopatra’s Belly Dance

  1. What I did not know is that Cleopatra was the first of her Macedonian dynasty to learn Egyptian. Of course hers was originally a Hellenistic court. Is belly dancing originally an Arab “art” ? I thought everybody (jedes Kind) knew that Ptolomy was one of Alexander’s generals. RK

  2. Do you think that if the belly dance worked so well for Caesar, he was the first tourist on whom that succeeded? Or just the first celebrity? or the first Master of the (Eurocentric) Universe?

    Maybe Potiphar’s wife was a sucker for an Israelite accent…

    But I have some sympathy for the Turks in their official policy – which is not to say that they are discouraging belly dancing in general. I don’t think it’s well seen here (though perhaps not unknown) for public officials to entertain visitors with activity (even as a spectator) the predominant characteristic of which is the stimulation of sexual arousal. (And doesn’t that expression sound like something out of a bureaucrat’s manual!)

    Certainly Elizabeth Taylor, even with the headdress, would be worth staying a while along the Nile.

    • 1. Caesar was gay. He was not sexually aroused for a second, but politically. He just went through the motions in order to acquire Egypt.

      2. Joseph was NOT gay. The poor man had a terrible time because his God wouldn’t let him do what came naturally.

      P.S. Cleopatra was over thirteen.

  3. What is your authority for the sexual orientation of Julius?

    The God of Abraham had/has, or at least has left His followers with, a deeply rooted obsession with and fear of sex. Joseph was only one of the first to suffer for them.

    Glad to know that Cleopatra was older than Juliet.