Author: Karin van Nieuwkwerk
In the article “Changing Images and Shifting Identities: Female Performers in Egypt, the author, Karin Van Nieuwkerk begins by describing the awalim who are talented and educated Egyptian female performers. Yet Nieuwkerk explains that due to the measuring rod of prostitution, these females are regarded as “fallen women”.
Nieuwkerk states that historical transformations of the image of female performers shifted overtime. She describes this branch of women’s lives in the late eighteenth century as one where performers sing, dance, and play music accompanied by instruments spontaneously in front of other women in the harem.
The author continues into the second branch of female entertainers, the ghawazi, who unlike the awalim, were women that performed unveiled in the streets in front of coffee shops. Some of the ghawazi women were prostitutes, and were the most accessible entertainers for foreigners. Nieuwkerk states that the ghawazi smoked water pipes and drank alcohol, which in turn brought associations upon themselves as indecent women.
The author then explains that the rule of Muhammad Ali (1811-1849) issued an act prohibiting pubic dancers and prostitutes from working in the capital, in an attempt to marginalize public women and to keep them inaccessible to foreigners. Nieuwkerk explains that in Upper Egypt, women turned to prostitution to make a living. In 1850 the prostitution act was abolished in Cairo, the women moved back as café-chantants, who were female performers concealed in music halls that eventually developed into nightclub circuits. Nieuwkerk states that women no longer worked together, but instead competed against one another for the highest bid. Nieuwkerk describes the role of female entertainers called faths, women who sat and drank with customers which was profitable for the nightclub owner as well as themselves. The author progresses into 1949 where prostitution was illegal yet continued until 1973, when it was eradicated and replaced with a new system where one had to obtain a license and dress conservatively.
The author explains that female musicians and singers have aural audiences and spectators, whereas female dancers are solely viewed