The Little Theatre in Egypt



WE sat in a box reserved for European visitors, sipped our Oriental coffee and smoked, while the orchestra was tuning and the audience assembling. Opposite us, the Moslem bourgeoisie deposited their yashmaked harems behind a long screen of Nottingham lace curtain and then seated themselves below with the unveiled ladies of their acquaintance. Below us was the pit where gathered the rank and file of the audience, completely native in tarboosh, kufieh, and galabya. Above us, packed to overflowing, was the gallery, for this was a gala night when Munyra, the idolized singer of ballads, of opera, of lieder, was to appear.

As soon as the curtain rose, we realized that the appeal to the audience was through neither setting nor costuming, but purely through the sentiment of the romance and the personality of the Prima Donna. Harounal-Raschid, in red plush and cotton batting, with beard to match, harangued his grand vizier for many hours in a style reminiscent of the Sicilian marionettes. Our illusions of the romantic beauty associated with the Arabian Nights were shattered by the ladies of the company. Here was no sinuous allure of Theda Bara, but the hearty, motherly figure so popular among the matrons of Grand Street.

Munyra, impersonating a young lover, without any attempt at characterization, costume, or make-up, held that audience by sheer force of personality and vocal technique. No gesture but the occasional swing of a rhythm, no pantomime but an occasional apostrophe to the audience, whose thundering acclamations might have startled even Chaliapin. The really sensational moment of the drama came when the two lovers, flying for safety to the cover of the woods, were overcome by the romantic beauty of the moonlit night and lay clasped in one another’s arms — on the floor, in the middle of a perfectly bare stage; and yet the quiver that ran through the house was as intense as that produced by the most lurid moment of the Jest.

Another example of the complete rapport between performers and audience was an interval of about half an hour, in the middle of a scene, when the curious zither-like instrument had to be tuned to a new song to suit the mood of the Prima Donna. Everything stopped; the actors on the stage patiently waited, the audience sat in anticipatory silence, but at the first note broke into wild enthusiasm. Throughout all, Munyra held the stage with the dignity, repose, and gracious assurance of an Yvette Guilbert, striking the chord with the technique of perfected art. So different, so remote, so curiously exotic to our Western ears but so appealing to her Oriental audience were her vocal acrobatics that at each finale they burst into a transport of enthusiastic ‘All’s’ and ‘Allah’s’ — clapping, waving, until even a passive sheik was literally swept off his feet in a frenzy of appreciation and, withobvious pantomime, surrendered himself and all he possessed, even his manhood’s pride, — his beard, — for just one more note.

We thought that the most enthusiastic moment had come and gone, but when midnight was bringing this lengthy performance to a close another transport swept the audience. Apropos of nothing, Munyra broke into a PanMoslem song. Even the romance of Haroun-al-Raschid was lost in the more stirring emotion of Nationalist feeling; and we left realizing that the dream of self-determination is the vital drama of Egypt to-day and that, beside it, Haroun-al-Raschid and Munyra herself become mere illusions.



