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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Yousef El Sherif Discusses
Zouba el-Klobatiyya


Translated By Priscilla Adum


[Translator's note: This interview appeared in Al Masri Al Youm (Today's Egyptian) on May 2, 2009. The journalist conducting the interview is Nashwa el Hoofi. She interviewed retired veteran journalist Yousef El Sherif, who reminisced about the old times in Egypt. He spoke about his memories of meeting many famous Egyptian personalities during his long career as a journalist. These included Abdel Gamal Nasser and Oum Kalthoum. He also spoke about an interview he conducted in 1960 with the legendary Egyptian dancer Zouba El Klobatiyya. Though I have not been able to locate the original full length interview, Yousef El Sherif recounted to Nashwa el Hoofi several interesting details of that interview and she included them in this article. I've translated the paragraph where she reports what he told her about his meeting with the famous dancer. Yousef El Sherif died in 2010, one year after Nashwa El Hoofie interviewed him for this article.]

El Hoofi's interview with El Sherif can be found here:




Memories of Zouba


Yousef el- Sherif heard about Zouba el-Klobatiyya, the old Mohamed Ali Street dancer who was so famous that she rivaled Shekoko in fame, so much so that there were even small gypsum dance figurines of her being sold as well. [As there were of Shekoko.] They [the figurines] portrayed her dancing in a show which typically began with a slow introduction dance, then followed by a dance done to the melody, and finally a fast zambalek* vibration number as a finale.

She told Yousef El Sherif when he met her in 1960 that she had retired from dancing. She told him quite emphatically that there was even a fabric made with her name printed all over it, and also handkerchiefs with her name on them.

And why not? She was the first to dance with a brass shamadan that weighed 10 kilograms [22 pounds] and for doing this dance she earned 30 Egyptian pounds** [per performance] which was a very high price at that time.


*Zambalek means a spring. Someone who dances or moves like a zambalek is someone who dances very fast and springy.

** 30 pounds was an extraordinarily high sum. Compare this amount to the 6 pounds PER MONTH that Samia Gamal earned at Badia Masabni's club when she started out. Zouba made 30 pounds for EACH performance.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The seated woman is Zouba el-Klobatiyya. Photo made available to Shira by Syed Henkesh, Cairo, Egypt.

Zouba el-Klobatiyya

This video clip showing Zouba el-Klobatiya dancing with a shamadan (candelabrum) is from the 1946 film Al-khamsa Gneih (The Five Pounds) The scene takes place in a bar. The singer is Hamed Taher and he is singing a mawaal.

Zouba is draped from head to foot in assuit fabric and coins. She is even wearing a triangular coin hipscarf made of assuit. Her costume is noteworthy because it proves that the coin costume was not an American invention from the 1970's, nor was the coin costume invented by American fashion designers. This dancer and many others captured on film prove that coin costumes and coin hip scarves were being worn in Egypt long before raqs sharqi ever became popular in the West. There are many early film clips of Egyptian dancers wearing coin costumes.

The shamadan Zouba is wearing on her head is an extraordinarly large size, so much that you can't ever see the top of it. She is not listed in the film credits.

The star of this film is a five pound Egyptian note, who becomes bored with being stored inside of a metal safe. So it decides to fly out of the box and go see the world. The five pound bill is then found by a poor street cleaner who is thrilled at his good fortune in finding the money. The bill travels from person to person and the film highlights the good deeds and the bad deeds of each person who owns the 5 pound bill.

Zouba el-Klobatiyya



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About the Translator

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 




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