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

Belly Dancers - Gift Ideas for the Dancer in Your Life



Table of Contents

Are you looking for ideas for an appropriate gift for your belly dancing wife, sister, mother, daughter, classmates, teacher, or fellow troupe members? Maybe this page will help! Here are more than 50 suggestions from Shira, ranging in price from inexpensive trinkets to costly treasures.



Make-It-Yourself Items

If you're handy with crafts and have enough time available for making gifts, you may enjoy trying some of these ideas.

  • Zill Bag. Use a bit of velvet or glittery knit fabric to make a drawstring bag for carrying finger cymbals. Instructions on how to do it appear elsewhere on this web site.
  • Zill Mufflers. Handy with a hook? Crochet a set of zill mufflers for the dancer in your life. This is just a crocheted covering that fits over the finger cymbals to mute their sounds while practicing. Instructions on how to do it appear elsewhere on this web site.
  • Pillows. If you're lucky enough to find fabric with an Egyptian theme in your fabric store (the "ethnic prints" section of cotton fabrics occasionally include them as part of their African collection), buy some and make a cover for a throw pillow to grace your dancer friend's living room couch.

Zill Mufflers

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Shira.

  • Beaded Earrings. Make a pair of beaded earrings in colors to match her costume. Instructions on how to do it appear elsewhere on this web site. It's easier than you might think!
  • Cookies. A former teacher of mine named Layla used to make sugar cookies, using a gingerbread man or woman cookie cutter, then decorate them to look as though they were wearing belly dance costumes. Or, use a camel-shaped cookie cutter — these are usually easy to find at Christmas time.
  • Carrying Case For Sword Or Cane. Swords and canes don't fit very well into the usual totes that dancers use for transporting their equipment, so a carrier designed especially for these items would be very welcome! Use a sturdy fabric such as corduroy, canvas, pre-quilted fabric, or denim. If you plan for it to carry a sword, put extra padding on the end where the point will go so that it doesn't accidentally stick somebody when in use. Put both a shoulder strap and hand grips on it, so the dancer can carry it whichever way is more convenient at a given moment. If you're particularly ambitious, include an extra pocket that can hold additional small items.
  • Hair Accessory. Make some sort of accessory to wear in the hair, such as the silk flower headband shown in this photo.
  • Dancer Toy. Purchase an inexpensive doll or stuffed animal, and dress it in a belly dancing costume. Need inspiration? See what Athena did with Barbie dolls, or what the Rising Phoenix Dancers did with stuffed dogs.
  • King Tut Headdress For Pets. Make a King Tut headdress (or complete costume) sized to fit your dancer friend's cat or dog. The dancer will love it, but the animal will probably never forgive you!


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Michael Baxter, Santa Clara, California.



The Gift of Time And/Or Expertise

Many of us don't have much money to spend, but we'd like to do something for our friends on gift-giving occasions. Consider making up a coupon or certificate offering some of your time and/or expertise. Or, if you're feeling especially generous, make up a book of several coupons that can each be used individually.

If you do this, make sure the coupon or certificate spells out specifically what you are offering. For example, don't say, "I will build a web site for you." Instead, say, "I will give you up to three hours' worth of work in helping you get a web site started." This will avoid possible misunderstandings and bad feelings in the future. Also make sure to specify that the offer is subject to your getting sufficient advance notice or lead time (no last-minute emergencies, please!), and subject to your having time to do it at the particular point in time the dancer is ready to cash it in. You may also want to put an expiration date on it.

  • Distributing Flyers. Offer the use of your time in folding, addressing, and putting postage on flyers for a mailing, or on posting them throughout the community.
  • Babysitting. Take care of the children while your dancer friend attends a workshop, teaches a class, or performs with her troupe.
  • Costume-Making. Are you handy with a sewing machine? Then offer your services in making a new costume.
  • General Computer Assistance. Are you a high-tech whiz? Teach the dancer to use a computer to make flyers, build a mailing list database, send mass e-mail mailings. Help install a new scanner or CD writer and provide instructions on how to use it. Provide guidance on how to use music streaming from the cloud to build playlists for classes or performances.
  • Set Up Web Conferencing Technology (Zoom, WebEx, etc.) Assume the dancer buys the technology or receives it as a gift from someone else. Set up the equipment (computer, microphone, camera, etc) in the dance space with all the configuration options optimized for teaching, performing, and learning via web conference.
  • Artwork. If you're talented at drawing, offer to create a logo the dancer can use on business cards, flyers, web site, and other advertisements for dancing activities.
  • Build A Web Site. Help the dancer choose a web hosting service, scan photos, and format marketing documents in html.
  • Private Lessons. Give each of your students or troupe members a certificate good for a one-hour private lesson with you on the topic of their choosing.
  • Marketing/Promotion. If you work in marketing or public relations in your day job, offer your services to your dancer friend in writing a promotional blurb, designing a display ad, or planning how best to advertise in your community.
  • Therapeutic Massage. Everybody loves a massage!