WE were still at table with our archaeological guests when a flying messenger in red turban and bottle-green uniform announced the opening of the Theatre of the Nile. We hurried to the garden, clutched our warmest coats and furs, and wondered at the courage of the oranges and bouvardia that grew so happily in this chill winter air. Through the gates, on to the river we hurried, and were greeted with unction by Abdul-el-Galeel in his most gorgeous and becoming abáyeh of Mecca weave, while piercing sounds from the theatre indicated that the orchestral overture had begun. We had our first vision of the Theatre of the Nile! Moored at the foot of a steep flight of stone steps was a magical barge, the outlines of the masts patterned with lanterns of multicolored glass. In the bow, cross-legged, sat the orchestra. Two pipe-players looked like musicians in the old Florentine paintings; the drummer behind his great drum — which was festively decorated in red trappings — beat with his sticks the march-like rhythm of the Khedive’s salutation. Feeling akin to the Caliphs of Bagdad, at the pompous exclusiveness of the entertainment before us, we descended the steps and — praise be to Allah! — were transported into a moment of romance and fantasy which had at once reality and illusion. This was Theatre — we were both audience and part of the setting. We pushed off from the bank, the galley slaves up forward heaving away in rhythm with the drumbeats. We lay back on the cushions of the flukhah and glided into the starlight night under the curved shifting sail, our master craftsman standing in the stern astride the rudder, the piercing notes gradually beating into our mood with hypnotic insistence. The music grew wilder and more piercing, and a figure rose, scantily clad in a short faded shift. The usual felláheen vest completed the costume, except for the almost black make-up of the delicately modeled limbs. In spite of the utter poverty and bareness of these garments, the moment the movement began the felláheen vanished and became identified with the eternal world of bards and minstrels. The tiny brass cymbals in both hands punctuated the rhythm and play of the marvelously supple wrists. After the first introductory movements of footand bodymuscles — which seemed like the inevitable tuning-up of a relaxed string instrument — the real dancing began. Feet, body, shoulders, neck, head, each in turn and all together came into play until the great test of skill — the bottle with the lighted candle set on his shaven head — was added. Oblivious of the limitations of his stage, — which was not more than three feet in diameter and undulated to the caprice of the wind and sails, — our entertainer with concentrated intensity flowed from one rhythm to another with the case and deftness of a master. In the same syncopated rhythm in varied tempos,rising,crouching, bending, swirling, nothing seemed to disturb the poise and equilibrium of the dancer or his charmed ‘prop,’ which became so much a part of his person that it seemed a jeweled crown.

After the first half-hour of the Marathon of blowing, beating, and muscle-play, which progressed with uninterrupted vigor and passed without a break from one rhythm and melody to another, we recovered from our breathless anxiety over the lungand heartcapacity of the performers and relapsed into a hypnotic, fatalistic state.

And here let us note that, although the melodies are apparently built on a scale not exceeding three intervals, the rhythmic repertoire is so varied, and the vitality and wind-power of the players such, that performances at weddings usually go on unceasingly for twelve hours at a stretch, — day and night, — the length of time depending only on the bank account of the bridegroom.

Another hour of the same strident noise which will make Scriabine forever sound to us like the soothing delicacy of Mozart, and our barge was again moored at the garden steps.

Still under the unctuous protection of Abdul, who bowed with his characteristic static smile in aloof satisfaction at our childish enthusiasm, we stepped off the magic carpet.

The fantasia of the night was vanishing down the stream; the lantern lights already dim reflections; the performers, so real a moment ago, now fading into phantoms; the barge, so lately vibrating with reality, now but a memory.



ON leaving the Theatre of the Nile, we began our Assuan seminar under the Nubian professorship of Bogadi Mohammed Ali. Within thirty minutes of our arrival we were in our knickers, galloping on spirited beasts over the Nubian desert sands, past the granite quarries with the unfinished shaft for a new temple, then Philæ romantically rising from the Nile, its pylons half visible, gracefully lifting their petaled capitals like colossal lotus flowers.

Our flukhah — manned at the oar by the sheik of the Nubian village, aged seventy; at the rudder by the sheikto-be, aged seven — moored us near the great dam; but we hurried on, impatient to continue our peripatetic dialogue. We galloped over rugged shores of the cataract, romantically wild and gorge-like, past fields of wild castor-oil bean, until we came to our first Nubian village.

Were we really seeing with our eyes or were we at an exhibition of ultramodern art? Against a ground of white plaster, or ochre, or blue, from the ancient pigment-mines, wore displayed the most primitively quaint frescoes. It would be hard to choose the house most suitable as a setting for a fantasy. While we were considering the merit of ochre-gingerbread men versus bluespotted gazelles, a muezzin called us to the mosque — in this case an open court where all the men of the village squatted at prayer. A minaret rising to the sky, the figure of the sheik at the top of a winding staircase, silhouetted against the blue, added a more serious note to the modernist scene. The women of the village gathered around, offering their armlet cases for baksheesh, but we galloped on, our Professor luring us away with the hint of a howlingdervish service in the offing.

