The origin of belly dancing has been an issue that has been long debated by professionals because there is no clear answer to where the origin of belly dancing actually was born. Some professionals such as anthropologists believe that perhaps it was Egypt as there is evidence indicating this by the carvings left that seem to indicate the same movements and pictures that would be similar to belly dancing. Others believe that it originated from the Middle East and even Africa and there is significant evidence left behind by these ancestors that would seem to support that belief.
The origin of belly dancing can be better defined and understood when you appreciate what the belly dancing purpose was for and who performed them. Many cultures of this day lived with the earth, as one with the earth and it is these societies that gave way for the origins of belly dancing. It is believed that these cultures utilized belly dancing to provide sensuality much in a way as today's society would call foreplay and it stimulated sexual senses. It was also largely used in sacred ceremonies as well as initiation rites and fertility rituals as it was a helpful tool in creating spirituality.
In countries such as Polynesia and Africa the origin of belly dancing don't show that it was specifically a dance exclusively for women, as most people today believe. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that dancers of both male and female variety participated in such erotic dancing that was accompanied by a blissful rhythm from the African drums.
In just the opposite of the African tribes who used belly dancing for the erotic dance form that is became the people in India took the origin of belly dancing and interpreted them as an act of worship. In fact, if you visit India it would be well worth your time to go to Konarak to see the temple wall. It is an Indian shrine that dates back to the 13th century and displays dancing girls that are carved in the stone in a variety of erotic poses. This is even one of the still standing remnants of years ago when the origin of belly dancing were beginning.
As with every art form that is studied for years, the origin of belly dancing also suggest that many dancers were banished from these temples because their dances became far more erotic than they were spiritual and were even involved in prostitution. It is from this bit of belly dancing history that people associated belly dancing with strippers and other undesirable professions.