They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear, but I’m not sure just how ready I could ever have been for the experience that was the Awakened Bellydance (AwBd) facilitator training.
After a 4 hour ride from Cairo including many, many security checks and being escorted by the police in a stretch from the Suez canal (for our safety), we finally reached the meeting point with Sheikh Rabir.
Dressed head to toe in white robes and sporting gold cufflinks, a Rolex, iPhone and suave attitude in his shiny 4x4 he resembles both in appearance (and in character, I later learn) a kind of Bedouin Richard Gere, quite the guide!
We begin the bumpy off road journey to our home for the next 16 days, bouncing and swerving our way down and across sand dunes, winding our way deeper into the desert. Through sparse villages with brightly coloured houses and ornate Mosques we go, oil diffuser hanging from the rear mirror bouncing merrily. After winding our way through limestone chasm and beyond any signs of vilification the landscape starts to become increasingly baron and desert like, orangey sandy tones enveloping the whole colour palette, rocky mountains hugging our peripheral view. I begin to feel at ease, the magnetic pull of the desert earth bringing me home.
The camp itself is in a valley surrounded by these comforting rock juggernauts, a solitary brick structure with no roof accompanied by a large wicker tent structure where we ate our meals,and a smattering of tents, a couple of trees and a hammock.
A bird's eye view of our camp - complete with visiting camel herd
We get unpacked and start to become accustomed with the people and the land - this Bedouin family have owned the land for the last 400 years, and it is a significant part of the desert, being the closest land in proximity to the most coveted Hathor temple remains - a site of great historical importance guarded by the family for years (at one point Rabir tells us how his father had to protect the site from Israelis, who arriving in a helicopter in the dead of night stole part of the temple - which he eventually managed to retrieve).
The Hathor temple by night - we spent one night sleeping here among the hieroglyphs - the energy was unreal...we drank herb tea in the morning and watched the sun rise
In the main tent we meet every morning for breakfast - usually consisting of deliciously soft goats cheese, eggs, flat bread, molasses with tahini, salad and chips (sometimes falafel and foul - a bean mix - if we are particularly blessed). We sit on beautifully coloured ottomans at a low table with intricately coloured and patterned table cloths, exchanging dreams and thoughts as the youngest of Rabir’s 8 sons (3 of whom are with us at the camp), Mahmood brandishes his hot teapot from the stove brightly, offering us, ‘herrrrb?’ (emphasis on the rolling r) in turn. For Bedouins tea is an important part of everyday life, and the blend we're offered each day contains a number of herbs native only to the region - it is delicious.
After the slow start we make our daily pilgrimage to the dancing tent, which is about 500m away from the main camp - I soon learn why.
An interesting group, we comprise of 3 British women, a Mexican woman and the very first AwBd male teacher - an Egyptian man. Previously strangers and acquaintances, we quickly become family as the process begins and we dive head first into the facilitator training intensive cocoon.
As with the online courses we dedicate two days to each consecutive chakra - but this is no online 20 min experience but a full on immersion, taking us to the depths of Hades and the heights of heaven and everything in between. We spend our mornings being guided in the process of dancing each chakra, before spending the afternoon beginning to facilitate the sessions ourselves, with much trepidation and courage in equal measure.
Interspersed throughout are sessions on theory, contextual information and journaling exercises to help guide us on our way and act as starting points to dive deeper into the journey of self knowledge and knowing ( a journey that is never over!).
Having studied and immersed myself in my yoga practice for most of the last decade I may have been already acquainted with the chakra system, but I soon came to learn this was on a surface level...
Intellectualizing concepts is one thing, embodying them is another.
The process goes far beyond any lessons, workshops or trainings I have previously taken on the subject - dedicating days to each energy centre afforded us the time to dive deep into our relationship with them on a holistic level. We began to identify the blockages of energy we were subconsciously creating through years of conditioning, outdated patterning and other factors.
Each session lasted between 90 minutes to 3/4 hours, containers for us to fall apart, examine these beliefs and repair them, if necessary, putting ourselves back together in the process. We laughed, we cried, we screamed, we delighted, we protested - no emotion was left dormant.
In the evenings we had time only to ingest a hearty mixture of carbs (chips were a heavy feature on the menu - essential for grounding when doing more esoteric work) before passing out in our tents beneath the stars.
Every morning I rose with the sun to carve out time for my daily yoga practice to anchor me amidst this emotional roller coaster - as always I don't know how I would have fared without it (probably a lot more screaming/thrashing/resistance to the process).
I walked up the huge sand dune overlooking the camp, barefoot, admiring all of the different animal tracks in the sands - from snakes to sparrows, little desert mice with fluffy tails and rabbits, there was a flurry of desert wildlife activity. The sensation of the sand underfoot was so soothing (except when I stepped on the little spikes which peppered the desert floor, that was unfortunate and a common hazard we all learned to be weary of fast, as well as swallowing flies haha) and the journey to the top was always worth it.
Fave yoga pose in my fave landscape = heaven
Over the brow was a large area not visible to anyone around, surrounded by mountains on all sides and framed by the morning sun and lingering moon overhead. The time spent on my daily sadhana or spiritual practice was truly precious. I sat and meditated in silence, I chanted, I moved, I danced, I rolled around burying my fingers and toes in the sand on the edges of my mat - it was sheer bliss (see above).
Spending time away from electricity, wifi, pollution and people in my favourite landscape (the desert is where I belong) immersing myself in this initiation was truly magical, in all senses of the word. Spending time with like minded people, and learning from new peoples always has my heart brimming with attitude, and gave me ample time to reflect on all the aspects of my regular life - these life changing trainings and retreats always do - and how I can evolve on my journey.
Some clues I found:
~ Continue developing my daily Sadhana and keep chanting and including more pranayam.
~ Keep being creative and singing / dancing / drawing.
~ Continue to prioritize pleasure and what sets your soul on fire...both with my personal life and my professional offerings...more on that soon!
~ Be kind to yourself, your shadow, all parts of you deserve to be loved.
~ Community and solitude are equally important.
I can't quite put into words the process we underwent and which is now only truly just beginning.
Before I can embark on my journey as a fully fledged AwBd teacher, however, there are some tasks I must complete - one of these is leading an online group through the complete set of 7 classes working through the chakras, and would be done on a donation basis.
Do you feel the call to join me and begin to have an inkling as to what this is all about? Use this form to let me know if you're interested! https://forms.gle/K96tFwJHa2tvMooF9
You could be in for quite the journey.