Male belly dancer 1940s?


I found this image of a postcard photograph on Etsy -

(click on images for larger versions)


The comments on the image say that the subjects are unknown, as is where and why the photograph was taken. But a trademark on the back, and the type of bra that the man is wearing, date it to about 1939-1944.

The man in the foreground looks military, so I'm guessing it is some kind of theatrical skit put on for soldiers by soldiers. But others here have more knowledge than I and might see something differently.

The man in checked trousers seems to be clapping and singing for the performer, and you can just make out what could be someone sat to his left out of camera shot (maybe a musician?). Does his outfit look familiar to anyone - is it a Western Harlequin/jester costume, or does it resemble a traditional Middle Eastern outfit of any kind?

Any comments on the dancer's outfit - the wide sleeves, the heavy fringed scarf, the hat, bare belly, waist scarf design, etc - I'm wondering if any of that could help with the locality, since the man, if making up a costume, would be using what he had seen around him. The costume lacks any of the exotic Western embellishments that soldiers might be expected to spice up a costume with due to Hollywood fantasy (apart from the bare belly and the face cover). But that might reflect a lack of resources or a lack of time, or even that the audience were more knowledgeable. Or is the dancer someone who does this often?

I've no idea - but your speculation and comments are welcome!!

What about the background wall? The bricks are very neat and laid out in the 'English cross bond' fashion. So a Western construction and quite modern looking. What is the construction at the base? Would that help narrow down the type of place the performance was occurring in? The subjects look to be on the 'inner' side of the wall, so some kind of enclosed area? Perhaps its not even in the Middle East.
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"The Veiled Male"
What is that he's holding in his hands? Looks like a towel.

Interesting picture!


Active member
British and Anzac soldiers trained in Egypt during both wars. And they acquired souvenirs and took them home. Also by the 40s there had been many many movies with "exotic" oriental themes; The Road to Morocco came out in 1942 (IIRC there's some cross dressing in harem girl outfits in that, though I could be mixing it up with something else).

Army entertainers often dressed up as ladies. In England certainly there's a very long tradition of men performing as women for comedy and titillation value, as you'll well know.