Learn Belly Dance with Mahtab


ABDEL WAHAB Mohammed /artist/ - (1902-1991) Egyptian singer, actor and composer. He composed over 1800 songs, most popular are romantic and patriotic songs. He is author of music Enta Omri, performed by Oum Kalthoum. He composed Humat Al-Hima, the national anthem of Tunisia and Libya, Libya, Libya, the national anthem of Lybia. Mohammed Abdel Wahab introduced Western rhythms to Egyptian songs, like the waltz to El Gandol. He appeared as actor in 7 movies: The White Rose (1933), Doumou' el Hub (1936), Yahya el Hub (1938), Yawm Sa'id (1939), Mamnou'a el Hub (1942), Rossassa Fel Qalb (1944), Lastu mallakan (1947) and Ghazal Al Banat (1949). [video]

ABDOU Fifi /artist/ - (1953) Egyptian Belly Dancer and actress, born in Cairo. She is known to be very cheerful and empowering, with very flirty style od the dance. She is mostly  improvising, her dance is very energetic and she has great contact with the audience. [video]

ACCORDION /instr./ - a box-shaped musical instrument used in music for the baladi dance. It was invented in Europe in early 19th century. Accordion is played by compressing or expanding the bellows while pressing buttons or keys, making the pallets to open, which allows air to flow across strips called reeds. [video]

AHLAN WA SAHLAN - Oriental Dance Festival in Cairo, Egypt, created by Raqia Hassan with great Egyptian dancers and teachers. [page]

AKEF Naima /artist/ - (1929-1966) famous Egyptian Belly Dancer, performed in Egyptian movies from Golden Era of Belly Dance: Aish Wal Malh (1949), Lahalibo (1949), Baladi Wa Khafa (1949), Furigat (1950), Baba Areess (1950), Fataat Al Sirk (1951), Ya Halawaat Al Hubb (1952), Arbah Banat Wa Zabit (1954), Aziza (1955), Tamr Henna (1957), Amir El Dahaa (1964). She performed also in famous night club of Badia Masabni *see Opera Casino [video]

AL-ATRASH Farid /artist/ - (1910-1974) music composer, singer, instrumentalist, actor born in Syria. Performed in 31 movies, like Intisar al-chabab (1941), Afrita hanem (1949), Lahn al khouloud (1952), Min agl Hobbi (1960), Nagham Fi Hayati (1975). His most famous songs are: Leyla, Hallet Layali, Awal Hamsa, Hekayat Gharami, Albi Wa Moftaho, Gamil Gamal, Wayak, Ya Zahratan Fi Khayali, Bisat Ir Rih, Ya Gamil Ya Gamil, Ya Habaybi Ya Ghaybeen, Eish Anta. He composed music for Warda, Wadih El-Safi and Sabah. [video]

ALMEH - in plural: Awallim, means 'learned, educated woman'. Almeh was educated to recite classical poetry, to sing and to dance. They were an inspiration for the pintos to create paintings with women dancing with the veils. In the 19th century, Almeh came to be used as a synonym of Ghawazee. *see Ghawazee

ARABESQUE /move/ - 4 count traveling step borrowed from ballet, has two variations: open (with straight leg) and closed (with foot close to the knee of the opposite leg) [video]

ARGHUL /instr./ - or argul, arghoul is a traditional arabic instrument, known in ancient Egypt.  Arghul can be divided into three types: small, medium and large. It has two pipes, one with holes (5 to 7) and the other pipe without them. Outside of Egypt you can hear arghul in Palestine and in Turkey, where it is called Çifte. [video]

ASSAYA /prop/ - a cane made of bamboo, used in Saidi Dance, the feminine version of male dance Tahtib. Saidi with the cane is called Raqs al Assaya. [video]

ASSUIT /costume/ - *see Tulle Bi Telli

AWALLIM - *see Almeh

AYOUB /rhythm/ - D * * T D * T * [video]


BACKBEND /move/ - known in Belly Dance but also in gymnastics, where the spine is bent backwards. This move is engaging abdominal muscles, legs and obliques. Backband is used in floorwork and in dancing with the props like sword or veil.

BAMBA KASHAR /artist/ - Egyptian, first dancer that appeared in a movie (1927).

BAMBUTIYYA /dance/ - called also or Bambooty or Simsimiyya, is a dance style from the Suez Canal area in Egypt. It's very energetic and cheerful dance, with steps in the charlestone style. Costume looks like clothes of the fisherman or sailor. Music for Bambutiyya is very happy and romantic.

BALADI /rhythm/ - or masmoudi soghair - D D * T D * T * [video]

BALADI /dance/ - is an egyptian, improvised  solo dance. Name Baladi means 'my country'.  This dance has few styles like solo accordion, progression, cabaret. The most important elements are the big hip moves, lack of isolations and heavy, grounded feeling. The costume used for baladi is a long galabeya/baladi dress with narrow sleeves and sometimes a hip scarf. Music for the baladi dance is played on a darbuka and accordion. Baladi music contains masmoudi saghir rhytm, called also baladi rhytm. Characteristic is the start of baladi song – it starts with a taksim, improvised solo on a single instrument. [video] [learn more]

BEDLEH /costume/ - the name of a belly dance costume for cabaret style that came from an early 20th century. Bedleh is with a decorated bra, hip belt and a long skirt. The hip belt can have various shapes and the skirt can have a cut from the floor till the knee or hip.  Sometimes bedleh refers to the whole set: bra, hip belt skirt, shebecka, headpiece, arm bands and other decors. [video]

