Celebrated dancer Johara poses in the courtyard of a Hurghada mosque. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: A famous Russian belly dancer in Egypt has caused controversy in the country after she appeared in pictures shot outside a mosque.

Dancer Ekaterina Andreeva, known as Johara or “a jewel” in Arabic, posted on her instagram images showing her wearing the hijab headdress and a flowing white Abaya garment in the courtyard of the famed Al Meena (Port) Mosque in the resort town of Hurghada. “Ramadan Karim to the Islamic nation. May God make it filled with blessings for you and your families,” the dancer said in a post, referring to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The photos angered some residents of the Red Sea city. “It is improper to leave the mosque courtyard for a dancer to take photos while we are in the blessed days of a holy month,” said Tareq Rushdi, a Hurghada resident.

The photos angered some residents of the Red Sea city. Image Credit: Supplied

Hamed Sayed, another resident, said: “There are many tourist sites in Hurgahda. So, why should a dancer hold a photo session in front of the mosque while we are experiencing the spiritual atmosphere of Ramadan?”

Tourist site

In response, a local Awqaf official said the photos were taken in the outer courtyard of the mosque at a time when there were no prayers. “The mosque courtyard is a site of tourist tours as part of itineraries arranged by travel companies,” the official added.

Sources in the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf, responsible for mosques across the country, said the imam of the mosque in question will not been penalised. “The incident did not violate related instructions,” a ministerial source said. “The photo session took place outside the mosque and in its courtyard. The woman wore decent clothes. Moreover, the mosque is open to tourists and photography is allowed in its courtyard as is the rule in Hurghad.”

Belly dance has for decades been popular with Egyptians. However, in recent years, the genre has been frowned upon in the country with several clerics calling it “un-Islamic”.