Muhammad Ibrahim, a lawyer representing two dancers, said Manpower and Employment Minister Ahmad al-Amawi issued the decree preventing foreign belly dancers.

"Every foreigner has the right to raise an issue before an Egyptian court if they feel they have been harmed by an administrative decision," Ibrahim said.

He is seeking the court's intervention on behalf of Australian Caroline Evanoff and a Russian known as Nour.

Dance shows

The top belly dancers perform in Cairo's luxury hotels, with tickets priced at $35.

Other dancers perform in cheaper, smoke-filled bars, giving the artistic dance a bad name.

Evanoff, who has performed in Egypt's top venues for five years, returned after a tour abroad in July to find the authorities would not issue her a work permit.

"I can work anywhere in the world but my first country of choice is Egypt and I feel that it is my home now," she said.