BENDIR /instr./ - is type of a frame drum. It is used as a traditional instrument throughout North Africa. Bendir has a special hole in the frame for the thumb finger. Many of bendirs  has a snare made of gut, stretched across its head. Bendir is used in the special ceremonies of the Sufi. [video]

BELLY DANCE SHOW /style/ - style adapted for the stage performances, dance that is very spectacular or even theatrical, often with a props like Isis Wings, Fan Veils or Veil Poi or even with a fire. [video]

BUZUQ /instr./ - a plucked string instrument. It is a long-necked lute with 5 to 7 strings and, unlike the oud, it has frets. Buzuq is not a typical Arabic instrument – it can be heard in the music of Turkey (and it’s related to Turkish saz), Greece (related to buzuqi) but also in the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian music. To play on buzuq you use a plectrum made of plastic or a thin piece of horn. [video]


CABARET STYLE /style/ - Egyptian dance style, mostly performed with live orchestra music. Nowadays in Egypt, Cabaret Style is presented on the boats on the Nile, in five stars hotels and at expensive weddings. Costume for the Cabaret Style consists decorated Dina Bra and long skirt.

CANDLES /prop/ - prop used in Belly Dance Show style or Fantasy Style, like for example Pharaonic Dance. Now dancers can use led-candles, that are more safe than candles with real fire. Candles are also a part of the other prop - Shamadan. [video]

CHALWAR /costume/ - a type of the Persian pants, called also harem pants, with wide legs. [video]

CHIFTITELLI /rhythm/ - D * T T * T T * D * D * T * * [video]

CHOREOGRAPHY - in dancing: designed composition of moves. The word choreography is from Greek language  and it means 'dance-writing'. A choreographer is one who creates dances. Dance choreography is sometimes called dance composition. It's planned sequence of moves to the music, used for solo or group dances. [video]


DABKE /dance/ - or debkah, debka, dabki  is a folk dance form from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Male and female dancers are dancing in lines or circle. Characteristic are jumps and combinations of steps. Traditionally it was danced to beat the clay which was a material for building roofs of houses. Music for the dabke dance is played on oud, daff, riq, arghul and mijwiz. One of the most popular dabke songs is 'Dal Ouna'.

DAFF /instr./ -  a large drum with little rings made of metal attached to wooden frame. The membrane is made of goat skin. This musical instrument comes from Iran, but now we can also hear it in the music of Middle East. In Iran, daf was used during important celebrations. We can also read about this instrument in Persian poems and we can see it in the Azerbaijani banknote (1 manat). [video]

DARBUKA /instr./ - or tablah, a type of a single head membranophone, characteristic for goblet shaped body. It’s well known in belly dancing from drum solo music. Traditional darbuka has a ceramic body with a membrane made of fish or goatskin. Today we can also find instruments made of aluminum with plastic membranes. [video]

DERVISH - in Islam can refer to members of a Sufi fraternity or more narrowly to a religious mendicant, who chose or accepted material poverty. The latter usage is found particularly in Persian and Turkish, corresponding to the Arabic term Faqir. The Mevlevis are known as the 'Whirling Dervishes' due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of Dhikr (remembrance of God). Whirling is part of the formal Sema ceremony and the participants are properly known as Semazens. [video]

DIDEM /artist/ - (1986) a Turkish Belly Dancer with very strong and spectacular style with many elements of gymnastics and floorwork. She has gained some measure of international recognition since she started appearing on the live Turkish television program called Ibo Show. [video]

DINA /artist/ - (1964) famous Egyptian Belly Dancer and actress. Dina started her career in the early 1970s with the Reda Dance Troupe. She has travelled to various countries to teach workshops and to perform. Dina has very strong, Egyptian style and great contact with the audience. She appeared in theater and in 23 movies. Dina was a juror in the program Al Rakesa - The Belly Dancer. [video]

DINA BRA /costume/ - a bra shape for a belly dance costume with very hard cups. [video]

DUM /music/ - the deep and low sound played on darbuka, written as 'D' in the Oriental Rhythms, like in the Saidi Rhythm D * T *D D * T *

DRUM SOLO /dance/ - type of a Belly Dance Show style that requires great belly dance technique of isolations and layers. It's a dance to the darbuka music, but it may have melody played on other musical instruments. [video] [learn technique]

DAVUL /instr./ - or tapan, atabala: large double-headed drum that is played with mallets. Davul is commonly used in the music of Middle East and Turkey. These drums have both a deep bass sound and a thin treble sound due to their construction and playing style. [video]


EGYPTIAN ORIENTAL /style/ - or Classic Oriental Dance is a style from Egypt that started in Golden Era of Belly Dance. Dancers are dancing to the Egyptian rich orchestra music, with instruments like oud, qanun, nay, violin and darbuka. Very elegant style, with long and stretched positions, relevé, strong muscle technique and small moves. We can describe this style like a mix of baladi and classic balet. In this style we will not see a floorwork. Costume for the Egyptian Oriental is bedleh style, a dress or galabeya. [video] [learn technique]

ESKANDARANI /dance/ - *see Iskandarani


FAHMY Farida /artist/ - (1940) an Egyptian Dancer, actress and a costume designer. Most known for being a main dancer with Mahmoud Reda in Reda Troupe. Her style is very elegant, with clean moves and technique. Farida Fahmy presented many dances, like Melaya Leff, Saidi, Fellahi or Andalusian Dance. She appeared in Egyptian movies with the group. [video]

FAIROUZ /artist/ - (1934) singer from Lebanon. One of the best-selling Middle Eastern artist (with Oum Kulthoum) with over 150 million records worldwide, an icon of modern Arabic music. Fairouz appeared in theater and in 3 movies: Biya' Al Khawatem (1965), Safar Barlek (1967) and Bint Al Haress (1968). She released 85 musical discs. Her most famous songs are: Biktub Ismak, Saalouny El Nas, Ana Le Habibi. [video]

