Ballerinas of Cairo and Madga Saleh, the first Egyptian prima ballerina

Egypt has been through many changes in its long and rich history. Lots of other nations have taken over, therefore the different influences can be felt at every corner. If you think of a dancer in Egypt, bellydance or whirling dervishes come to mind. It is likely that ballet is not on your list, but we are here to tell you to rethink. Once upon a time calling a woman a “dancer” was an insult. And yet, it was during this time that Magda Saleh became the first Egyptian prima ballerina.
Not only did she dance Giselle in Moscow in the 60s and early 70s, but she also danced in the opera house in her home town of Cairo. Today Ms. Saleh is 73 years old and lives in New York with her husband, Egyptologist Jack Josephson. Last year she was featured in a beautiful documentary called “A footnote in ballet history”.

Ms. Saleh is a facinating person and to this day she has this impeccable poise about her. Once a ballerina….
In this documentary she recounted how her life had been influenced by shifts in Egyptian political history. When she was born the British influence was still high and her father became a prominent academic, who studied in Scotland and returned to his native Cairo with his Scottish wife and Madga Salehs mother.
Her story is not only inspiring, but is also chronicles the changes her home land Egypt went through and how this influenced her life and career. The New York Times wrote a beautiful story about her and her life and it is very well worth a read “A Ballerina’s Story, Once Upon a Time in Egypt

Ballerinas of Cairo today

But if you think that in our unsteady times there is no room for ballet in Egypt, you will be mistaken. For the past three years filmaker and photographer Mohamed Taher uses the Instagram account Ballerinas of Cairo to showcase the city of Cairo with stunning photos of dancers. Have you been to Cairo before? It is a busy city, some would say you are surrounded by madness there. Lots of noise, but also timeless grace. Take a look.