By the time we reached the next village — due to the Professor’s extraordinary educational methods — we were prepared for an examination in the manners and customs of the Nubians and, having added this new race to our museum of nationalist problems, we felt qualified to mix socially with the elect of the tribe. We left our gallant little donkeys at the doorstep of the Bodagdi ménage and were welcomed by Madame Bodagdi into the Nubian household. In striking contrast to other Egyptian domiciles, this courtyard and interior were clean and orderly. The women unveiled, revealed their dusky charms enhanced by the tattoo and the gold nose-ring. The sleeping-quarters showed a built-in bed of the same earth that formed the floor, the rugs and mats rolled up in Japanese fashion. The family wardrobe, gayly displayed, furnished the ‘sky borders’ of the room. The walls were decorated with everything from Sudanese baskets to lurid colored-supplement ‘ads.’

Cocoa and Nubian dates, a European table, Vienna chairs, were presided over with charm and savoir faire by Madame. We were almost shocked by this radical defiance of ‘woman’s place,’ but were assured by the Professor that in this, as in other customs, the Nubians have their independent views. However, Allah does not recognize this laxity, for as we approached the mosque of this village only the masculine elect dared doff their shoes and enter. For two reasons we were admitted: first, because of our nationality, and secondly, because the Professor felt in need of midday prayers. His preparations were elaborate, his libations almost a complete bath, while we in our religious fervor stood in stockinged feet on uncovered dust and dirt, and would have preferred our libations after prayer. We were glad, however, to see this simple, devout service, for we, as women, had been proscribed in Cairo from treading the holy ground during the ritual service.

After a hurried lunch we exchanged our ‘subway donkeys’ for the ‘elevated camels’ and were admitted to a new experience — the Bisharin. Here we touched nearest to Nature. Huts of matted grass provide shelter for this amazing tribe of Bedouin camelbreeders, who wander all through the Arabian desert. They are absolutely unique in type, and we felt we had been whisked away to the South Seas. Almost naked black bodies and limbs, heads well set and formed, but dwarfed under mats of bushy hair, set a new standard for workshop wigs and an idea to be achieved by the flapper of 1944. An unbleached cotton cloth was wound in curious drapery round the loins and over one shoulder, on men and women alike; but the latter were more heavily clad with silver amulets and bracelets. The oldest and most shrunken graybearded Bisharin squatted on a small mat surrounded by a row of miniature cobblestones. This isolation proclaimed the ‘holy ground,’ a sacred place of prayer or mosque.

At our Professor’s suggestion the performance began. Out of the mud hovels dashed the men of the tribe, brandishing long swords and round leather-and-metal shields. They leaped at one another in so fearsome a way that it seemed more than a game, when they had to be separated by the sedate umpires. Meanwhile the pacifists on the box-seats of cameldom became so thrilled and excited that they dismounted and cheered the combatants on to greater frenzy. The repertoire of simple leaping-games and war dances is short but violent, and so primitively picturesque that it would satisfy the ultra-æsthete who cries, ‘Back to nature.’ The Bisharin orchestra seemed to our ears less crude — or at least less strident — than other Arab music. Vocal in part, it was accompanied by a lyre-shaped instrument with five strings, mellow in tone.

Back through the bazaars we cantered, the narrow streets forming roofed vistas and lined with the usual open shops gayly decorated with everything from Sudanese armor to American wheat.

Stars, donkeys, and a kufiehed guard fore and aft, long twisting alleys, shadowed hovels, the silent and stark Nubian desert, an oasis of mud huts, soundless and motionless in the night, and we passing as silently, expectant, tense, confident that our Nubian escort and our donkeys were leading us to the magic and mystery of the theatre of the race of Ham. Or were we already caught in its hoodoo spell?