FAN /prop/- a bamboo fan decorated with feathers or lace and sequins, used in Belly Dance Show styles, fusion with flamenco or in Pharaonic Dance. [video]

FAN VEILS /prop/ - a mix of bamboo fan with silk veil. You can dance with one fan veil or with two fan veils, each pair has one fan for the right hand and one for the left hand. [video]

FELLAHI /rhythm/ - D T * T D * T * [video]

FELLAHI /dance/ - is a joyful and vivacious dance of farmers from the northern Egypt, depicting their daily lives like harvesting or carrying water. The prop used in the style is a pitcher. Costume for fellahi dance consists of long, loose dresses with flowers and flounces, and a headscarf. A dancer may also have a scarf around her neck, which she can also tie on the hips. Long braids are another characteristic feature of this dance style. The rhythm played in fellahi musi is also called fellahi.

FINGER CYMBALS /instr./ - or zills or sagat,  are a percussion instrument popular in the Middle East and North Africa, known also in ancient times. It consists of four circular, metal plates which you can fix on your thumbs and middle fingers in order to tap out a rhythm while dancing. Finger cymbals may make sounds with various tones depending on the size of the plates and the metal which they are made of. Most often you can see the gold or silver zills, with smooth or decoratively engraved surface. [video]

FLOORWORK /move/ - group of moves and figures that dancer is doing on her knees or sitting/lying on the stage. On the knees dancers are presenting for example chest shimmy, camels, hip twists. Staying in the side plank they are doing belly rolls, shimmy, chest and hips circles. Floorwork is a part of Turkish and Lebanese Oriental Dance Style.

FOUAD Nagua /artist/ - (1943) an Egyptian Dancer and actress. She shared the stage with great artist like Abdel Halim Hafez, Shadia or Fayza Ahmed. The composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab composed for her songs like Amar Arbatashar and Qamar Arbaa-tashar. Nagua Fouad is famous for adding dramatic elements into her spectacular, choreographed performances. [video]

FUSION /style/ - a mix of two different dance styles. It's a dance created on a base of Oriental Dance moves and steps to the music that is in other style, like rumba or tango. Also the costume can be a mix of a two styles. Most popular fusions are Oriental Tango, Oriental Flamenco, Oriental Jazz. [video]


GAMAL Nadia /artist/ - (1937-1990) an Egyptian Dancer and actress. She is often credited as the creator of the modern style of Lebanese Belly Dance. She used a lot floorwork and mixed Raqs Sharqi with folk dances like Baladi, Bedoiun dances or even Zaar. She appeared in Egyptian and Indian movies, like Zenubba (1956), Mawal al akdam al zahabiya (1966), Prem Pujari (1970). During her career she toured in Middle East, Europe, Asia, Latin and North America. [video]

GAMAL Samia /artist/ - (1924-1994) an Egyptian Belly Dancer and actress. Samia started her career in Opera Casino. She was the first dancer who performed on the stage with high-heeled shoes. She is a star of the Golden Era of Belly Dance, appeared in more than 60 movies, like Gawhara (1942), Afrita Hanem (1949), Khad Al-Jamil (1951) or Habiby al-Asmar (1957). Egypt's King Farouk proclaimed Samia Gamal 'The National Dancer of Egypt' (1949). [video]

GALABEYA /culture/ - is a traditional Egyptian garment. During summer people are wearing  white galabeyas and during winter, thicker fabric in other colors: grey, blue, dark green, olive, or striped fabrics.

GHAWAZEE /dance/ - an Egyptian gypsy dancers, mentioned for the first time in XVIII century. They were chased from Egypt in 1834 for bad behavior. Ghawazee danced in the streets, played on zills and tambourines. This dance does not contain the elements of ballet and other dance style. Costume for this style consists of a shirt, wide trousers and caftan named Yelek and scarves tied at the waist.

GUEDRA /dance/ - a folk dance style from the South part of Morocco, Algier and Mauretania. Dancers are performing in a blue galabeyas with the veil on the head, a lot of jewelry and their hands and face is decorated with henna. They are dancing almost all the time on the knees, shows are given on the carpets in the Berber's tents. [video]

GOLDEN ERA /culture/ - or Golden Age, is a period of development and prosperity in Egyptian culture, music, dance and cinema between 1930 and 1970. It's time of high quality of music and dance. We can divide Golden Era into 3 periods: First with Taheya Karioka, Samia Gamal and Naima Akef, Second with Sohair Zaki and Nagwa Fouad, and Third with Zeinat Olwi and Katy. As a dance style it is an essence of Oriental Dance with glamour, femininity and fluidity. Original music from that period had less darbouka than contemporary versions. Costumes had various shapes, depending on the period of Golden Era or on the style of the dancer, but the decors used in that times were made with sequins, pearls and beads. In the sixties dancers started to cover belly with a mesh. Badia Masabni introduced shoes with high heels to Oriental Dance, but we can see many performances with dancers without the shoes. Even the hairstyles were changing, starting with waves and ending with straight hair, but there were no buns. During the Golden Era many Belly Dancers became popular, not only in Egypt and the Middle East but thanks to the Egyptian cinema, around the world. Check also: Opera Casino, Shafiqa El Koptiya, Bamba Kashar. [video] [video] [learn technique]


HABBAN /instr./ - a double reed instrument from the Persian Gulf. It’s a kind of bagpipe made of goatskin sack. It sounds like bagpipes coming from Scotland. [video]

HAFLA /culture/ - a party, ceremony, banquet with dancing.