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.



Low-Cost Items

Looking for low-cost items to give the other members of your troupe or your classmates? Maybe one of these will spark your interest!

  • Papyrus Bookmarks. My favorite is the one of the three female musicians from the tomb of Nakht.
  • Nail Polish. Buy a bottle of finger nail polish with glittery sparkles in it in a color that will go with one of their costumes. Not sure what color of costumes they have? Then pick a clear polish with either gold or silver sparkles. You'll find this polish in the cosmetics department of many large drugstores, professional beauty supply stores that sell to manicurists, or in one of the accessory shops in the mall that caters to selling hair barrettes, scrunchies, and headbands.
  • Jar Of Body Glitter. This is a gel with glitter in it that can be spread on the body for sparkle.
  • Belly Dance Bumper Stickers. There's one on Zazzle that says, "Belly Dancer on Board. Vehicle may shimmy without warning." With a bit of web searching, you may be able to find others.

Three Musicians

This drawing of The Three Musicians appears on the wall of the tomb of Nakht in the Valley of the Nobles, at Luxor, Egypt.

  • Purse-Sized Mirror. After one of our student performances, my teacher Layla gave each of us who danced a small purse-sized mirror. Now, over 20 years later, I still have the mirror and it still makes me smile when I use it because it brings back the memory of taking Layla's classes (she is now retired from dancing) and performing with that group of wonderful people.
  • Hair Accessories. Dancers love to wear accessories, and often the more they glitter, the better. Shop at beauty supply stores, mall stores that specialize in accessories, and other places for fancy barrettes, scrunchies, claws, headbands, and French twist combs.
  • Eye Shadow Compact. Sometimes eye shadows come in compacts that contain 6-8 colors for an affordable price.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.



Medium Price Range

When you're willing to spend a little more but not too much, here are some items that cost between $10 and $25 in U.S. currency.

  • Stuffed Camel. Even many adults like stuffed toys! Maybe your dancer friend would enjoy a stuffed camel! My fireplace mantle proudly displays a couple of these made in leather.
  • Instructional Video. If your dancer friend is a brand-new beginner, an instructional video for beginners may be a very welcome gift.
  • Small Dumbek/Darbukka. A miniature drum would look great sitting on a dancer's or musican's mantle.
  • Books. If your dancer friend is fascinated by the culture of the Middle East or the history of the dance, consider giving one of the books from my reading list. I've written reviews for many of them — take a look at the reviews to pick one that will please.
  • Belly Dance Supplies Gift Certificate. Consider a gift certificate to a vendor who sells belly dance supplies. If you don't know which vendor(s) you dance friend likes best, look for one who sells a variety of items (music, costume supplies, videos, jewelry, etc.) so the dancer will have a variety of choices available.

Book Cover

  • Manicure. A gift certificate for a manicure at a local salon will help that special dancer in your life feel a little pampered, at a price you can afford.
  • Calendar. Look for themes such as ancient Egypt or camels. There may be some stores with photos of belly dancers on calendars.
  • Make-Up Case. Give one of those make-up cases for traveling that will fit in a dance bag when going to do a show. It needs to be relatively small/compact, and should have a mirror built in. Or, buy a small mirror separately and include it in the bag when you present it.
  • Trinkets. Look for inexpensive earrings, pins, keychains, bookmarks, stationery, decks of cards, statuettes, or other items featuring images that evoke the Middle East, such as camels, snakes, pyramids, mummies, Bastet, Isis, or Pharaohs.
  • Items From A Museum Gift Shop. Museum gift shops often feature a wide range of interesting treasures. If your local museum features an exhibit on artifacts from ancient Egypt, textiles from Ottoman Turkey, or other fascinating items from the Middle East, then its gift shop probably has many items that would make suitable gifts for your dancer friend.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.



If You Wanted to Spend More

Are a group of you pooling resources to give a special gift to your teacher? Or maybe your family member is a belly dancer and you'd like to give something special? Here are some things that cost between $25 and $300 in U.S. currency.

