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Queen of the Hips: Nabaweya Mustafa

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

by Shining Peacekeeper Nabaweya Mustafa (نبوية مصطفى)

(Jan 1, 1919 – August 31, 2001)

52 film credits (some misapplied)

From the personal collection of Ahmed Elsemelawi, Nabaweya Mustafa on the back covers of Al Aroussa Magazine: No. 550 Vol XI CAIRO Sept 18, 1935

Lineage Nabaweya Mustafa (originally Nabaweya el Masreya) appeared in nearly 50 films as a dancer and occasionally actress between 1935-1955. Born into the awalim tradition of Mohammed Ali Street, her mother the almeh Anous (also called Nousa/Anissa) enjoyed wealth and prestige as an "Osta" (leader or boss figure) before retirement and Hajj. Several ads indicate the mother-daughter duo worked together for private and public events (although they are advertised as "sisters" in the clippings) even performing for the 1932 Congress of Oriental Music in Cairo and recording a performance of wedding music for the historic event, around which time Nabaweya would have been 13. It is said she was the first of “Badia’s girls” to work on the silver screen, indicating she worked with Badia Masabni before starting her cinematic career.

The above clippings (original source unknown) indicate Anissa and Nabaweya “el Masreya” performed for and recorded music of the Zeffat el Arusa at the Oriental Music Institute for a conference with delegates from many countries. It lists the artists’ address (Muhammad Ali Street, Al-Manasrah Neighborhood, number 80) which matches another ad shown on of Anissa and Nabaweya (who in that photo is clearly identifiable as Nabaweya Mustafa). The smaller clipping indicates the event was held the previous Tuesday, which coincides with the date “Set Annoussa el Masrieh” performed according to the discography of the event, April 12, 1932, a Tuesday.

Style Nabaweya's unique dance style shows many spectacular feats like sudden dramatic backbends, splits and barrel turns among other very dynamic torso movements. She is featured working with shamadan, sagat and/or assaya in several of her films with rare occasions of non-raqs sharqi tableaux such as two of the three dances in 1946 “Enemy of Women”; while magazine clippings fawn over the new dances she created such as the “Peacock” and the “Calling for the Stars” (where these dances will be performed isn’t indicated).

From the personal collection of Ahmed Elsemelawi, Nabaweya Mustafa on the back covers of Al Aroussa Magazine: (left) presenting her new dance “The Peacock” [No. 548 Vol XI CAIRO Sept 4,1935], (right) presenting her new dance “Calling for the Stars” [No. 557 Vol XI CAIRO Nov 6, 1935]

Although her dancing style remains consistent overall, career trends show two main character types present in her cinematic work,: in rural or lower class settings (cafes, cotton fields, bedouin camps, village courtyards, mawalid, etc) we generally see her outfitted in a tulle bi telli galabeya and matching tarha representing a ghazeya, while her performances in upper class urban settings (theaters, parties of the wealthy, indoor women’s events, etc) positions her in the role of an almeh and are typically clothed in sequin and chiffon dresses, accompanied by a tarha worn over the head or diagonally across the body. Her modest costuming style, generally covered the front of the stomach, much of the arms and featured extra-long hem lines (starting in the mid 40's, perhaps to camouflage her busy feet which are visible in the earliest films I was able to locate, where she wore ankle or mid-calf length dresses made of tulle bi telli). Most performances are done in heels, seldomly seeing barefootedness or flat slippers. Her signature accessories included moon shaped kirdan of varying sizes often layered with beaded necklaces and crescent moon, lantern/chandelier shaped, or hoop earrings.


Excerpt from her 1943 appearance in البؤساء “Al Bua’saa” (Les Miserables)

I learned in a private conversation that she had the informal nickname "malban" / "ملبن" (an arabic name for Turkish delight) essentially meaning "boneless, like gelatin" for her flexibility. This moniker was probably not widespread, belonging only to a small social group, being shared verbally. Similarly, some people referred to her as Nabaweya “Kahraba” / "كهربا " (a reference to her “electric” movements, a word which some Egyptians use to describe shimmies).

Family Life Many sources indicate she retired on her marriage to Mukhtar Hussain, a wrestler and actor who she is said to have met on the set of "Maarouf Al-Badawi”; but confirming the date of marriage has proven difficult and I’m led to believe she actually performed for several years after the union, or at least until her last film appearance in 1955. They had three children together including the journalist Bahira Mukhtar and Hussein Mukhtar.

Wedding announcement of Nabaweya Mustafa and Hussein Muktar (Credited in once source to the Mar 10, 1937 “The Bride and Cinematic Art Magazine” العروسة والفن السينمائي )

Learn to Dance Like Nabaweya

Nabaweya Mustafa is a fantastic and unique figure in the golden era of Egyptian dance who should not be overlooked in your personal study or in the curriculum of your students! To help you, I’ve created an online course with guided technique tutorials and signature combinations breakdowns. Additional course resources include a complete listing of film credits, a private playlist of videos to study and a costume overview with tips for performing reconstructions of Nabaweya’s dance. Check it out here:


About Shining

Shining is a performer, instructor and researcher of Egyptian traditional dances, whose work reflects a strong emphasis of the cultural and historical influences on the medium of dance in and from Egypt. She is internationally recognized for her historical recreations of early Raqs Sharqi and the candelabra-balancing dance named Raqs el Shamadan.

Over the last 17 years Shining has studied dances from the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Central Asia with a variety of instructors foreign and native to these cultures, but in order to gain a deeper understanding of dance in the context of Egyptian society and conduct research on the disappearing traditional entertainment styles, she moved to Egypt in the summer of 2021.

Her first project in Egypt ( was founded the following spring, in cooperation with Khyria Mazin (from the famous Banat Mazin family of entertainers) to create a website dedicated to the legacy of the Mazin family which includes recorded lessons, interviews, song translations, family bios, streamable music and more; enabling the international dance community to learn directly from Khyria now and far into the future.

Learn more about Shining at or study with her on

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Mustafa had a very natural, joyful aura. You can't see any stress or tension in her. She dances very relaxed and her face and smile are real and not a mask.

To do something in such a way that it looks very relaxed is a high art and requires many, many hours of dance training. The way she moves her hips is unique. But she is also very flexible. Who can do the splits?

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