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The Ghawazi (also ghawazee) dancers of Egypt were a group of female traveling dancers of the Dom people (also known as Nawar).

The ghawazi style gave rise to the Egyptian raqs sharqi by the first half of the 20th century.

While the performative raqs sharqi in urban Egypt was heavily influenced by Western styles such as classical ballet or Latin American dance, the term ghawazi in Egypt refers to the dancers in rural Egypt who have preserved the traditional 18th- to 19th-century style.




Postcard photograph of two ghawazi posing in dance costume (c. 1900).

The Arabic غوازي ghawāzī (singular غازية ghāziya) means "conqueror", as the ghaziya is said to "conquer" the hearts of her audience. They were also known as awālim (singular alma, transliterated almeh in French as almée).

Both terms are 19th-century euphemisms for "erotic dancer";[1] almeh literally means "learned woman" and came to be used as a replacement for ghaziya after the ghawazi were legally banned in 1834.

The term "ghawazi" is inherited from the Northern Indian term "Gowaar" meaning singer. The term "Gaon" is equal to the verb "sing" and the term "Gana" means song. This explains the inheritance of Nawari or Dom people from the group of performing artists known as "Bazigar" in Punjab.[2]

An almeh in origin was a courtesan in Arab tradition, a woman educated to sing and recite classical poetry and to discourse. After the ghawazi were banned, they were forced to pretend that they were in fact awalim. The term almeh was introduced in French Orientalism as almée and used synonymously with "belly dancer".[3]


Depiction of a ghaziya by Jean-Léon Gérôme (L'Almée, 1863).

In 1834, the ghawazi were banished from Cairo to Upper Egypt by Muhammad Ali. Typically, the Ghawazi are represented as Dom or Gypsies, with a particular attention to their music and dance styles, featuring mizmars and heavy bass lines.[4]

Beginning in the first half of the 19th century, descriptions and depictions of ghawazi dancers became famous in European Orientalism, and the style was described as danse de ventre or belly-dance from the 1860s.

A khawal (dancing boy) dressed in ghaziya dancing costume (c. 1870).

The Ghawazi performed unveiled in the streets. Rapid hip movement and use of brass finger cymbals/hand castanets characterized their dance. Musicians of their tribe usually accompanied them in their dance. They usually wore kohl around their eyes and henna on their fingers, palms, toes and feet. According to Lane these women were "the most abandoned of the courtesans of Egypt".[5] He describes them as being very beautiful and richly dressed.

The Ghawazi performed in the court of a house, or in the street, before the door, on certain occasions of festivity in the harem. They were never admitted into a respectable harem, but were frequently hired to entertain a party of men in the house of some rake. Both women and men enjoyed their entertainment. However, many people who were more religious, or of the higher classes, disapproved of them.[5]

Many people liked the dancing of the Ghawazi, but felt it was improper because of its being danced by women who should not expose themselves in this manner. Because of this, there was a small number of young male performers called Khawals. The Khawals were Egyptians who impersonated the women of the Ghawazi and their dance. They were known to impersonate every aspect of the women including their dance and use of castanets.[5]

Contemporary practitioners

Rotogravure of another depiction of a ghaziya by Gérôme

Representing diverse historical backgrounds, most of the Ghawazi of the Qena region belong to ethnic minorities such as the Nawar (or Nawara), Halab and Bahlawen.

Particularly well known are the Banat Maazin family, Nawar people that settled in Luxor and were filmed in the 70s and 80s. Many consider the Maazin family to be the only practicing family left of the original line of Ghawazi dancers.

Influence on Western belly-dance

The style of dance and costuming of the Ghawazi has been especially influential in crafting the look of American Tribal Style Belly Dance. Traditional Ghawazi dress consists of an Ottoman coat with slits, known as a Yelek or entari. The abdomen is covered by these coats. Turkish harem pants are worn under these coats. The coats are typically ankle-length, though some modern Ghawazee troupes wear a shorter version over a full, knee-length skirt. Ghawazee dancers often adorn their heads with elaborate headresses, with dancers often accompanying themselves by playing zils, or small cymbals that are used by dancers in many forms of Middle Eastern dance.


