Shoulder shimmies and undulations were common upper body movements. Twisting movements in the hips were also usual along with rolling stomach movements and heavy hip drops

This is the oldest  (surviving) photo of the moon on record

Samuel D. Humphrey’s 1849 Lunar Daguerreotype

by Randy Miller


Today I went to the Philadelphia Museum of art and saw the exhibiton:

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection

It was in the Perelman Building, where they have all the “applied arts” and design exhibits.  Craft exhibits.

A few pieces from the exhibit:

Fibula (tabzimt), Aït Yenni peoples, Great Kabylie, Algeria, late Nineteenth Century, silver, coral, enamel.  source:

There were photographs of beautiful women of Algeria called the Ouled Nails.  They were absolutly beautiful with clear bright faces and dark eyes.  They are thought to be the predecessors of contemporary belly dance.  They danced and worked to collect money for their dowrys while they were young and then go back home to marry.  The best thing about the exhibit was that you saw old photographs adjacent to cases with jewelry in them that were just like what the women were wearing in the photos.  Great exhibit.  I highly recommend it.

Dancer of Algeria NGM-v31-p266.jpg

above image source (there are more!, go see!): *note-these are not photos from the exhibit, but similar…

And strangely enough, two days ago my neighbor called to me from over the brick wall behind our houses, introduced herself and gave me some Algerian sweets that she made.  One was date and cornmeal- after looking around i found out it’s called Makrout- looks like this:

and the other was sort of like a sesame baklava,  (Can’t find pics of that one or a name??!! oh well…)  that had a sort of rose essence to it.  They were so good!

So.  Algeria is looming large in my plane of reality, lately.  strange.  Makes me want to go to that area of the world for a visit… ahhh…one day…

Here’s more info on the Ouled Nails from this website:

Ouled Nail is a dance term that falls entirely in the realm of tradition and folklore. Pronounced “oooled nile”, they were a Berber tribe whose territory extended from Biskra to Jelfa in Algeria.

They were said to have originated in the “Montes des Ouled”, being prosperous due to the manner in which the women of the tribe earn their living: by dancing and prostitution.

Little girls were trained from an early age in the art of dancing. They left their desert town between the ages of nine and twelve to go into the cafes and practice their trade. If they decided to stay in the oasis towns of the Sahara to guide younger incoming Ouled Nails, they returned to their desert homes about fifteen years later to marry.

The quality of the marriage depended greatly on the type of dowry they saved for themselves. The Ouled Nails had to obtain sufficient wealth to secure a good marriage. After marriage, an Ouled Nail settled down to being a good wife and mother

The costumes of the Ouled Nail are always magnificent, but in an unusual way. Heavily made up eyes darkened with kohl, faces tattooed and adorned with heavy jewellery. Their hair is oiled and worn in braids on both sides of the face, looped up and held in place by big earrings. They went unveiled even when almost all the women in North Africa were covered. The costume focuses on a profusion of jewellery, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. They are known to wear huge bracelets with studs and spikes an inch or two long projecting from them in order to protect themselves.

They wore veils held in place by gold filets. Their skirts were voluminous. They wore the money they earned sewn onto their garments. One common way was in long necklaces. Another, to hold the skirts and shawls together with coins. A third way was to ornament their headdresses. Sometimes these elaborate headdresses were topped with feathers.

The dancing style of the Ouled Nail was earthy. Shoulder shimmies and undulations were common upper body movements. Twisting movements in the hips were also usual along with rolling stomach movements and heavy hip drops

Ted Shawn, the famous American dancer and husband of Ruth St. Denis, witnessed the dance of the Ouled Nail in the early 1900’s:

It is not a suggestive dance for the simple reason that it leaves nothing to the imagination, and because of this unashamed animality, revolts the average white tourist to the point of being unable to admire the phenomenal mastery which these women have of parts of the body over which have no voluntary control at all.”

The Ouled Nail served the main oases of the Sahara, and some of the towns became notorious resorts because of their business there, and are still notorious to this day.

In 1893, a man named Sol Bloom brought the first glimpses of belly dance to America by sponsoring various groups from the Middle East and North Africa to perform in the Chicago World’s Fair. The Ouled Nail were among these tribes. Their music uses traditional instruments and can be found today on a wonderful recording by Aisha Ali, entitled “Music of the Ouled Nail”.