HAGALLA /dance/ -  is a happy dance style of Bedouins living in the Saharan oases. This dance focuses mainly on the work of the hips (tipical ¾ shimmy and twists). Hagalla is a presentation of feminine pride and strength. In choreographies made by Mahmoud Reda are dancing female and male dancers – for male dancers characteristic are jumps and clapping during the dance. Traditional feminine costume for Hagalla consist of dress with a kind of apron and  headscarf.


IMPROVISATION - in dancing: spontaneously created movement, dancing with no choreography.

ISIS WINGS /prop/ - a Belly Dance Show prop made of shiny or transparent fabric. Isis was a goddess in the Ancient Egypt and she was presented by artists with the wings. You can use this spectacular prop for example in Fantasy Style like Pharaonic Dance. [video]

ISKANDARANI /dance/ - or Eskandarani is an urban folklore from Alexandria, the port city in Egypt. Iskandarani outfit is quite unusual – it consists of a short dress to knees, with flounces, a headscarf with tassels or flowers and high heels. Iskandarani can be danced with a large black shawl called melaya – then the dance is called Melay Leff, which means “wrapped in a scarf”. We can also see the dancers with a face covered by a veil called yashmak. This dance is cheerful and flirtatious and requires quite good acting skills. In this style a dancer covers and discovers herself with a shawl, coqueting this way an audience. In the choreographies created by Mahmoud Reda, we can see not only female dancers but also male dancers who are into the role of seduced fishermen/sailors. Songs for dancing Iskandarani are mostly about the sea, fishermen and Alexandria. [video]

ISOLATIONS /move/ - a type of technique of moving only one part of the body, like doing only chest moves or only hip moves. In Belly Dance used in Drum Solo style. [video]

IRAQI /dance/ - *see Kawleeya


JASHMAK /costume/ - *see Yashmak

JALABIYA /costume/ - *see Galabeya


KALTHOUM  Oum /artist/ - (1898-1975) an Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress, called 'The voice of Egypt'. One of the best-selling Middle Eastern singers of all time (second one is Fairouz). Her most famous songs are Inta Omri (composed by Mohamed Abdel Wahab, lyrics by Ahmad Shafeeq Kamel), Alf Leyla Wa Leyla (composed by Baligh Hamdi, lyrics by Morsi Jamil Aziz) and Al-Atlal (composed by Riad Al-Sanbati, lyrics by Ibrahim Naji). She used typical old classical Arabc way of singing - an improvisatory technique. During concerts, one song could varied in length from 40 to 90 minutes, depending on her mood. [video]

KAMANCHEH /instr./ - an Iranian bowed string instrument. Traditional instruments had three silk strings, but now we can see also Kamanchehs with four metal strings.  The body of Kamancheh has a long upper neck and a resonating chamber covered with a membrane made from the skin of a lamb, goat or even fish. We can hear Kamancheh in Iranian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kurdish and Turkish music. [video]

KARIOKA Taheya /artist/ - (1915-1999) an Egyptian Belly Dancer, singer and actress. Her career started in Opera Casino, she is famous for adding to the Raqs Sharqi brasilian Samba, called that time Carioca. She appeared in 37 movies, like Ahib Al ghalat (1942), Ahib el raks (1949), Imm el aroussa (1963), Iskanderiya, kaman wi kaman (1990). [video]

KARSHILAMA /rhythm/ - D * * * T * * * D * * * T * T * T *  kjndakjnckan [video]

KARSHILAMA /dance/ - a folk dance from all over Northwest Asia Minor and carried to Greece by Asia Minor refugees. The term 'karsilamas' comes from the Turkish word 'karşılama' meaning "face to face greeting". The dance is still popular on Northwestern areas of Turkey, especially on wedding parties.

KAVAL /instr./ - is an end-blown flute made of wood or water buffalo horn. Kaval is fully open at both ends and has 8 playing holes (or sometimes more).  We can hear it in music of Turkey,  Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Azerbaijan. Kaval is similar to Persian flute Ney. [video]

KAWALA /instr./- also called Salamiya, is an end-blown flute made of cane. It comes from Egypt and is known in the music of the Middle East. Kawala has six holes and you can find it in nine different sizes – according to the maqam (the system of traditional Arabic melodic modes). [video]

KAWLEEYA /dance/ - or Iraqi, Iraki  is a dance from Iraq. This style is very lively, it contains many elements of shaking head and hair, jumping and dancing on the ground. Compared to Khaliji, dance Iraqi is much more dynamic. The costume for this dance style consists of a long, fitting dress with long sleeves and often with a decorative selvages at the waist. Music for this dance style includes rhythm iraqi.

KHALIGI /dance/ - Khaliji, Khaleegy, in Arabic means the Gulf, is a folk dance from the Persian Gulf. It is also called ‘the hair dance’ because of many shaking head movements. Other characteristic features are hand gestures like wrist accents and chest shimmy. Khaliji is a joyful dance performed solo or in a group (when performed by several dancers, it is a line dance). Khaliji was originally performed only by women’s group during family events. It was spread across thanks to belly dancers. The costume for this style is called  thobe al nashal and consists of a long robe with a richly embroidered front (embroidered peacocks are a frequent motif). Another important feature is an abundant jewelry – necklace, bracelets and large earrings. Music for this dance style includes rhythm Saudi, also called Khaliji.[video]

KISSAR /instr./ - is plucked string instrument. It is a type of lyre from ancient Nubia. The body of Kissar is round, made of turtle shell or wood, finished with membrane made of sheepskin. Five strings are stretched between the two arms. The Kissar is played with plectrum, by holding the frame like the guitar. Currently Kissar can be heard in the music of Egypt. [video]