  1. Jump up^ Amelia E. Barr (1881). "Characteristic Dances of the World". Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, Volume 27. J. B. Lippincott and Company. pp. 334–335.
  2. Jump up^ Gibb Schreffler: The Bazigar (Goaar) People [1]
  3. Jump up^ Stavros Stavrou Karayanni (2006). Dancing Fear and Desire: Race, Sexuality, and Imperial Politics in Middle Eastern Dance. Wilfred Laurier University Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-88920-454-3.
  4. Jump up^ William H. Peck, The Dancer of Esna (2003)
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b c Lane, Edward William (1836), An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, American University in Cairo Press

Further reading

Mahmoud Reda



Mahmoud Reda (born March 18, 1930 in Cairo, Egypt) is an Egyptian dancer and choreographer. He is best known for co-founding the Reda Troupe.



Early life[edit]

Mahmoud Reda

Reda was born in Cairo on March 18, 1930. He was the eighth of ten children and his father was the head librarian at Cairo University. His older brother Ali was a dancer and through his influence (and that of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire films) Mahmoud became interested in dance. Mahmoud Reda originally trained as a gymnast, representing Egypt in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He attended Cairo University where he received a degree in Political Economics. However, his main interest was dance and he joined an Argentinian dance troupe after graduating and toured Europe.[2][3] While on tour in Paris he resolved to start his own dance troupe back in Egypt, but due to lack of funds he had to work as an accountant for Royal Dutch Shell. He joined the Heliolido Club in Cairo where he met Anglo-Egyptian baladi dancer Farida Fahmy who became his dancing partner. After the two performed in the Soviet Union in 1957 they decided to start a folk dancing troupe in Egypt with Ali Reda.[4]

The Reda Troupe[edit]

When the Reda brothers and Fahmy founded the Reda Troupe in 1959 it consisted of only twelve dancers and twelve musicians. Reda's choreography combined traditional Egyptian folk dances with Western styles like ballet.[5] Reda later described his style: "... when you bring them, the real folkloric dancers, put them on stage, they look odd, they look strange. Their costumes, they don’t know where to look, they don’t know, and if they do their things, it’s very monotonous. So what I call my choreography is not folkloric. It’s inspired by the folkloric. There is like 90 % extra put on the dance."[2] Due to the social connections of Fahmy and her family, the normally stigmatized profession of dance was deemed acceptable by Cairo society and both men and women attended performances by the troupe.[6] Ali Reda served as the troupe's artistic advisor while composer Ali Ismail penned the music for the troupe's dance routines.

Although the Reda Troupe was well known in Cairo society, initially it was not in Egypt as a whole. However, in 1961 that changed when Mahmoud Reda and Fahmy starred in the film Igazah nisf as-sinah along with the rest of the troupe. Directed by Ali Reda, the film was responsible for popularizing the Reda Troupe among ordinary Egyptians.[4] The team followed this success with Gharam fi al-karnak in 1963. Having entered popular culture, the Reda Troupe began attracting a wider audience. In 1961 the Ministry of Culturedecided to sponsor the group and it was incorporated into the government. In 1970, the troupe appeared in a third film Harami El-Waraqa. Reda stepped down as the principal dancer of the troupe in 1972, but still continued choreographing and directing performances. By this time, the troupe had grown to one hundred and fifty dancers, musicians and stage crew. Under Reda's direction, the Reda Troupe toured the world, giving performances at Carnegie Hall, and in China. They went on five international tours during his tenure, performing for various world leaders. In 1983, Fahmy retired from dance and left the troupe. In 1990, Reda retired as director of the Reda Troupe.

Samia Gamal

 Samia Gamal.jpg

Born Zeinab Ali Khalil Ibrahim Mahfouz
27 May 1924
Bani Swaif, Egypt
Died 1 December 1994 (aged 70)
Cairo, Egypt
Years active 1942–1963
Spouse(s) Rushdy Abaza (1958-1977) (divorced)
Shepard King (1952-?) (divorced)




Samia Gamal (Arabic: سامية جمال‎‎, born as Zaynab Ibrahim Mahfuz, 27 May 1924 – 1 December 1994) was an Egyptian belly dancer and film actress.

Born in the small Egyptian town of Wana in 1924, Samia's family moved just months later to Cairo and settled near the Khan El-Khalili bazaar. It was many years later that Samia Gamal met Badia Masabni, the founder of modern Oriental dance. Badia offered Samia an invitation to join her dance company, which Samia accepted. Badia Masabni gave her the stage name Samia Gamal, and she began her dance career.

