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Mona Al Said in Assiut

If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I have a deep and abiding love for assiut cloth.  My research began in college and  continued for more than 15 years until it burst forth as my book, “The Cloth of Egypt: All About Assuit.”  So I find myself collecting old photos and watching vintage movies, looking for glimpses of my favorite cloth.  I just wanted to take a moment to share this gorgeous dance dress worn by Mona Al Said.  Rather than a modest folkloric dress, she’s wearing an amazing glamour gown with references to the past and tradition.  It’s the perfect dress for appearing at the London nightclub, Omar Khayyam, with its amazing disco era light-up floor.

Mona Al Said performing Raks Assya in an Assuit Gown

Mona al Said (1970s) from TheCaroVan on Vimeo.

I’m so inspired by this dress, and how it’s constructed, that I think I’ve watched this clip 50 times while sussing out the nuances of this garment.  Is she wearing shorts under it?  How far down does that cleavage split go?  Is that beaded embroidered trim around the neck or assiut stitches?  And check out those jewellery motifs sewn to the dress down the front and around the hips!  The daring side splits that go from ankle to hip, then continue upwards, held together by a lattice of beads.  Her assiut headdress is lovely too, bringing the metal embellishments up to her temples. It’s simply a stunning assiut dance dress. Of course, I had to watch this piece several times just to stop marvelling over the moves!  That “shooting” into the audience during the drum solo is so fun!

As I continue my work with assiut, I’m methodically searching the internet and printed archive, really analyzing the assiut dance costumes from the past 100 years. I’m making serious headway during this current round of research; with the goal of a second book focussed entirely on belly dance costumes, it’s vintage performances like this one, that fan the flames of my research fire.

Of course, this video was not the first time that Mona wore assiut.  In this photo, a film still, she’s dancing down an unpaved Egyptian road in a much more sedate, modest, and traditionally cut robe.  If you are interested in learning more about Mona, I recommend checking out this article over in the Habibi Archive.   If you are interested in learning more details about my upcoming book “Assiut Costuming in Detail” please join my mailing list on the top of the right-hand column and I’ll drop you a line about new projects.


Dreaming of Assiut Cloth!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
August 22, 2017


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