KRAKEBS /instr./ - or quraqib, qaraqib, qarqabeb, qraqebs Is type of castanet made of metal. It is used in moroccan music called Gnawa (for ritual and spiritual healing ceremonies). This instrument is known in Morocco and Algeria and all Maghreb countries. Methods of producing the Krakebs have not changed for centuries , it is still forged by blacksmiths. [video]


LAYERING /move/ - in Belly Dance is moving with two figures or moves at the same time, with the same part of the body, like chest shimmy with chest circles or hip twists with hip figures eight. [video]

LEBANESE ORIENTAL /style/ - a Belly Dance style from the Lebanon, with lot of and and arm moves, shimmy, floorwork. It's a bit like the Egyptian dance from the Golden Era. Dancers are wearing a decorated bra, hip belt and a long skirt and a shoes with high heels. For this style dancers are using rich Lebanese orchestra music. [video]

LYRICAL POP /dance/ - a Modern Belly Dance style to the pop music, for example of Wael Kfoury, Wael Jassar, Nancy Ajram. Moves are like in Raqs Sharqi but with a bit more theatrical feeling. It's important to transfer the lyrics and the feeling from the music to the dancing. [video]


MALFUF /rhythm/ - D * * T * * T * [video]

MAHRAGANAT /music/ - music genre from Egypt, lyrics are egyptian slang. Mahraganat is a combination of Egyptian shaabi and electronic music. Dance for this music genre is not a belly dance, it's other genre, more like hip hop, but during the belly dance shows, belly dancer can use this music and add a belly dance moves in femenine style.

MAQAM /music/ - (in plural is Maqamat) the system of traditional Arabic melodic modes, ornamentation techniques, habitual melodic phrases. In Arabic music feelings like happiness and sorrow can mix, creating happy-sad feeling. Each Maqam represents different feeling. Names of the Arabic Maqamat are: Ajram, Bayati, Hijaz, Kurd, Nahawand, Nikriz, Rast, Sikah.

MAQSUM /rhythm/ - D T * T D * T * [video]

MASABNI Badia /artist/ - (1892–1974), most known for opening Opera Casino - a nightclub in Cairo. Bada was an entertainer, singer, actress, and businesswoman. She launched careers of stars like Samia Gamal and Taheya Karioka. She opened 4 Cabarets: Sala Badia Masabni in Cairo (1926), Sala Badia on Alexandria (1928), Casino Opera in Giza (1930) and Cinema Badia in Giza (1931). On the stage of her cabarets appeared singers, dancers, comedians and magicians. She had a huge influence on the Raqs Sharqi that developed as an art for the stage performances. She introduced shoes with high heels to Oriental. [video]

MASMOUDI KEBIR /rhythm/ - D D D * T * D * * *  T * T * [video]

MASMOUDI SOGHAIR /rhythm/ - D D * T D * T * [video]

MAWWAL /music/ - is a traditional genre of Arabic vocal. Consists on prolonging vowel syllables, with a very emotional style, in a slow beat. It can open the song about lost love. Famous Arabic singers who used this manner are Farid Al-Atrash, Fairouz or Wael Kfoury.

MAZHAR /instr./ - a type of large tambourine used in Arabic music. The frame of the Mazhar is made of wood, it can be decorated and it usually is 30 cm wide. Mazhar has ten pairs of big cymbals (nine cm), mounted in five pairs of slits. We can hear Mazhar in Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese music. [video]

MEJANSE /dance/ - (or megance) a style of Belly Dance to the rich orchestra music composed specially for the Belly Dance performances. It's a style for the spectacular entrance on the stage, with variety of melodies and rhythms like maqsoum, malfuf, saidi or saudi. This music allows the dancer to show her technique. [video] [learn technique]

MELAYA LEFF /dance/ -  the Iskandarani Dance with the Mealya scarf. Melaya Leff means 'wrapped into melaya'. *see Iskandarani.

MELAYA /costume/ - a large black shawl for the Iskandarani Dance. It's a part of the costume, not a prop like a silk veil. [video]

MIJWIZ /instr./ - a musical instrument made of bamboo reed. It consists of two pipes of the same length, each one with five or six holes for fingers. Playing on this instrument, a musician inhales and exhales air through the Mijwiz, making this way uninterrupted sound. Mijwiz is very popular in Egypt (especially for belly dance music), Lebanon, Syria (for Dabke music), Palestine and Iraq. [video]

MIZMAR /instr./ - a single or double reed musical instrument, usually played in Egypt at wedding parties as an accompaniment to Belly Dance performances. Mizmar is also a term used for a group of musicians, usually a duo or trio. [video]

MIZWAD /instr./ - a single reed instrument from Tunisia. It’s used during parties, weddings and folk dances. It’s a kind of bagpipe made of sheepskin sack. Their sound is like sound of bagpipes coming from Scotland. Mizwad looks like musical instrument form Libya called Zukra. [video]

MODERN ORIENTAL /dance/ - a Belly Dance style for the stage performances, based on classical Raqs Sharqi moves and steps, to the modern oriental music. Dancers are bringing inspirations from other dance styles, creating new techniques of using Raqs Sharqi steps. Costumes are mostly in the Bedleh type, in the hot-trends style. [video] [learn technique]

MUASHAHAT /dance/ - or Andalusian Dance, a style of an Arab-Andalus dance, reconstructed by Mahmoud Reda on the base of Arabic poetry called Muwashah. Costume consists on kaftan, chalvar pants or long skirt and a small hat. Muashahat is mostly know through the shows of Reda Troupe.