Samia Gamal and Farid Al-Attrach in the Egyptian film Afrita hanem (Genie Lady)(1949)

At first, she studied under Badia and Badia's star dancer at the time, Tahiya Karioka. However she soon became a respected soloist and brought forth her own style. Samia Gamal incorporated techniques from ballet and Latin dance into her solo performances. She was also the first to perform with high-heeled shoes on stage. She starred in dozens of Egyptian films next to the famous Farid Al Attrach. They could be thought of as the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the Middle East. They not only played each other's love interest on the silver screen but also in real life. However, their love was not meant to be. Because of Farid's social position, he refused to marry Samia. Farid believed that marriage kills artist talent,[1] he never married. Some claim that Farid as a Druze prince, told her it would bring too much shame to his family for him to marry a belly dancer; but the claim is baseless. Farid helped placing Samia on the National Stage by risking all he owned, and managed to borrow to produce a film (Habib al omr) co-starring with her in 1947.

In 1949, Egypt's King Farouk proclaimed Samia Gamal "The National Dancer of Egypt", which brought US attention to the dancer.

In 1950, Samia came to the US and was photographed by Gjon Mili. She also performed in the Latin Quarter, New York's trendy nightclub. She later married the so-called "Texas millionaire" Shepherd King III, whom, it was later reported only had about $50,000. However, their marriage did not last long.

In 1958, Samia Gamal married Roshdy Abaza, one of the most famous Egyptian actors with whom Samia starred in a number of films. Samia Gamal stopped dancing in 1972 when she was nearly in her 50s but began again after given advice by Samir Sabri. She then danced until the early 1980s.

Samia Gamal died on 1 December 1994, at 70 years of age in Cairo. Samia's charismatic performances in Egyptian and international films gave Oriental Dance recognition and admiration in Egypt and worldwide.



  • Samia Forever (Documentary, 2003)
  • Fabulous Samia Gamal, The, (Documentary, 2003)
  • The Stars of Egypt: Volume 3: Samia Gamal, Part I (Film, 19??)
  • The Stars of Egypt: Volume 3: Samia Gamal, Part II (Film, 19??)
  • Tarik al shaitan...aka The Way of the Devil (Film, 1963)
  • Waada el hub... aka And Love Returned (Film, 1961)
  • Nagham el hazine, El... aka Sad Melody (Film, 1960)
  • Rajul el thani, El... aka The Second Man (Film, 1960)
  • Kull daqqa fi qalbi... aka Every Beat of My Heart (Film, 1959)
  • Maweed maa maghoul... aka Rendezvous with a Stranger (Film, 1959)
  • Gharam al-miliunayr aka Love of the Millionaire (Film, 1957)
  • Amanti del deserto, Gli...aka Desert Warrior (Film, 1956)
  • Masque de Toutankhamon, Le...aka Trésor des pharaons, Le (Film, 1955)
  • Sigarah wa kas... aka A Glass and a Cigarette (Film, 1955)
  • Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs...aka Ali Baba; Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Film, 1954)
  • Valley of the Kings (Film, 1954)
  • Nachala hanem... aka The Lady Pickpocket (Film, 1954)
  • Raqsat al-wadah... aka The Farewell Dance (Film, 1954)
  • El Wahsh... aka The Monster (Film, 1954)
  • Ketar el lail... aka The Night Train (Film, 1953)
  • Ma takulshi la hada... aka Tell No-one; Don't Tell Anyone (Film, 1952)
  • Amir el antikam... aka The Count of Monte Cristo (Film, 1951)
  • Taa la salim... aka Come and Say Hello (Film, 1951)
  • Ahmar shafayef... aka Lipstick (Film, 1950)
  • Akher kedba... aka The Final Lie (Film, 1950)
  • Sakr, El... aka The Falcon (Film, 1950)
  • Nuit des étoiles, La (Film, 1950)
  • Afrita hanem... aka Lady Afrita; Lady Genie; Little Miss Devil; The Genie Lady (Film, 1949)
  • Agaza fel gahannam... aka Holidays in Hell (Film, 1949)
  • Bahebbak inta... aka I Love You Only (Film, 1949)
  • Bint haz... aka The Lucky Girl (Film, 1949)
  • Sparviero del Nilo, Lo (Film, 1949)
  • Mughamer, El... aka The Adventurer (Film, 1948)
  • Sahibat el amara... aka The Landlady (Film, 1948)
  • Ahdab, El... aka The Hunchback (Film, 1947)
  • Ersane talata, El... aka The Three Suitors (Film, 1947)
  • Habib al omr... aka The Love of My Life (Film, 1947)
  • Bani adam, al-... aka Sons of Adam (Film, 1945)
  • Taxi hantur... aka A Hansom Carriage (Film, 1945)
  • Russassa fil kalb... aka A Bullet in the Heart (Film, 1944)
  • Ali Baba wa al arbain harame... aka Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Film, 1942)
  • Gawhara (Film, 1942)



