With my plinking around on eBay, I've obtained a couple of old books about the Middle East and North Africa. Sometimes they contain interesting descriptions of the dance. So this page quotes some of these interesting descriptions.
It is most amusing to stroll into the cafes of the Quarter at night and ... watch the girls in their semi-party dresses dancing slowly up and down the center. ...
There are all kinds of different steps and figures, and though the danse du ventre, which is a hideous muscular distortion of the abdomen, is always carried through, there are many other dances which are pleasing to the eye, and the movements of the hands remind one of the wings of a butterfly. Moreover, simple as these dances may seem, there is a tremendous amount of technique about them, and the poise of the body, and the movements of the feet, quite apart from the hands, take long years to learn.
The dancing is as varied as the music. It is usually carried out by women, who start learning at a very youthful age. The danse du ventre, which is essentially of the North, or of Turkish origin, is decidedly ugly. It is, however, much appreciated and takes endless practise to learn.
The dance of the Ouled Nails, on which is based most of the other dances, is very picturesque, and the movements of the hands, like the wings of a hunting hawk, and the feet, are a delight to watch.
...Yes, dancing and music in Algeria is varied, and its charm, though an acquired taste, is something quite unlike anything else, and takes hold of the senses in a most extraordinary way.
When the late afternoon sun is just touching the tops of the sand-dunes, music strikes up in the greasy cafes of the Sahara. The men, drinking tea or coffee, sit round in a circle into the center of which step the girls of the Ouled Nail in garments of pale blue, pink, or green, and begin the belly-dance. The stomach twitches itself round and round as if possessed of independent life. The dancer ogles one of the men, smiles at him provocatively, then glides on to the next man and repeats the performance.
Ever since dawn the drums had been sounding their intoxicating rhythm... Then the negresses danced a strange dance of their own. Festooned all over with silver jewellry they executed a series of slow, controlled movements, abruptly punctuated by outbursts of wild activity, and all the time they sang as they danced. In a curious way the dancing seemed to turn in on itself till finally they had worked themselves into a state of trance and their song had become an incoherent babble. The sweat poured down their faces in streams, their eyes were shut.
... back and forth on the stage, the dancing-girls flit, their bright skirts flashing with their supple movements.... The upper part of their bodies is covered with a light open-work garment, which gives free play to the muscles; no corsets have ever imprisoned their natural waists; over this garment strings of pearls and bright bangles fall, and bacelets of jingling coins clasp their wrists; the skirts are of some satiny material, usually in one color, red, blue, yellow, white and green, and over them, parti-colored sashes fall from the waist. In dancing, all use castanets, and some of them are exceedingly skillful in their use. The movement of the dance is peculiar; the feet are held close together, and only the body answers to the music; except that, now and then, a few steps backward and forward are taken, probably, to rest the performer.... Those in our picture are the best dancers in the Fair, and though they perform several times a day, they never seem to weary.