Stories of a Traveling Belly Dancer
Zaina Brown is a professional belly dancer who has worked in the United States and in several countries abroad. In her new book, Stories of a Traveling Belly Dancer, Brown shares a collection of emails she sent to friends during her nearly four years of travel in Africa and the Middle East. The book documents the dancer’s adventures in the twelve countries that she visited as a student and working dancer. Brown’s descriptions of her dancing experiences are dramatic and exciting. Her encounters with the local residents of each country are as entertaining as the dances she performs.
Brown opens the book with a brief history of belly dancing, which originated in North Africa and the Middle East. The author describes the changes in the art of belly dancing as it became popular in India, Asia and Western countries. Brown discovered belly dancing as a teenager growing up in Finland. She quickly decided that she would pursue a career in the field. In her early twenties, after taking classes and working as a dancer in New York City, Brown embarked on what was supposed to be a two month trip to Cairo, Egypt. She left New York in 2007 and returned in 2011.
As a young, single woman traveling alone, Brown provides the reader with a unique perspective regarding the treatment of women in the Middle East and the beauty of many of the people, often poor and struggling themselves, who assisted her as in each country she visited. Brown’s writing is personal, informative and funny. She includes history about each country and the specific sites that she visited, which makes the places come to life for the reader. The same is true of her accounts of the people she befriended. The stories are also revealing of Brown as a person. She comes across as brave, a little impulsive, compassionate, inquisitive, and open-hearted. Even though most of the jobs Brown worked during her travels included accommodations that many of her fellow performers stayed close to for security, Brown (who learned some Arabic in Egypt) made a point of reaching out to the local community at every stop. Even though the story is primarily about Brown’s work as a professional belly dancer, what will keep the reader engaged is the spirit of this adventurous woman who seems to have few fears and sees even fewer limitations in life. From Egypt to the United Arab Emirates to Ethiopia, Brown’s courage helped her navigate many interesting situations. And her love for her work never faltered.
Stories of a Traveling Belly Dancer is a colorful, entertaining story of a young dancer with a passion for her work and an absolute love for adventure. It is an inspiring tale for the young and old who are interested in travel and living an unrestricted life. I highly recommend it.
Melissa Brown Levine
Independent Professional Book Reviewers