About Egyptian folkloric dances

Saidi

The Saidi area lies in the South of Egypt and is compromised of four big cities: Qina , Luxor , Asyut and Suhaj

The famous “Saidi stick dance” (Raks Al sayya) originated in this area and is considered the most important of Egyptian folklore dances. Tahtib refers to a kind of dance but also refers to a game played between two men in which each of them holds a big bamboo stick to show power and prowess, with one of them winning at the end. Stick dancing is also practiced as a pastime and is used as a means of self-defense. This particular dance has become very famous and very common in wedding parties and many festive occasions. Originally Saidi woman did not dance because it was forbidden in their own culture, but Mahmoud Reda created the female Saidi dance version for theater, allowing them to share the stage with men.

The instruments played for Saidi dance are mizmar, rebaba, nay (flute) and tabla. Costuming for men: Long galabiyya (dress) in a dark color, like a black coat, and a white turban on the head to protect them while they are under the sun. Costuming for women: Long galabiyya (dress) that covers all the body, long headscarf to cover all the hair and a big necklace called “kerdan”, usually in gold.

Nubian dance (Nouba)

Noubian dance originated further south in Egypt than did Saidi, in an area between Egypt and The Sudan. This region is extremely hot throughout the entire year, which is why Nubians have to wear special clothes to protect themselves from the sun. Nubian music is rhythmically very rich; sometimes they use bandirs for dancing (big frame drums), but not all the time. Nubian dance is very soft and calls for simple movements. Nubian people are from black Africa and look very different from the rest of the Egyptian people. They also have their own language and dialect.

Costuming for men: Long white galabiyya and white pants (white helps reflect the sun from the body). On top of the dress is a color vest and a very long turban on the head. They also wear very special shoes to protect their feet from the hot ground.
Costuming for women: Long galabiyya in light colors, a black light dress on top that shows the dress under, very long shawl on the head, covering all the hair. They love to wear a lot of accessories: a necklace called Nubian kerdan, big earrings, normally in silver color, and all kinds of silver accessories.

Fellahin

The Fellahi area is in the middle of Egypt. There are four main cities in that area.
Al Sharqeia , Al Behaira , Al Garbeia and Al Monofeya

The word ‘Fellahin’ refers to peasants and farmers. Fellahi people are very kind and simple. The female version of the dance is distinguished by the use of a jar (ballas). The jar is what these women would use regularly to bring water to the house. The men use the axe to work in the ground.
Costuming for men: Short pants, since they work in the water, long galabiya which they wrap around the waist so it stays dry. On the head they wear a small scarf called “mandil” which catches their sweat and protects them from the sun.

Costuming for women: Women wear a very long and wide galabiyya in light colors. They do not show any part of the body, and a very long head scarf or shawl covering the entire head. When fellahin women dance, they use hip movements and lots of clapping

Eskandarani/Alexandrian (Melaya Leaf)

Alexandria /Alexandrian dance originated in the north of Egypt, by the Mediterranean
Sea. This particular dance depicts Alexandrian people’s behavior. Alexandrian women are beautiful and soft when they walk and they dance softly. The men are very brave and work by the sea, mainly fishing.

Costuming for men: Loose, long pants to allow maximum comfort while working on boats. They also wear vests and hats called “yanke” to protect themselves from the sun. Men sometimes carry a knife while dancing – in their daily lives, they use the knife to clean the fish and cut the net.
Costuming for women: Short dress with short sleeves usually in a light color, a small scarf on the head to cover the hair, and the very famous accessory called ‘Melaya’. Melaya means wrapping and it is a big, black shawl that covers them entirely. Traditionally, women wear the melaya when they go out of the house.

Baladi

Baladi is a dance style from Cairo. The word ‘baladi’ refers to the kind of people that live in the lower income places of Cairo, who for example, would throw parties on the street. When a woman dances, she dances to whatever she feels inside, she dances baladi dance on the street or at home, at birthday parties or any other occasion.
Costuming for women: Long galabiya, covering her whole body. Sometimes she uses a “baukass” or cane, to show how good she can manipulate it.

Haggala

Hagalla people live in the desert of Egypt, on the west side very close to Libya.
In this dance, there is usually a big group of men dancing. Usually, one woman would listen for the loudest claps, and then she approaches the group and chooses the man she wants to dance with. Hagalla women dance with flat-footed shoes because the sand is hot and mushy.

Costuming for men: Very similar to Libyan attire. Men wear long pants, knee-length galabiyas and vests on top. They also wear a head piece that looks like a short red hat called “tarbush”.
Costuming for women: Pants and long galabiyya on top. Skirts on top with many layers of fabric. The women use big hip movements.

Whirling Dervish ( Tanoura )

Whirling dervish, or “raqis tanoura” in Arabic, literally translated as “skirt dance,” is the traditional dance of the Sufis, and has its origins in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It started as an alternative form of worship within Islam, and is performed as a way of inducing an intense personal communion with the divine—of inducing ecstasy. Sufi practitioners of the dance wear long white kaftans, fez-like hats, and a heavy white skirt traditionally made of wool, in which they spin for hours around a fixed imaginary point. With his circular motion and accompanying hand gestures, the Sufi dancer engages in a sort of “physical prayer,” whereby he emits a huge bout of energy to the heavens. Tanoura dancing is usually done in groups, with one man in the middle whirling, while the other practitioners dance around him in a circle. It is as if the dervish were the sun, and the dancers revolving around him, the stars.

Mohamed Shahin, a native of Cairo and professional folkloric dancer and choreographer, performs the Egyptian version of the tanoura dance. The Egyptian tanoura dance is similar to the one practiced in Turkey in all but dress. Primarily performed for theatrical rather than spiritual reasons, Egyptian dervishes wear ornate and colorful skirts and incorporate the use of accessories to demonstrate the difficulty of the dance and the dancer’s skill.