NEY /instr./ - or Nay, Nay is a Persian flute which has been used in Middle East music for 5 000 years! You can see it in the wall paintings in Pyramids of Giza. Nay is made of reed and traditionally has 6 holes in the upper part for fingers and one hole at the bottom for a thumb. The Arabic version of this instrument has 7 holes in the upper part and one hole in the bottom part. The length of nay may also vary – the ones from Turkey or Egypt are shorter than the one from Persia. [video]

NUBA /music/ - or Nobah, Nawbah, a classical Arabic form, music genre with origins in Arabo-Andalusian music. Now Nuba is known in North African Maghrib: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Lybia.Traditionally there were 24 Nubat, one for each hour of the day. Each Nuba must have a duration of 1 hour. Important: this is not related to the Nubian Dance.

NUBIAN /dance/ - Nubian dance  is a line folk dance form from Nubia, legendary land in an area between Egypt and Sudan. Dancers wear a long galabiyya, very long shawl on the head and a lot of jewerly like a necklace and big earrings. Dancers can play during dance on Bendirs – a big frame drums.


OUD /instr./ - it is a stringed, pear shaped instrument that is popular in areas of the Middle East. Oud is considered the prototype of the European lute, that’s why it is also called Arabic lute. Oud is characterized by a lack of frets, 11 strings made of nylon (you can also find 13-stringed instruments) and 1-3 sound holes. To play the oud you need a plectrum, ar. risha. We can hear Oud in Egyptian, Syrian, Turkish, Persian, Armenian and Greek music. Depending on the country, this instrument may be slightly different in appearance, but it is always richly decorated. [video]

OULED NAIL /dance/ - a dance style of the tribe and a tribal confederation living in the Ouled Nail Range in Algeria. During the show, dancers and musicians are sitting together on a big carpet in a semicircle, and dancers are performing solo in the middle of the semicircle. Dancers are wearing blue scarfs and a huge jewelry made of silver and gold. In this dance style there are lot of snake moves like belly rolls or snake arms.

ORIENTAL RHYTHMS /music/ - very important part of Oriental Music for Belly Dance. Thanks to the rhythms we can recognize the type of the music. In Oriental Rhythms we divide DUM (low and deep sound) and TAK (high sound). The combination of DUMS and TAKS creates a specific rhythm.

OPERA CASINO /culture/ - a famous nightclub in Cairo founded by Badia Masabni. The Opera Casino was called also Madame Badia's Cabaret or Badia's Casino. Many singers, dancers, comics and even magicans appeared on the sage of this nightclub. Thanks to Badia Masabni dancers started to use more space on the stage, lifted arm positions, and she added veil and costumes inspired by the Hollywood.

ORIENTAL /style/ - name of the style of the Oriental Dance. In the Classical Oriental dancers are dancing on relevé, in a very elegant and feminine style, with some moves form classical dance like arabesque. In the Modern Oriental dancers can add to this more moves with the hair and more dramatic decors.


QANBUS /instr./ - or gambus, is a type of the short-necked lute that came from Yemen and spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Qanbus is carved from a single block of wood. It has a floating bridge, a sickle-shaped pegbox and usually 7 nylon or gut strings in 4 courses, with the lowest course single. There is also version with 3 courses and with 6 or 5 strings. [video]

QANUN /instr./ - an Arabic stringed instrument. The Arabic word qanun means ‘law’. This instrument is a descendant of the Egyptian harp – a trapezoid-shaped instrument with 81 strings which is played with a plectrum. Qanun is produced from wood. A musician, when playing, keeps qanun on his knees or on the table. There are two types of this instrument: an Arabic one and a Turkish one – they vary slightly in size and in strings arrangement (the Arabic one is slightly larger). [video]


PHARAONIC DANCE /dance/ - a dance style from the Belly Dance Show, a theatrical presentation of the Ancient dance from Egypt. [video 3,12-3,45]

POI /prop/ - *see Veil Poi


RABAB /instr./ - a one of the national musical instruments of Afghanistan. The body is carved out of a single piece of wood, with a membrane covering a hollow bowl that provides the sound-chamber. Rabab can be small, medium or large. [video]

RABABA /instr./ - meaning 'a bowed' is probably the oldest string instrument. It can have 3 variants :a long-necked bowed variety that often has a spike at the bottom to rest on the ground, a short necked double-chested or 'boat-shaped' variant. The Rababa, though valued for its voice-like tone, has a very limited range - it has less than one octave. [video]

RAQS /dance/ - in Arabic language 'Dance'.

RAQS AL ASSAYA /dance/ - a Saidi dance style with the bamboo cane. This is style from the Upper Egypt, Raqs Al Assaya means 'dance with a cane' and it's feminine version of male dance Tahtib. [video]

RAQS AL JUZUR /dance/ - a dance style from the South part of Tunisia. Dancers are using a jug made of a clay as a prop, balancing with the jug on the head. Costume for this style consists on galabeya, a scarf on the head and a scarf on the hips.

RAQS AL SHAMADAN /dance/ - a dance with a candelabra on the head, it is a style that we can see during wedding processions in Middle East, called Zaffa. Zaffa music has a rhythm also called Zaffa. Dancer can play on the Finger Cymbals during the dance. Nowadays, dancer and a group of musicians are leading a bride and groom to the wedding hall, in the past they were leading a bride to her new home. Costume for Raqs Al Shamadan consist of long galabeya like for baladi or saidi dance, or in a modern style, a Bedleh.

RAQS SHARQI /style/- a stage dance style from Egypt, based on folk dance steps with huge influence of classical dance, introduced by Mahmoud Reda. Raqs Sharqi means the 'Eastern Dance' or the 'Oriental Dance' and it is still changing. Raqs Sharqi an be danced to the rich orchestra music in decorated costume, like Bedleh. [video]

RAQUESA /dance/ - in Arabic language 'Dancer'.

