This article analyzes two popular Golden Era belly-dance films, Sigara wa Kass (A Cigarette and a Glass, 1955) and Habibi al Asmar (My Dark Darling, 1958), through concepts of queer spectatorship, queer time and space, homoerotic triangulation, and queer containment. The analysis centers women, attends to women’s homoeroticism and nonnormative desires, and reads popular film as constituted by and constituting of mainstream conventions of gender and sexuality. It argues that mainstream belly-dance films made considerable space for homoerotic exchanges amid women. Golden Era belly-dance films reveal a rich gender and sexual diversity in Egyptian cultural production, rather than the Orientalist representation of an explicitly homophobic “traditional” Arab culture. In this sense, the article recovers women’s nonnormative and queer legacies within popular Egyptian texts. It does not insinuate homosexuality as inherent but instead locates possible Arab cultural engagements with women’s queerness that have been overlooked.

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