Our caravan stopped before a mud wall. Dusky shadows began to move; a penetrating voice broke the silence. There was a fumbling of wooden latches and the glow of a charcoal brazier as a door opened and we were ushered through a mud courtyard into the Little Theatre of Sudan.

A low square chamber where one tiny wall-wick, combined with the glow of the brazier on the floor, immediately cast a spell of theatre magic round us. In one corner, huddled on a wooden bench, lay what seemed to be a heap of old rags, but which later proved to be a child. On the floor a great hulking form crouched, warming a large tambura over the burning coals. This we have observed is the tuning ritual of the orchestras of Egypt. Cold and lack of food there may be, but always glow enough to warm rhythm and melody into life.

We were ushered to the only seats, our Nubian escort sharing what later appeared to be the community bed, and we once more experienced the thrill of personal rapport between audience and performers. This is the Little Theatre rarefied to its ultimate purpose. First, the audience is sharing directly with the performers in the creation of the production; secondly, there is no physical convention of proscenium or setting to separate the audience from the stage; thirdly, and most important, there is the rare and personal sensation that the moment belongs to you alone — that for you alone the gate of illusion is momentarily opened.

One by one the ladies of the ballet, who had retired for the night but had been roused by a flying messenger, appeared and were presented with all the ceremony of hand-kissing. The costume: a printed cotton of Mother Hubbard cut, a probable survival of an early missionary period; a gold nosering as a chic and individual touch; make-up of charcoal number 3, relieved by decorative patterns of tattoowork; a coiffure beyond the skill of any wig-maker — a multitude of tight ringlets of wool in even rows, suspended from a smooth oiled surface, which we recognized at once as a survival of the ancient tomb-paintings. The fashions of their headgear, the pride of the Sudanese flapper, accounted for the fields of castor-oil plant through which we passed earlier in the day. Bracelets, necklets, anklets of heavy silver set off the dusky features and massive limbs.

The performance began with the customary salutation; then the first motive of the movement — the swaying of the body for the complicated flexibility of head, neck, shoulders, arms, torso, and so on, every muscle coming into play in anatomical succession. Romance, as with us, forms the plot of these dramas of the East, and the happy ending is also demanded. The heroine, a dusky ingénue who would have captivated Gauguin, impersonated the bride, and one of the dark-veiled matrons impersonated the mother of the tribe. The pantomime suggested the conferring of the powers of motherhood and the passing on of the tribal line.

The première danseuse arrived. Every muscle heaved in amazing gyrations and the syncopations of the bare feet continued as the body bent back in a Salome-like attitude. The abandon of the movement was in strange contrast to the missionary cut of the trailing Mother Hubbard. Not only was this accompanied by the rhythmic beating of the tabla and by hand-clapping, but, at intervals, the most arresting climaxes were induced by a sudden call, piercing and vibrant as the call of a wild creature to its mate in the jungle. So close to the primitive world was the unhuman cry that it would take centuries for a less savage race to acquire the technique of this coloratura of the jungle. The movement, meanwhile, grew more and more primitively sensuous, the danseuse directing her charms from one to another of the gentlemen present, until, at its most seductive moment, each in turn jumped up and passionately beat the air with his stick or fist, to acknowledge her conquest and incite her to further triumphs.

The next number explained itself: ‘To make the dirt fly’ —and it flew! Producing a psychological cough, we fled to the door and watched what probably was a relic of a spirit dance: a semicircle of black forms, more dusky than the night, gleaming eyes and whitened teeth half shrouded in a gauze of dust, shuffling, stamping, leaping, crying, that revealed to us an orgiastic ritual of black magic.

The stars and the cool fragrant night and the stretches of the desert sands seemed homey and familiar after the scene so remote from us in tradition, in development, so close to a savage life beyond our ken.

