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Casbah International in Alameda, California
Musicians-left to right-George (?) on oud, SalahTakesh on dumbek,
David on tambourine, unknown audience member on def

Reflections on North Beach
From North Beach
to the East Bay

(Part III of III):

by Satrinya / Masalima

Hillary was dancing at a restaurant in Alameda called the "Casbah International Restaurant". She danced with the stage name of Zamora. Sam Qutab owned the restaurant. Sam and Fadil Shahin had more than angry words over the name "Casbah". It was alleged that Sam wanted to capitalize on the trade of Fadil's nightclub. I heard Sam say, "I don't know why Fadil is so mad at me. He should be happy and tell his customers, 'Please visit my other place in Alameda!" Eventually, I went to dance at the restaurant in Alameda, after a dancer named Tasha re-emerged at the Bagdad. I danced at the Alameda place five nights per week.

Feirouz was another dancer that worked at the Casbah International during the week. She also had a job as a stripper. Sam featured an oud player named Samir Tawil, the self-proclaimed "King of the Oud" as his star.

Samir insisted that a big poster of himself be placed in the display in front of the restaurant for his many fans. He felt that he was irresistible to all females within a 100-foot radius.

One of Sam's nephews played the drums at the club and he was very good.

A few weeks went by and a dance/teacher came to work at the restaurant named Ariadne. She was one of Rhea's students and she danced three nights per week. She was unusual with her facial gestures. She quickly bumped out the other two regular dancers, and filled their dance slots with her own students.

She tried desperately to keep me from dancing on the same nights that she was dancing, but Sam always played both sides of the fence.

That year Ariadne held a big recital. She did not want me to be anywhere near her recital because Rhea and Jamila were not speaking to each other. The cause of that rift was that the PBS Channel on television was planning to air a dance class taught by Rhea. It was rumored that during Rhea's program that Rhea never mentioned her teacher, Jamila, and that she had somehow taken credit for the entire terminology regarding dance steps, and zill patterns by saying, "Something I call it is.." There was the opposing rumor that Jamila just gotten angry because Rhea had taken on this program by finding and developing it alone, without asking for Jamila's permission and participation. Whatever the cause, the lines were drawn in the sand of San Francisco Bay. 

I decided that it would be fun to tweak Ariadne before I left to dance in Japan. I invited all my friends to the restaurant to see Ariadne's student night. I chose to dance in a pearl beaded costume that I had purchased at Sula's Belly Dance World Boutique. Ariadne was floored by the costume!

Not only did Sam hire me to dance on her student night, but I was also D.W.W.B. (dancing while wearing beads)! 

Weeks later, when I returned from my dance tour in Japan, Ariadne was no longer dancing at Sam's Casbah. I asked one of the patrons what had happed to her and he told me, "Ariadne's husband came looking for her one night, long after she had left in the company of another man, and her husband threw her out." After several more months passed, Sam decided that the business was not what he wanted and he sold it to someone else. Then it really failed. I heard that it burned down almost immediately after that.

About the summer of 1975, my mother and I went to a restaurant in Berkeley called the "Aitos Greek Folkdance Taverna". I went there to see Roman "Bert" Balladine who was teaching late afternoon classes there on Wednesday and Friday nights. We stayed on and that is where I saw Najia perform for the very first time. My mom and I sat in the corner having coffee. I wanted to look as non-Belly Dance
involved as possible. A Greek-American man named Ted Sofios and his brothers owned the restaurant, which was in a converted U.S. post office and had a huge hardwood dance floor and walls decorated with large flags of the world nations. Najia danced at the Aitos every Friday afternoon at lunch and at the evening and Saturday nights for five years. 

Najia doing lunch at the Aitos

My mother really liked the way Najia danced! Back then, Najia had her own style of Belly Dance that was a fusion of Turkish, learned from Bert, and gypsy fantasy.

The Greek musicians loved her in the East Bay, but when she tried to sell that dance style in Broadway nightclubs, the Arab musicians complained, "Why can't you just dance like everyone else?"

Out of the blue, one evening Sam called me and told me that a new place was going to open in Berkeley and it was going to be called "The Casablanca". Sam said that the owner used to own a restaurant in Alameda, which was down the block from his restaurant. The owner of the Casablanca was Roland Reghadi, a Moroccan, and he was fond of telling people, "I am an entrepreneur!" The restaurant was quite different from any others in the area. It was split into two sections in the manner of restaurants in Morocco, one side formal French, the other elaborately tiled Moroccan. Roland was a lady charmer and created his own mystique. He said that he was French but born in Morocco, a descendant of the prophet Mohammed, and that his Arabic name was actually "Aziz". He also claimed that his father, a former multi-millionaire, was relieved of his assets when the new king of Morocco took over the government. Now the French government no longer ruled Morocco. 

I auditioned and was hired to dance in the Casablanca five nights a week with another dance, who was one of Najia's students. An older, wealthy Jewish man eventually found her dancing there one evening and upon learning that she was Jewish, too, he convinced her to leave America and her family to work on a Kibbutz in Israel. As soon as Roland heard about the plan, he became angry and fired her. It was shortly after this incident that Najia was called to work at the Roland's Casablanca after completing her set at the Aitos, which was quite nearby. Thus, Najia and I became "belly buddies".

She and Taka, another one of her many talented and beautiful students, were openly conspiring against me to loose my "cookie cutter" dance appearance. "We need to lose those Cleopatra bangs!" Najia announced one evening. I felt like "Seven of Nine" when Captain Janeway made her back into an individual!

Several times, all the dancers, including the owner of the Casablanca, would pile into our cars after closing the restaurant (early in Berkeley) and head out to the Casbah and the Bagdad in San Francisco.  One Saturday night, Aida was dancing. She saw me sitting with Najia and Taka. She shimmied up near Roland for a tip and gave me the "How dare you sit with THEM?" look that she could do so well. Roland spoke to her, and told her that he was displaying her picture at his restaurant and that seemed to thaw her out a bit. 

About six months later, I folded my tent and left California for about one year. I returned in August of 1978 and reconnected with my "belly buddies". I sat down to watch Naji Baba.

Lo and behold! There was a dancer who was my clone! She even used the name "Salima", which is an abbreviation of my former dance name. Consequently, I chose a new name, changed my style of dance to comply with the Egyptian dance to which I had been exposed and reconstructed my dance wardrobe.  Like the Phoenix, I was reborn as "Satrinya".

I went back to the Bagdad in San Francisco and found Jad Elias managing the nightclub for his brother George. I danced under my new name, "Satrinya Gamal."  The first night I danced, Jad called me Najwa Fouad (the most renowned dancer in Egypt at the time). I danced sometimes five nights a week along with the new regulars. About this time, there was a great influx of Middle Eastern nationals in San Francisco. Some of them were entertainers. There was a very short and older man at the Casbah who tried valiantly to become a singer. He was certainly one of the characters of the moment. He had no teeth, but still, he believed himself to be the best singer since the great Enrico Caruso. He kept telling us, "I need good musicians to back me up". One evening while waiting for the Bagdad to open, I heard the best drumming that I had heard in a long time. I turned to see who was playing and found that there was a new face in town. The bartender said that the new man was hired and flown in after the highest recommendation from Prince M. His name was Khalil Abboud. Immediately Tony boasted to me, "Fadil hired him because I need a good drummer to back me up!"

That same night I heard Khalil sing, and, in my opinion, in that instant, he could sing with a cleaner voice, a greater vocal range, and with more feeling than could any of the other singers on Broadway! 

To be Continued.



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