• Imprint: Saqi Books
  • ISBN: 9780863566288
  • Published: June 2010
  • UK Price: £14.99
  • Format: 170mm x 220mm
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Extent: 224pp
  • Subject: ,

Serpent of the Nile

Women and Dance in the Arab World

Wendy Buonaventura

This newly updated and beautifully illustrated classic is a celebration of the female dancers of the Arab world, and their impact on the West.

Serpent of the Nile traces the origins of Arabic dance, which survived despite religious disapproval and growing commercialism to evolve into a popular dance form across the globe.

Focusing on the nineteenth century onwards, Wendy Buonaventura reveals how this ancient art was influenced by Western ideas about art and entertainment, and in turn exerted a powerful hold on the Western imagination.

In the heyday of Orientalism, it inspired writers and artists such as Flaubert, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Mata Hari. Often based on common fantasies of Middle-Eastern women, this obsession nevertheless produced wonderfully evocative images.

Buonaventura also documents the impact the genre had on fashion, theatre and film at the turn of the century, and explores present and future trends in Arabic dance.

About the Author

Wendy Buonaventura is an established dancer and choreographer who pioneered the development of Arabic dance as a theatre art in the West. She performs and lectures internationally and has written and presented programmes for the BBC. She is the author of Beauty and the East and I Put a Spell on You, both published by Saqi Books. Her website is www.buonaventura.com.


190 colour and 60 black & white illustrations


‘Lively and lavishly illustrated’ New York Times Book Review

Serpent of the Nile features a perceptive discussion of the history of female solo dancing in the Middle East. The sumptuous illustrations communicate the color and sensuality, poetry and passion, sophistication and subtlety of her subject.’ Dance Magazine

‘An articulate book that speaks with many voices of the glory as well as the shadows surrounding the oriental dance of yesteryear and today. Buonaventura’s amalgamation of materials – textual and visual – evoke a work by someone whose respect for the subject is both tasteful and thoughtful.’
Arabesque Magazine

‘Treat a friend to this sumptuous tome about oriental dancers and their impact on the West.’

‘A delight to browse and just as interesting to read.’
Time out