Even the most insatiable first-nighter might have paused for breath and retired to the realities of bed and the relaxing influence of a hot-water bottle after this seriesof the season’s openings; but the Nubian constitution is no more enduring than that of Grand Street and we revived at the idea of another divertisement suggested by our resourceful Professor. On we cantered to a Nubian village where we were welcomed with customary grace. The setting for this performance was an exterior: an alley-way bounded by newly built mud-houses formed a background for two rows of dervishes, squatting cross-legged on the braided groundcloth used for the ceremony, lit by a hive-shaped light that shed its beams on the faces of the performers. The ‘overheads’ twinkled with brilliant star-effects.

It was an interlude in the prenuptial festivities of a young Nubian felláheen. Contrary to Western traditions, the hero of the occasion was not the bridegroom, but his mother’s second husband, a gentleman of great dignity and repose, robed in handsome galabya and kufieh. No women, of course, were present, but on inquiry we learned that the bride was making the most of the last moments of her childhood in a final fling with her pals.

Familiar trays of what we thought the inevitable brewed Nile were served to us, but it proved to be an exotic drink of distilled annis, that was a strain on our crude Occidental palates.

The howling dervish ceremony began. Two sheiks, leading the service in high-keyed voices of brilliant quality, intoned the praise of the Prophet, and the two lines swaying in opposition, pendulum-like in rhythm but moving in ever-enlarging spirals, chanted the responses. From the most subtle movement of the heads the relaxed bodies swayed in ever-increasing tempo until, with simultaneous impulse, all rose to their feet. Without a pause or loss of a beat, the movement and intoned reiteration continued faster and yet faster, until both lines swayed themselves into an ecstasy of the infinite spiral rhythm of ‘Allah-Akbar.’

This was merely one incident in the munificence of a pre-nuptial fête. We were next ushered through dark courtyards and corridors to still another scene of praise and prayer. The brazier was this time the central point, around which squatted another company chanting the words of the Koran. Sandalwood, incense, and burnt annis, mingling with the natural perfume of the Nubian, filled the windowless, airless chamber. The pale-faced audience was soon surfeited with atmosphere and religion, and cantering back to Assuan, welcomed the waning stars and the chilling approach of dawn.



AFTER various changes we finally transferred at the corner of the Pyramids and cameled across the desert sands, while the moonlight played in fantastic shadows on the distant hills, and our luggage followed in rope ‘prop’ bags on Sambo’s humped back.

When we reached the tent flap of the desert theatre, Machmud — producer, manager, impresario — greeted us with desert courtesy. Instead of the drab canvas effect we anticipated, what was our amazement to find ourselves ‘magicked’ into the setting of the paladins! Luckily, we remembered that we had brought our dress clothes, — abayas, kufiehs, and burnous, — or we should have felt as painfully conspicuous as if we had been in overalls at the opera. The other guests arrived on gray Arab steeds, accompanied by a claque of Bedouin jackal dogs.

The curtain rose. The ‘ back drop ‘ twinkling with star-effects, was seen through a low proscenium. The orchestra for this important opening was conducted by the Barrère of Mena village, a sofara player of great distinction in the Bedouin tribe. As in other Little Theatres, percussion was the accompaniment, and Gamma, a young prodigy of twelve years, performed on the tabla, with fingers and wrists moving in rhythmic skill comparable only to the intricacies of Pavlowa’s toes in her most technical ballet. Voices in strange minor intervals came in, in complicated rhythms. And then one figure after another rose spontaneously, and began to move in subtle rhythm — the feet first, then the movement of the body surged upward with the melody of the reed pipe, until the neck, and then the head itself, was moving in curious syncopations. The tempo increased as the mood grew more and more excited, with the clapping of hands from the audience and performers who found themselves swept into the spell of the reiterated call of the desert. The stick of the camel-driver now came into play as the most important ‘ prop.’ Such grace and subtlety of the wrist, such sinuous litheness of each muscle defies western imitation. Next the kufieh or headkerchief caught the night air with the delicacy of a chiffon scarf. A deliciously floating rhythm combined with a sudden pause told the story of the baking of the bread, and then came the final dramatic climax of capturing the kufieh in the teeth of the performer amid the wild acclaim of the syncopated orchestra — drums, flute, voices, hand-clapping, that was at once discordant, yet harmonious.