 Baladi (Arabic: بلدي‎‎ baladī; relative-adjective "of town", "local", "rural", comparable to English "folk", with a lower-class connotation) can refer to an Egyptian musical style, the folk style of Egyptian bellydance (Raqs Baladi), or the Masmoudi Sogheir rhythm, which is frequently used in baladi music. It is also sometimes spelled in English as 'beledi' or 'baladee'.

In Arabic, the word baladi does not only apply to music and dance, and can also apply to many other things that are considered native, rural, rustic or traditional, for example 'baladi bread' or 'Baladee bread". It is also applied to kinds of food and mostly to fruits and vegetables.

 Baladi music and dance

Baladi music is an urban folk style, which developed from traditional Egyptian musical styles in the early 20th century, as large numbers of people migrated to Cairo from rural areas. The sounds of the accordion and saxophone are hallmarks of baladi music - both are Western instruments that have been adopted by Egyptian musicians and modified to play Arabic scales.

Baladi can take the form of traditional songs, often with a verse-chorus structure - some popular examples include 'Taht il Shibbak' and 'Hassan ya Koulli'. There is also an improvised musical form in the baladi style.

Baladi Improvisation[edit]

This is a structured form of musical improvisation, most usually between a tabla player and an accordionist or saxophonist (although occasionally the ney may be the primary instrument). It is sometimes referred to as a baladi taqsim, ashra baladi, or a baladi progression.

A baladi taqsim consists of a number of distinct sections. Each section has a traditional structure, and the ordering of the sections follows a loose pattern, although this is not always followed. The musicians will not generally include all of the possible sections, but will choose some of them to build a structure for the piece.

Most baladi improvisations will begin with an instrumental solo (taqsim) by the primary instrument. Following this, there is usually a call and response between the instrument and the drummer, flowing into a slow rhythmic section. Further call and response sections and quicker rhythmic sections may follow. The middle part of the piece may include melodies from popular songs, or a section in the Saidistyle. The final section is normally the 'tet', which has a quick tempo, and staccato accents on the off-beat.

Raqs Baladi[edit]

Raqs baladi is the folk/social form of bellydance. It is more stationary than raqs sharqi, with little use of the arms, and the focus is on hip movements. Baladi dance has a 'heavy' feeling, with the dancer appearing relaxed and strongly connected to the ground. It is performed to baladi or folk music.

Typical costuming for performances of this dance style is a long dress covering the midriff, which may be plain and traditional, or heavily embellished. Traditionally, a baladi dress would resemble a theatrical version of traditional Egyptian clothing. The most common version has a straight skirt with side slits, long sleeves which may be slit to the elbows, and a scooped or shirt-style neckline. Striped fabrics or tulle bi-telli are popular. A sash may be worn around the hips, and a headscarf is often also worn. A baladi-style performance may include the use of sagat, or the dancer may perform with a cane (assaya).

Fifi Abdou, one of the legends of 20th-century Egyptian bellydance, is often described as a baladi-style dancer.

'Baladi' rhythm

In the West, the Masmoudi Sogheir ('small Masmoudi') rhythm in Arabic music is often referred to as 'baladi', because it is commonly used in baladi music. This is somewhat misleading, as there are several other rhythms commonly found in the baladi style (including Maqsoum, Saiidi and Fellahi), and this rhythm is also found in other musical styles.

The basic structure of this rhythm, played on the darbuka, is as follows:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Capitals represent stressed beats. Dum (D) is the dominant hand on the middle of the drum, Tek (T) either the dominant or the non-dominant hand on the rim of the drum.

The drummer has freedom to “fill” in between these stressed beats as he/she sees fit to interpret the music. A common fill is:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
D D tkT D tkT   
D D tkT D tkT tk

Here, the second version has a "bridge" to lead it into the next bar.

Baladi fruits and vegetables

In some middle eastern countries, in the markets, some fruits and vegetables are sold and announced as "baladi" products, i.e. native, natural, fresh, un-cultivated and un-engineered.

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