Egyptian belly dance legend Taheya Carioca (Ismaïlia,1915 - Caïro,1999) danced in most Arab states and won parts in several Egyptian films with famous Arab movie stars such as and singers-songwriters Mohamed Ahdelwahab and Farid Al Atrache.
Born under the name Abla (bint) Muhammad Karim, Tahia Karioka became one of the legends of oriental dance. Mohamed Karim - her father - gave her two treats: his love for the arts and secondly his many marriages. Her father married 7 times so later Taheha officially doubled that number! Tahiyya studied at the Ivanova Dancing School before moving to Mohammed Ali Street, Cairo's equivalent of Broadway. She was named Carioca in connection to the Brazilian Samba dance, which she used to perform in her beginnings during the 1930's when she danced at Badia Massabni's casino. After becoming fascinated by brazilian rhythms she asked her derebki (drummer) Zaki to play similar beat on his tabla. As did Mohamed Abdelwahad did in his compositions, Tahia introduced latin american rhythms in her show. From then on, she became known as Tahia Carioca and the percussionist as Zaki Carioca.
The competition in Badia's Cabaret was hard, especially against Samia Gamal who also danced there in the beginning of her career.
Carioca's performances where usually between 20 to 25 minutes at most. But Taheya's fame rose quickly between 1930 and 1940 to such and extend that even the King of Egypt, Farouk, invited her to dance for his anniversary. Her style was totally different from her lifetime rival, Samia Gamal. Tahya Carioca's first movie "La Femme et le Pantin" launched her film career that begun in 1935 and did more than 120 films. Not to forget were the theatre plays and TV soap operas. Cinema and later television made Tahia wellknown to every Arab partly.
Tahia was a very determined woman. It was this feature that made her succeed in the hard world of Cairo's belly dance scene. But she was also a great dancer, no doubt about that. No one ever approached her stunning virtuosity at word-plays, gestures and ironic flirting.She left her family in Ismaïla after a dispute with her dad at the age of 12 and took the train to Caïro. At the age of 31 she already became the legend of oriental dance.
Carioca married 14 times. The list of her men included renowned actor Rushdi Abaza, singer Muharram Fuad.
Just like Samia Gamal she also married an American who converted to Islam and took her to the US. The marriage didn't last long, she missed Egypt and the cultural differences did the rest. She divorced him and returned to Egypt. Later she returned to orthodox Islam. A turn that more dancers did at their old age leaving in oblivion her admitted 14 or more husbands. Tahia became an idol for Russians, Americans, Germans, Ukrainians, Italians, Armenians, Dutch and French. All became attracted to Taheya's unrivalled mastery of the genre. Taheya Karyooka proved to be a source of inspiration to a whole new generation of dancers.
Tahiyyah Karioka died on september 20, 1999 at the age of 79 of a heart attack.
"Each decent oriental dancer must express life, death, happiness, sorrow, love and anger, but above all she must have dignity."