Lucy dances at a wedding party of the son of a high placed person in Cairo. It is a tradition at an Egyptian wedding for the bride and groom to be escorted into the reception by a very loud group of musicians and dancers, a Zeffah or “procession with noise”.
Cairo – Fact Check

The ancient roots of belly dance

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Cairo – Fact Check The ancient roots of belly dance

Much of our knowledge of belly dance is from Hollywood where it has been distorted through the lens for the silver screen and exported back to its places of origin in the Middle East and India, complete with revealing costumes and decadent image.

Daphne Huineman
Daphne Huineman Travel Writer

In Egypt it is known as “oriental dance” and in Arabic as “raks sharqi” or “dance of the east” and can trace its roots back at least 6,000 years, when it was linked to fertility rites. An obvious link to childbirth can be seen in the hip movements and undulations, muscular contractions and spasms. The dance has long been associated with gypsies who brought the dance westward from India via Afghanistan and Persia to Turkey and Egypt, where it took root. A dancer known as “Little Egypt” created a sensation at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, greatly boosting its fame, although even she complained about how imitators vulgarized the dance.

In Egypt, gypsy men as well as women known as “ghawazi” performed oriental dance at weddings and in public spaces such as markets. They used swords, sticks and other props to add variety. Public ghawazi dancing was first banned in Cairo in the mid-1800s and the dance moved inside, the roots of the present cabaret-style entertainment, where it has adopted Hollywood trappings and movements from classical ballet.

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Belly dancer Abyr dances at a wedding party in Gizah for an all-male audience. The female guests have long left. The bridal party used to be led through the streets by a dancer with a lit Shamadan (candelabra) on her head, very useful in the days before electricity, and skilled dancers still incorporate this in their wedding show. Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Nikon F5

Aperture
ƒ/2.8
Exposure
1/30
ISO
400
Focal
20 mm

Belly dancer Abyr dances at a wedding party in Gizah for an all-male audience. The female guests have long left. The bridal party used to be led through the streets by a dancer with a lit Shamadan (candelabra) on her head, very useful in the days before electricity, and skilled dancers still incorporate this in their wedding show.

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