Gilded Serpent presents...
Undercover Belly Dancer in Iraq

My name is Meena.  Until a month ago, I was a professional belly dancer in Phoenix, Arizona.  Oasis Café, Café Sahara, Café Istanbul, The Bacchanal, Shahrzad’s Mediterranean Grill,  and The Persian Room are just a few of the places in Arizona that feature dancers, and you can count me among those dancers who have danced there!

Presently, however, I’m working as a defense contractor in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq (formerly the “Green Zone”).  Sometimes I work with the Iraq Ministry of Defense, sometimes with NATO and in the Coalition HQ.  The work is comprised of computer systems, printers, scanners, and basic helpdesk duties.

The view of post-Saddam life here is quite interesting, although the small world inside the zone is very different than the one that exists outside the zone.  

We are isolated and don’t hear the word on the street for ourselves.  Explosive devices are thrown at us almost every day and people still die almost every week, sometimes only a block away. As an American (and a woman), a lot of curious glances are cast my way because there are not many western women here.  We’re a distinct minority, especially those of us who are under the age of 40.

Very few people know about my alter ego, the dancer, and my dancing must remain a secret. 

Under Saddam, dancers here  were actually fairly prosperous, but now much of the response one would get would be very undesirable.  I do not mean to suggest that Saddam was a good fellow; I am just stating a sad fact.  Today, every two weeks or so, one can see those who pass as dancing girls at the Green Zone Café, the only Iraqi eating establishment in the zone.

Probably you have already guessed: one small problem exists!  The dancers here are actually prostitutes, and they use Belly dancing to advertise their services. 

They don’t costume in a bedlah, but their fundamental dance moves are the same as those used in the Belly dance.  If one claims that she is a Belly dancer, she might be questioned about her pimp.  The pimps are the men who sit near the girls and approach anyone who seems interested in spending time with any of the girls.  What a very sad state of affairs on so many levels! 

a guitar band playing at the Green Zone Cafe. This venue has been recently detroyed by a suicide bomber.
Since I’m going to be living here for the next year or more, I hope that you will enjoy reading about an undercover belly dancer’s life in a (sometimes) safe war zone.  I plan to write down whatever is here to see and hear for us dancers to share.

--more found on Green Zone Cafe--

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