Pole dancing in Egypt becoming 'more popular'—not taboo

How women-only pole dancing classes are inspiring women in Egypt to have more confidence.

When Nouran Salah started pole dancing she didn't tell anyone, especially not her father.

In Egypt, she told Euronews, "everyone was surprised when I said I practised pole dancing. It was taboo".

When she eventually told him, he didn't understand the sport, but five years on he can see that it is her passion: "He respects what I do, he can see that I love it," Nouran said.

Her father's change of stance is emblematic of a shift in attitudes towards pole dancing in the Muslim country.

Centres are popping up across Cairo since the first opened in 2013, with currently around 10 studios in the Egyptian capital.

These locales offer women the chance to participate in female-only classes, where they are free to remove their veils.

Nouran said she has seen a change in the attitudes of other men around her: "They don't think I'm a stripper, they think I'm strong," she said.

She believes that the positive benefits she has taken from pole dancing classes could help Egyptian women who are feeling oppressed.

"There is sexual harassment in the streets in Egypt, so many girls are afraid to walk with their heads up," she explained. "I've learned to hold my head high because of how strong pole dancing makes me feel."

Such is the popularity of pole dancing in Egypt that it is attracting teachers from overseas to carry out residencies to share their expertise.

Foreign teachers travel to Egypt

Mexico native Olivia Heredia travelled to Cairo to teach classes at Fsquare Aerial Arts & Fitness for nine months after the owner of the studio came across her Instagram account.

She said the prospect of teaching in a country with a different culture to her own scared her at first, along with the fact that she had "heard a lot about political conflicts in that part of the world".

However, the only difference she found between Egypt and Central America was the option to do female-only classes—in her country, mixed classes are commonplace.

Olivia said she was surprised to find pole dancing was popular and that her students were encouraging and wanted to learn "more sexy moves".

What is the future of pole dancing in Egypt?

There is no denying that Egyptian society is warming up to the idea of pole dancing, with the first international pole fitness showcase in Egypt taking place last September.

As for Nouran, she believes there is still a long way to go for pole dancing to be accepted in mainstream Egyptian society, as some don't consider it to be a sport, disregarding it as a form of fitness.

This won't stop her attending regular classes at the Fsquare Aerial Arts & Fitness.

"I will never stop pole dancing," she said.

"Pole dancing is like walking on water but better...peaceful, liberating, energizing, empowering and epic!''

Michal Huniewicz photographed Olivia and her students at Fsquare Aerial Arts & Fitness.
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