  • Photo Session. Dancers love to pose for cameras! Give h a photo session with a professional photographer. If you can find someone who has experience shooting belly dancers, that's ideal. If not, look for someone who has experience shooting portfolios for models, gymnasts, skaters, or people who practice other forms of dance. Movement shots are often more dramatic than stills, and a photographer who shoots only weddings may not have an eye for capturing poetry in motion. For a lower-cost gift, pay for just the sitting fee only. For a more generous gift, include a package that allows the dancer to choose a certain number of images to receive in high resolution.
  • Museum Membership. Is there a museum within an hour's drive of you that features exhibits of artifacts from ancient Egypt, textiles from Ottoman Turkey, or other items with a Middle Eastern flair? Give your dancer friend a one-year membership. With most museums, members receive free admission as often as they wish, discounts from the gift shop, invitations to lectures and other special programs, and other benefits.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.

  • Full-Length Mirror. A narrow one is great for seeing how costumes look from top to toe. A wide one is very helpful when practicing. Choose whatever will fit in your budget and the dancer's available wall space.
  • Adopt A Zoo Animal. A fundraising technique used by many zoos is "Adopt An Animal." Check whether a zoo in your community (or elsewhere in your state or country) offers such a program. If so, then adopt either a camel or a snake in your dancer friend's name.
  • Professional Manicure or Pedicure. Help your favorite dancer maintain a touch of elegance by giving a professionally-done manicure or pedicure as a gift. If possible, avoid one of the mall-based shops — most people don't like the slap-dash approach by these mass-market shops. Look for a hole-in-the-wall place or a nice day spa instead. Not sure how to choose a good place? If you know your dancer friend prefers a particular manicurist, then of course you'll want to give a gift certificate to that place. Otherwise, ask the manicurist you're considering what measures that salon takes to ensure that clients with artificial nails don't get bacterial infections — if the detailed response makes your eyes glaze over with failure to comprehend, then that manicurist is probably knowledgeable and responsible.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by William M. Smith, Iowa City, Iowa.

  • Golf Bag or Rifle Case. A rifle case for a belly dancer? Sounds strange, doesn't it? Yes, there is indeed logic to this suggestion. If your dancer friend is likely to travel with a sword, the airlines or airport security probably won't allow it as a carry-on item. So, give the dancer a golf bag or rifle case that will provide the sword with enough protection to let it travel as checked luggage.
  • Framed Papyrus Picture. Some art stores sell papyrus designs. Most art supply stores or craft stores can frame it for you. Designs that particularly appeal to dancers are the one of female musicians from the tomb of Nakht, the one of Isis with her wings spread, and the one of female dancers. The funerary scene is also popular. To learn more about some of the most common papyrus scenes, so you'll know what to ask for if mail-ordering, see Ancient Egyptian Art: An Introduction elsewhere on this web site.
  • Massage, Facial, Etc. Give the dancer a gift of an adventure at a local day spa. You can either specify a particular service (for example, a massage), or leave it open-ended for the dancer to choose whatever appeals most.
  • Belly Dance Supplies Gift Certificate. Gift certificates come in many sizes, and you can give an extravagant one if you wish.
  • Perfume Bottles. Egyptian blown glass perfume bottles look elegant on anyone's window sill, whether they actually contain perfume or not.



Thrilling But Extravagant

How big is your budget? If you're prepared to do something very special for your dancer, maybe one of these ideas will hit the mark. Here are the things that fall in the "over $300 in U.S. currency" category. Of course, don't forget that some of the things suggested in the lower price ranges (such as gift certificates) would also work for this price range — just increase the amount.

  • A Trip To The Middle East. Buy your dance friend a plane ticket to either Egypt, Lebanon, or Turkey. Better yet, check to see what sorts of package tours are offered by dance professionals such as Yasmina Ramzy, Sahra Kent, or Cassandra Shore, and pay your dancer's way for one of those. Ordinary trips may feature the popular tourist attractions of the destination, but tours arranged by dance pros generally also incorporate shopping at places that have special appeal for dancers (such as places offering costumes), and opportunities to see great dance performances.
  • A Dance Retreat or Weeklong Workshop. Pay the dancers' way to Oasis Dance Camp, Mendocino camp for Middle Eastern music and dance, or other intensives. Depending on how generous you feel, you can pay for just the tuition/registration, or you can also include round-trip travel expenses.
  • Dance Studio. Remodel the garage or a spare room to be a dance studio. Or, if your yard is large enough, build one as a separate building. Install a hardwood sprung dance floor, and cover one wall with mirrors. Make sure you put electrical outlets near the mirrors, for easy access to the boombox while teaching.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Shira.



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