Our guests departed on their Arab steeds and we, already adopted by the Machmud tribe, had our first initiation into the mysteries of the Dervish. Ali, our irrepressible donkey-boy, was suddenly swayed by a religious impulse and began to move in a slow minor rhythm as he gradually hypnotized himself by the repetition of the Prophet’s name. Faster and faster until, loosened by the spiral abandon, the kufieh unwound and floated in white waves about his head and body. He rose, still swirling, and was joined by the whole clan until there were two lines in orthodox dervish fashion. So hypnotized were they by their own impetus,— not, alas, by religious frenzy, — that finally their relaxed bodies collapsed utterly with exhaustion, and Ali in particular had so completely surrendered his senses to the abandon of rhythm that he had to be revived to a waking state.

So successful was this opening that the management rejoiced and the traveling audience’s dreams became that night a fantastic mirage, in anticipation of the first day on the road.

The morning bath in a glassful of muddy Nile. . . . Breakfast coffee of the same complexion, with bread and treacle from the fresh sugar-cane, were tempting hors d’ œuvres to caravan life. As we did not belong to the Arab Union, ‘striking’ gave us an opportunity to observe the cast of ten of the night before, who were now transformed into the crew. Each seemed to head his own department efficiently but never rose to the finished standard of Machmud with the all-seeing eye and helping hand! Sardi, the poet and slave of Sarifa, the dromedary; Hamid, the tribe’s strong man, tossing the heavy water-tanks on to the groaning camel’s back; Ali, the dervish, saddling ‘Mary Anderson’ and ‘Gazelle,’ who brayed their morning antiphon; Byume, caging the cackling fowls that formed part of our commissary. Even we, hardened to orchestral rehearsals, were slightly unnerved by the caravan method of harmonics. Only after each tent peg had been checked up and every prop was in its balanced position on the camel’s back, did Machmud give word to start. It was interesting to find how like the technique of the static theatre our caravan methods were.

Thrilling to new experiences, the Caravan Road Company began its route across the yellow sands. The dignified pace and the solemn mien of Sambo and his followers could not dampen the gay spirits of the company. On they danced and on and on, the tabla and the sofara lightening the way of this barefooted ballet; there was standing room only for all but the audience and impresario in this traveling show. And how analogous the life, with its intricacies, its adventure, its camaraderie, its absorbing interest in the perfection of one vanishing moment, its demands on the vitality of the producer and his staff!

But, on the other hand, what a difference in perspective. . . . . In the desert theatre the horizon line widens until the human creature dwarfs into a mere atom, and even the caravan where every tribal instinct was centred — for the moment disappears into immensity, and leaves but its tracks upon the shifting yellow sands.

Our first stand was made beyond the pyramid field, on the edge of the great Libyan Desert. We sat in the evening by our tent flap, gazing at the palm trees of the distant village of Dashur, which we knew would soon be lost to sight as we continued our trail into the wide horizon of the desert.

This dramatic pause in the day’s adventures rightly presaged a change of mood. An armed guard, sent by the sheik of the village, arrived to look over the personnel of our troupe and see if we were harboring a desert pirate with a price on his head. For these Arab sheiks are stern upholders of tribal rights, and their tribunal is still the gun rather than the court of law. Reassured by Machmud, they stayed and took part in what became a lyric interlude instead of — what might have been — the last act of a melodrama.

