When Cairo Went Country

Two-Step Like An Egyptian 

Okay, so Cairo was never actually country. My apologies if you clicked on this post after reading the title expecting to see images of Hosni Mubarak in a cowboy hat and boots or Gamal Abdel Nasser learning how to two-step. However, if these pictures do exist, someone please send them to me ASAP!

Instead, this post is about a country song and a music video by two female artists from the 90s: Pam Tillis’ “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” and Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You),” for which the music video was filmed in Cairo and Saqqara, Egypt.

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” 

Just call Pam Tillis “Cleopatra” because she is the “Queen of Denial” in this 1993 hit. No, this is not Pam’s country accent causing her to mispronounce the river’s name – this woman is really in denial! Her man is obviously a good-for-nothing liar yet she keeps buying his alibis. Pam honestly believes that he couldn’t buy her a ring because he didn’t have any money yet he was able to go out and buy himself a new brand new pick-up truck. Come on girl! Read the hieroglyphic writing on the wall!

As Pam sings in this song, she is “floatin’ down a river of lies” from all the stories this guy has told her. And if he really does lie as much as she says, his “river of lies” sounds comparable to the that of the Nile, measuring in at 4,258 miles long.

“I caught him dancin’ last night with a girl in leopard skin pants” 

In this song, Pam Tillis catches her man dancing with a girl in leopard skin pants, which I swear wasn’t me! Honestly y’all, I didn’t even own these pants back in 1993 (see below)! But can Pam really blame him? Leopard skin pants are pretty hot (see below again)!

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The Sphinx, Giza, Egypt (July 2014)

I would be remiss to not take this chance to say that the actual Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, is nothing like the woman in this song. She was extremely intelligent and a strong monarch, reigning as the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt. She is well-known for her romantic affairs- one of her most famous lovers was Julius Caesar who was also her political ally. In Rome, she was regarded as his mistress since their Egyptian marriage was not recognized by Roman Law. Caesar did not try to conceal the fact she was his mistress, in fact, he even erected a statue of her in the temple of Venus Genetrix, which scandalized many Romans. He also openly claimed their son, Caesarion. These were bold statements, especially as she was unpopular with the Romans because she was outspoken and powerful. While she was married to Caesar, she had been forced to also marry her brother Ptolemy XIV in order to keep in line with Egyptian custom. After Caesar’s assassination, in order to prevent any challenges to Caesarion’s succession, she had her brother Ptolemy XIV killed. Another of her lovers was the Roman general Mark Antony with whom she allied herself with after Caesar’s death in order to help prevent Egypt from becoming a vassal to Rome. Although she did play hard to get at first by refusing Antony’s first two requests to meet and discuss their political alliance she eventually met with him and won him over with her charm. Though sources prove that Cleopatra and Antony truly did love one another, even having three children together, their relationship also proved beneficial to Cleopatra in her goal of expanding and protecting her empire. When it came to relationships, unlike Pam Tillis, Cleopatra wore the (leopard skin) pants!

There is, however, one thing that Pam Tillis and Cleopatra have in common and that’s heavy eye makeup- eyeshadow for the former and kohl for the latter.

 

From the Sticks to the Sahara 

I’m sure the days of country artists filming music videos in Egypt are long over but in 1995 this was a completely normal thing to do. In Shania Twain’s music video for “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You),” she can be found riding horseback through the pyramids, dancing at the oldest mosque in Cairo (The Mosque of Ibn Tulun), and hanging off a felucca boat over the Nile. It should come as no surprise that this is one of my favorite music videos- it’s Shania Twain….in Egypt!! Masha’Allah! 

You may be wondering why she was riding a horse and not a camel at the pyramids. Well, let me tell you, as someone who had ridden many a camel, nobody looks good riding one. Although if anyone could’ve pulled it off, it would’ve been Shania!

The most surprising thing about this video is the fact that none of the men in it seem to notice Shania. Yeah okay, you expect me to believe that Shania Twain, one of the most beautiful women in the world, went to Egypt and wasn’t bombarded with Egyptian men constantly hitting on her? Not buying it!