REDA Ali /artist/ - the first man ever to insist on having the occupation 'dancer' listed on his Egyptian passport. Co-founder of Reda Troupe, the business director and the artistic advisor of the group and a movie director.

REDA Mahmoud /artist/ - (1930) a great Egyptian Dancer, Dance Teacher, choreographer, actor, anthropologist, a member of the gymnastic team representing Egypt in 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Cofounder of Reda Troupe. Mahmoud Reda created his own style and brought Raqs Sharqi to the new level. Appeared in Egyptian movies like Igazah nisf as-sinah (1961), Gharam fi al-karnak (1967) and Harami El-Waraqa (1970). [video]

REDA TROUPE /culture/ - a dance group from Egypt founded by Ali Reda and Mahmoud Reda. Brothers Reda created a presentation of the whole Egypt by the art of dance and music. They presented the shows all over the world. Many famous dancers started their careers in Reda Tropue, like Farida Fahmy or Randa Kamel. Reda Troupe appeared in many Egyptian movies, like Mid Year Holiday or Love in Karnak. By the mid 1970s Reda Troupe had one hundred and fifty members including dancers, musicians and costume and stage technicians. [video]

RHAITA /instr./ - is a double reed instrument from northern Africa. It’s typical instrument in Morocco.  This shawm is very similar to zurna or mizmar. It can be made of cedar wood. [video]

RIQ /instr./ - or rik is a type of tambourine used in both folk and classical Arabic music. The frame of the Riq is made of wood, like apricot or lemon, it can be decorated and it usually is 20 cm wide. We can also find Riqs with a metal frame. Riq has ten pairs of small cymbals (6 cm), mounted in five pairs of slits. The translucent head is made of fish or goat skin, but also nowadays , a synthetic material. We can hear Riq in Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and Sudanese music. Depending on the country, this instrument can be a little bit bigger or smaller, but it always has high sound of jingles, and a lower sound of a skin membrane. [video]


SAID Mona /artist/ - (1954), a Belly Dancer born in Egypt, called 'Princes of Raqs Sharqi', performed with live orchestra music in Lebanon and Egypt. Her style was very elegant, with great and clean technique. [video]

SAIDI /style/ - is a folk dance from the Upper Egypt region of Said. This style was introduced on stage by Mahmoud Reda. I mentioned the male version of this dance with the cane called tahtib (check the letter 'T' in Bellyctionary) – saidi is it’s female version. It can also be danced with a cane made of bamboo, called assaya (the saidi dance with a cane is called in Arabic raqs al assaya). Female saidi dance is more delicate and cheerful than tahtib. Of course saidi can also be danced without assaya. Region of Said is famous for horse breeding and there is also a style of 'dancing horses’ to the saidi music. That can be noticed in the folk dance - horse step. The costume used for saidi is a long galabeya/saidi dress with long sleeves and a hip scarf. Music for the saidi dance is played on mizmar, mijwiz and darbuka and it contains saidi rhytm. [learn more] [video]

SAIDI /rhythm/ - D T * D D * T * [video]

SAMAI /rhythm/ - D * * * * * T * * * D * D * T * * * * * [video]

SANTOUR /instr./- an oval-shaped Mezrabs are feather-weight and are held between the thumb, index, and middle fingers. A typical Persian Santur has two sets of nine bridges, providing a range of approximately 3 octaves. The strings for the right hand are made of brass or copper and the strings for the left hand are made of steel. This musical instrument was invented and developed in the area of Iran and parts of  Mesopotamia (now Syria and Iraq). [video]

SAGGATS - *see Finger Cymbals

SAUDI /rhythm/ - D * * D * *  T * [video]

SALVAR /costume/ - *see Chalvar

SHAABY /dance/ - is name of folk dance style and music that comes from the rural Egypt but also from Tunisia and Morocco. This dance style is very cheerful and funny, with big hip moves, danced in a very relaxed way. It can be danced in traditional galabeya or, in street-shaaby style, in top and jeans. Shaaby music is played on traditional musical instruments but also it’s mixed with modern electronic. Now there are many styles of Shaaby, like traditional and energetic but also romantic and lyrical.

SHAFIQA EL KOPTIYA /artist/ - Egyptian, one of the pre-Golden Era dancers, student of Shooq.

SHAMSHIR /prop/ - a type of Persian sword. Shamshir is made of metal and it's car, not forged. You can balance with it on your head or your hip. This prop is used in Belly Dance Show style. [video]

SHAMADAN /prop/ - a big candelabra with 2 or 3 levels of candles (usually 9 or 13) used in traditional Egyptian wedding parties. Dancers in galabeyas or bedleh style costumes and with Shamadans on their heads are leading the bride and groom, followed by the wedding guests. This procession is called Zaffa.