We were suddenly reminded by the tuning-up of a chorus that the second performance of our repertory theatre was about to begin. This proved to be a strictly Arab folk-drama and even the tabla and sofara were banned as too sophisticated, being pro-Egyptian. The ballad form is still the popular Bedouin tradition. The performance had all the flavor of true romance a nd the ‘ personal note ‘ desired by our ablest critics. The lyric was apparently aimed at one of our guests, who tossed his gun carelessly while he pantomimed an acknowledgment in response. The romantic cadences told that it was a love song, and through our interpreters we gathered that in Bedouin life romance is not confined to the past but flourishes also in the present. The love song celebrated in extemporaneous couplets the charms and beauty of a lady in a near-by village, soon to be the bride of our guest who brandished his gun so carelessly, and who seemed to suggest a Bedouin Cyrano, so swift and apt were his responses. They sang of his lady’s eyes; of the day when he had seen her pass on a camel; when he swore to win her love; of the beauty of the night; and of passionate love too great for any heart to hold. And then they sang of the rival who also claimed the lady. And — still in song — he said, if the rival won his lady, it was Allah’s wish that this should be; and so his rival would not be slain.

As a foil to this romantic tale there was an interlude of a martial character in which the gun became the dramatic ‘prop’ of a war dance. Far into the night they sang and danced, these children of the desert, as the moon played over the tops of the distant palm trees.

Caravan life and fighting winds and sands are too absorbing in mid-desert to admit of the nightly repertoire; but rehearsals were always called, and the regular subscribers had the sense of real adventure in the addition of occasional neighborhood patrons gazelles, hyenas, and jackals.

It was only when the stage was set on the fringe of the palm trees and canals of an oasis that another important opening claimed the attention of first-nighters. This was a gala performance of a visiting company. All star cast was promised and did not fail. The custom of the desert is to offer both food and lodging to its entertainers who come without wardrobe trunk or toothbrush to spend the night. After the customary hospitality had been dispensed, the dining-hall with Machmud’s deft technique was soon changed into stage and auditorium.

As the two subscribers entered, the orchestra burst into the Khedive’s March of Salutation. The company rose and offered ceremonious welcome. The premières stepped forward and embraced the hands of the patrons, who promptly retired to the scats assigned them while a prologue was sung. Its interpretation may sound euphemistic to foreigners: ‘This is the greatest moment of my life — no honor like it has ever been mine — I have never felt so inspired.’

During the song we looked about. Instead of four or five there was a large retinue. Conspicuous among those present were a picturesque figure in sacking rags, whip in hand; a sheik from the Sudan, a study in blackand-white; innumerable neighbors wrapped in heavy Bedouin burnouses, besides our own tribe.

The curtain rang up on a setting by Omar Ismail, the famous tent-maker of the Mouski. Bakst at his best never produced an atmosphere at once so simple and complete, so colorful yet so restrained. The brazier lighting-system in vogue here was supplemented on this occasion by the usual Jones touch: one half-burned candle skillfully placed to play upon the hem of the star’s trailing calico Mother Hubbard.

The danseuse was a lady whose figure outweighed the fair Turkish Delight of Cairo s White Way by several hundred. Her costume had evidently been partially executed by the Egyptian agent of Jaeger and Company. And our conjecture as to the depreciation of Austrian currency was confirmed : a point that has been overlooked by the international financiers — all the gold currency of that country now hangs on the breasts, arms, and ankles of the yashmaked and unyashmaked ladies of Egypt.

Our dancer began to tune her muscles, and we now understood the pride in each added pound, and why obesity is considered a distinguishing mark of beauty. Just as with us, the popularity of the toe dancer is measured by her skill in executing intricate pas-de-ballet, so here these coryphées display sensuous emotions through the movement of each muscular fibre. From head to toe, independently and with coördinated skill, every one of the tissues vibrates like an anatomical chart controlled by electricity. This muscular virtuosity was continued amid the approving Ah-a-a-h’s and Allah’s of the audience.