In Robin Eggar’s Shania Twain: The Biography (2001), this video is discussed briefly. It was filmed over the course of three days with Shania waking up at 3 a.m. so that she could be ready when dawn broke at 5:30 a.m. This video was filmed in the month of July and having been to Egypt myself in July (back in 2014) I know firsthand how hot it can get. I’m mostly impressed by the fact that she didn’t sweat out all of her makeup in this video!

Here’s a short snippet from her biography where she discusses making this video:

“All these women were around me. They were in black, I was in white. In Western culture, white is always the sign of innocence. In Egypt, white is considered a flamboyant color, whereas black is a humble color. We did some magnificent scenes with the women. They were wonderful. If my shawl was to come off, or if I took it off for a second, the women would run up to me like mothers and cover my shoulders for me… The mystery of the place just got to me. I got choked up for a bit while we were doing a take.” (Page 236)

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Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt (July 2014)

I too visited the Mosque of Ibn Tulun when I was in Cairo (pictured above). Though the rules must’ve changed since Shania was there as I don’t think they allow dancing anymore.

Yalla, y’all! 

Both of these music videos are posted above so if you haven’t watched them yet go on ahead and do it! Yalla, y’all!

Currently listening to: The Brother Brothers- “Cairo, IL” and Natalie Hemby- “Cairo, IL” (not the same song though it is about the same place- the abandoned City of Cairo, Illinois)

Throw It On Back Thursday- The Immortality of Keith Whitley

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Keith Whitley is proof that one’s musical career doesn’t need to be long to leave a lasting impression on an entire genre. Whitley passed away in 1989 at the young age of 33 from alcohol poisoning, managing to chart 12 hits before his life was cut short, not including the seven hits that he had after his death. Even if you’re not familiar with Keith Whitley by name, you probably know one of his most popular songs, “When You Say Nothing At All.” Alison Krauss and Ronan Keating each recorded their own versions of this song, both having success with it, but it was Whitley who first recorded and charted it in 1988. Since his passing, his songs have been covered by artists such as Alan Jackson, Mark Chesnutt, and Tracy Lawrence, ensuring that his name lives on in country music history.

Although he died the year before I was born, Keith Whitley was a household name for me as a kid because he was my dad’s favorite singer. Whenever I hear “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” I’m transported back to being eight-years-old and this song is playing on my dad’s stereo. The fact that I’m still listening to him now as a 27-year-old, some 28 years after his death, is a testament to the immortality of Whitley’s music.

Out of the many hits that Whitley had in his short career, my favorite is “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” which was his first number one song from 1988. This song is about a man who’s in love with a woman who’s still not over a past romance. He asks her not to close her eyes “when you love me tonight” because he knows that when she does, she’ll be thinking about this other man. Even though Whitley didn’t write this song, he sings it in such a way that it feels as though he’s speaking from personal experience. When you listen to the words in this song, your heart breaks for this man and his simple request. Keith Whitley’s anthology is full of heartfelt songs like this one and it’s for this reason that he will forever remain a country music legend.

“Don’t close your eyes, let it be me
Don’t pretend it’s him, in some fantasy
Darling just once, let yesterday go
And you’ll find more love than you’ll ever know
Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight
And don’t close your eyes”

 

Currently listening to: Keith Whitley- “I’m Over You

Throw It On Back Thursday- “Any Man of Mine”

Today’s “Throw It On Back Thursday” is dedicated to Shania Twain. Shania debuted her new song, “Life’s About to Get Good” today and it’s already hit no. 1 on Billboard! (That’s my girl!) Her upcoming album, which is her first in 15 years, titled NOW, will be released on September 29th. Needless to say I’m gonna be like a little kid on Christmas Eve on September 28th. She’s already released the album cover for NOW and you’ll be happy to know that she’s wearing leopard print (major flashback to the “That Don’t Impress Me Much” music video!)

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The song I picked to throw it back to today is “Any Man Of Mine” – it’s the first song I think of when I hear Shania Twain’s name and it’s one of the first music videos I can remember watching. Y’all go on and enjoy this video while I go shimmy shake and make the earth quake!

 

Currently listening to: Shania Twain- “Life’s About To Get Good” on repeat