Algeria: Belly Dancing Etiquette Among the Mosques

You may be surprised to have belly dancing on your menu in addition to dinner while dining in a restaurant in Marrakech, Morocco or Casablanca. For the locals, it’s just another steamy night in Algiers. As a stranger in a strange land, you may not know how to act (or react) at a restaurant in which live belly dancing is part of the ambiance. Many foreigners just don’t know what is proper and acceptable in regards to enjoying this unique form of entertainment.

Belly dancers will usually dance to a three-song set (an entrance piece, a main performance piece and then an exit piece). The dancer will make their way around the dining area, usually stopping near tables where customers are dining. That’s what belly dancers do. It’s perfectly acceptable to smile. It is not acceptable to make cat-calls, whistle, lick your eyebrows or any other number of Western habits that are more suitable for a strip club. Belly dancing is considered an art and most dancers earn a living by jumping from restaurant to restaurant to perform for patrons.

If you tastefully demonstrate your enjoyment of the belly dancer, than you are intimating that will give her a tip. NEVER place your tip in the front or cleavage of the dancer’s costume. You are not in Daytona Beach. You are a long way from home and the stupid acts of foreigners (especially stupid drunken acts) are not tolerated. Usually, the dancer will indicate where to put the tip. Most commonly, the straps of the bra (shoulder, back, side) and the hips (sides, back) are the best spots. Conversely, putting the money in your mouth is very disrespectful. And you do not want to be disrespectful to anyone while in Algeria, do you?

Speaking of tips, you never know if the restaurant where you decide to eat will offer belly dancing later in the evening. Many restaurants don’t advertise belly dancing because it’s such a typical part of the culture. So it’s always a good idea to carry a few extra bills with you just in case. Having said that, many times sincere compliments and a respectful audience can be just as rewarding as any money.

Now go out there and enjoy the show, and don’t do anything your mother would be shamed of.