The danseuse resumed her seat, snatched a cigarette from the mouth of the tabla-player and joined the chorus, lustily singing one of the popular airs of the day. The performance grew more and more informal and flowed from song into dance, from ballad into songand-dance. The tabla always set the rhythm, reenforced by the hand-clapping of the audience; the penetrating falsetto of the men carried the melody, the sofara added the melodic counterpoint, and the women supplied both rhythm and movement and often the melody as well. This gave the effect at times of a symphony orchestra rehearsing ultra-modern discords, and we gasped with amazement when all ended the coda simultaneously. Instead of being — as we had imagined — an independent solo by each performer, to them it was a familiar harmonic composition.

We must not forget one of the most important and original orchestral effects— which we strongly recommend to all our friends of the baton. Comrades all, do not bemoan your empty bottles; a most ésthetic use can be made of them, to add color to the harmonic and pictorial effect of production. Like some other Little Theatre colleagues, these artists of the desert do not confine their art to one medium but are able to express themselves with equal ease in movement, melody, or acrobatics. This was next demonstrated. A dark powerful creature, who up to this point had been as remote a member of the orchestra as the tympanaplayer, sprang into the centre of the stage and captured most of the laurels of the evening by his amazing feats. Snatching off his galabya or outer garment, he stood transformed — a gorgeous figure in the ravishing Egyptian parallel of the B. V. D.

Dexterously capturing Sardi’s kufieh from his unsuspecting head and twisting it round his own waist, the transformation from orchestral player to dancer was complete. Steel blades glistened in his hand and became the dramatic motif of a wild Syrian dance. Brandished in every direction, now here, now there, sometimes perilously near the audience, they vied with his eyes in their passionate fervor, while the body moved in vigorous rhythmic contortions. This thrilling exhibition reached its climax in an orgy of pantomimed self-mutilation, but was only prevented from reaching a still greater height by the inartistic sensibilities of the western audience who, satisfied with this symbolic rendering, refused to accept the more realistic conclusion, with flowing blood.

This was merely a prelude to the divertissement. . . . There was no suggestion of the usual effete Occidental or Oriental effeminacy about this dancer and his pas seul.

Dark hair in confused masses, eyes gleaming, he sprang into another mood. He snatched up two incongruous chairs, setting them one on top of another and both crowning a table. Still with no interruption of the rhythm of feet and body, he grasped the edge of the table in his teeth, and lifted it and its burden upwards with the nonchalance of a Spanish dancer toying with a lighted cigarette. Tossing these properties aside, he next grasped our young Mohammed, who was gazing with bated breath, and swung him lightly through the air.

This was too insignificant a test of strength and skill; so he challenged the st rong man of our Machmud tribe, and the powers of these T itans were transformed into the figures of a wrestling dance, amid the wild acclamation of the audience. The opposing tribes now applauded with the enthusiasm of a football match, but were never carried beyond the rhythmic beats set by the orchestra.

When two-thirty arrived and the performance was still at its height, we realized that even we, accustomed to midnight hours, could not compete with the inexhaustible flow of the repertoire of this Theatre of the Desert. We apologetically rose to leave. This proved to be the signal for another motif. The première stood also, swaying toward us, the orchestra playing with greater fervor. She placed a hand on either of our shoulders and with irresistibly insinuating movements challenged our waning endurance still further. We found ourselves in the centre of this swaying, beating, singing, cheering, swarthy company. Round and round, on and on we turned, in what was probably a pathetic imitation of her movements, until we found ourselves near the open tent-flap and fairly reeled from it into the quiet calm of the night. Our desert players still shouting to us, ‘Quies chales,’ —‘ better than the best,’ — and we in turn, panting for breath, ' Vive le Théâtve! Vive l’ Arabi! we retired to our sleeping-tent. The morning stars had come and gone, but our guests were still lost in the enchantment of their fantasia.