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A Review of

They Told Me I Couldn't

by Tamalyn Dallal




Tamalyn Dallal tells of her experiences living in Bogotá, Colombia for a month, exploring the city and surrounding countryside in between working at her job. Although Dallal is a well-known Oriental dance artist, she says very little about dance in the book. The focus rests on the experiences outside of her dance job.



Fact Sheet


They Told Me I Couldn't: A Young Woman's Multicultural Adventures in Colombia


Tamalyn Dallal




Talion Publishing


Non-Fiction: Travelogue
Non-Fiction: Biography



Number of Pages


Published In





Don't let the cover photo of a belly dancer in costume fool you. This book is not about belly dancing.

This book is a travelogue of the adventures Tamalyn Dallal experienced when she traveled to Colombia during the 1980's to spend a month as one of the regular performers at an Arab restaurant in Bogotá.

Although belly dancing was the activity that gave Dallal a reason to go to Colombia, the book says very little about her dance-related activities while there. There are a couple of the usual stories about club owners who try to cheat the dancers, and some mention of musicians who are surly to work with, but these stories occupy only a few pages of the total book.

By far, the bulk of the book is about the local people Dallal met, the side trips she took, her discoveries about the local culture, and the adventures she experienced in the process. She speaks of going sight-seeing, figuring the social class system, befriending an orphan, encountering guerrillas, and more.

If you like to read about people's interesting adventures when they travel in a land that's foreign to them, you'll probably enjoy this book. But if you want to read about Middle Eastern dance, music, or culture, this isn't the right book for you.



Is It Right for You?


You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You're a fan of Tamalyn Dallal and would like to know more about her non-dance life.
  • You enjoy reading travelogues.
  • You have a particular interest in the country of Colombia.
  • You find it interesting to see how people's actual experiences in countries differ from the news headlines about those places.
  • You enjoy collecting any book that is even remotely connected to belly dancing, even if the book has only a ocuple of pages about it.


This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You're expecting a book about belly dancing.



What I Liked, What I Didn't


What I Liked:

  • The various anecdotes about Dallal's adventures are entertaining to read, and a number of them make me smile.
  • By telling the stories of the people she actually met in Colombia, Dallal puts a human face on the many news stories that have been published about Colombia over the past couple of decades. It's one thing to read about guerillas in the newspaper, but a totally different perspective arises when reading what it was like to visit one in his home.
  • The large typeface makes the book easy to read.
  • Dallal has a lively, fun-to-read writing style.


What I Didn't Like:

  • As noted above, if the cover photo showing Dallal in her costume leads you to believe you're going to be reading about belly dancing, you'll be disappointed.
  • The book is very short. I read it in only half a day.




There's a picture of a belly dancer on the cover, and it is sold by a dancer at dance events, but if you're expecting a book about belly dancing, you'll be disappointed.

On the other hand, if you'd enjoy reading a travelogue about an adventurous young woman's month-long visit to Colombia and her exploits while there, this book is worth a look. The writing style is conversational and engaging, and the stories move along at a brisk pace. Dallal includes a level of detail that enables you to imagine the places she goes and the people she meets.




Although I've met Tamalyn Dallal, I don't know her very well. I admire her skills as a raqs baladi performer and teacher. I purchased the copy of this book used for the review.



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