Anyone who has read Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy will remember the low esteem in which
female entertainers in Egypt were held. To many, this went hand in hand with prostitution, alcohol
and drugs. Mahfouz’s novel may have been set many years ago, but it seems such attitudes were
still prevalent in the late 1980s and prompted Karin van Nieuwkerk to undertake her study of female
singers and dancers in Egypt. On the whole, she is successful. Her ethnography fuses together issues
important in the fields of feminism, ethnomusicology, dance and anthropology, whilst remaining
appealing for non-academic audiences.