SHEBECKA /costume/ - a type of a cover for the belly (body stocking), made of a thin and elastic mesh in nude color or in color that is matching the costume. You can see shebecka as a typical part of the costume in Golden Era of Belly Dance. [video]

SHIMMY /move/ - a drill, trembling, twitching; very fast move of the shoulders, chest, hips or knees. There are many types of the Shimmy, for example Chest Shimmy, Egyptian Shimmy, Choo-Choo Shimmy. [video]

SIMSIMIYYA /instr./ - a type of a lyre popular in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan (it looks a bit like a Kissar). We can hear this instrument in a traditional Bedouin music as well as in the urban folklore – from the Egyptian cities of Port Said and Ismailiyya. Simsimiyya is also one of the instruments which accompany to dance called Bambutiyya. [video]

SINTIR /instr./ - or guimbri, an instrument with long neck and three strings, made of wood and covered with camel skin. We will hear it in the music of West Africa, especially in folk music of Gnawa people. They are using sintir for hypnotizing music during ceremonies dedicated to cure sick person. [video]

SISTRUM /instr./ - a musical instrument from the Ancient Egypt, also known by the Greeks and Romans (mentioned in poems of Ovid and Virgil). In Egypt you can see sistrum in paintings of Nefertari and the goddess Bastet and Isis. The Sistrum is made of metal, usually brass, and it is 30 – 70 cm long and has small rings or loops producing jangling. At the top of the instrument is placed a small symbol of the goddess Bastet or Hathor. Sistrum was used in Egypt during ceremonies or magic rituals to chase away evil powers. [video]

SIWA /dance/ - an Berber oasis in Egypt, near Libyan border. Dance Siwa, called also Oasis Dance, is characteristic thanks to the hip and hands movements, jump steps and untypical posture of the dancers. This style has been distributed by a dance group of Mahmoud Reda – The Reda Troupe. Women’s costume for this style consists of a black galabeya, scarves on head and a large, silver jewelery.

SOUQ /culture/ - or suk, lokal market in Arabic country, where you can buy spices, fresh food or even clothes and dance costumes.


TABLA /instr./ - *see Darbuka

TAK /music/ - the high sound played on darbuka, written as 'T' in the Oriental Rhythms, like in the Saidi Rhythm D * T *D D * T *

TAKHT /music/ - a small ensemble of Egyptian musicians, including musical instruments like oud, kanoun, riq, darbuka and nay.

TAHTIB /dance/ - tahtib was a fighting martial art from Upper Egypt – style of self-defense. The image of men fighting in this manner is in the Egyptian pyramids. Lately it evolved into a dance – imitation of a battle with a wooden stick. The stick is called asa or assaya. Since 2017, tahtib is a national heritage of Egypt listed by the Unesco. In the Upper Egypt there is also a style of martial art called 'Il Mirmah' which is like tahtib but men are riding horses during the fight. Costume for tahtib consists of a dark galabeya and a white turban. Music for tahtib dance is played on mizmar and bass drum. Female version is called Raqs Al Assaya.

TANBUR /instr./ - or tambur, tanboura, a type of a long-necked, string instrument. It’s used in folk music of Iran, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan. There are three most known types: Turkish, Iranian and Afghan. [video]

TANOURA /dance/ - is a folk dance from Egypt. This style comes from Sufi form of Zikr Ritual, called also the 'Whirling Dervish Dance’. It is a male dance style, dancers are Sufi men called Dervish – mystics, members of religious brotherhoods. From the religious ceremony it changed into a form of an entertainment show presented during Egyptian night dance shows or Sufi festivals. The costume used for Tanoura is a long and colorful skirt with geometrical patterns. A dancer has also a turban on his head.

TAQSIM /music/ - an improvisation on a solo instrument, for example on ney or oud. Taqsim is a typical beginning of the music for Baladi style. The opposite of taqsim is composition. [video]

TAR /instr./ - is an Iranian long-necked, waisted instrument, shared by many cultures and countries including Azebaijan, Georgia or Armenia. It was invented in Persia in the 18th century and has since become one of the most important musical instruments in Iran and the Caucasus, particularly in the Persian Classical Music. [video]

TARAB /music/ - a musical style, very emotional music. Most popular are songs of Oum Kalthoum (for example 'Inta Omri', 'El-Atlal'), Farid Al-Atrash, Mohamed Abdel Wahab. Dancer is presenting emotions form love and joy till separation and sorrow. It's important to check the lyrics of the song before dancing to be able to present them on the stage by the moves and feeling. The dance for the tarab music is like classical oriental.

THOBE /culture/ - is an ankle-length garment with long sleeves, similar to a tunic or kaftan. It is commonly worn in the Arabic countries.

THOBE AL NASHA'AR /costume/ - dress for the Khalegy Dance, called also Khalegy Dress, is is an ankle-length tunic with richly decorated borders and the central part usually is with embedded peacocks. Modern dress for Khalegy can be transparent, with bedlam underneath. [video]

TRAVELING STEPS /move/- in Belly Dance all the steps for the walking on the stage, like the basic step, siwa step, cross step, or traveling camel, traveling hip circles. [video]

TULLE BI TELLI /costume/ - or Assuit, a type of a fabric, thin mesh with tiny metal bits, produced even in Ancient Egypt. We can translate Tulle Bi Telli as 'net with metal'.

TURKISH ORIENTAL /style/ - dramatic, energetic and sexy dance style with floorwork, backbends and a twine. Dancers are wearing bra, 'v' shaped belt and a skirt made of a circle. Music for turkish dance contains Chiftitelli or Karsiliama rhytm. [vimeo]


VEIL /prop/ - a prop for the Belly Dance. A piece of fabric, silk or chiffon, rectangular or with a rounded edges. This prop was introduced to the Oriental Dance by the Orientalist artists. They presented women from harems, dancing with veils. [video]

VEIL POI /prop/ - a prob for the Belly Dance Show style


WAHDA KEBIRA /rhythm/ - D * * T * * T * D * * * T * * * [video]

WARDA /artist/ - (1939-2012) an Algerian singer know as Warda Al-Jazairia - The Algerian Rose.  She appeared in theater play and in four movies. Her famous songs are: Batwanes Beek, Haramt Ahebak and Haneen. [video]


YASHMAK /costume/ - a crocheted cover for the face, mostly in black color. Yashmak can be decorated with coins. You can use Yashmak for Eskandarani / Melaya Leff style.

YELEK /costume/ - a type of the caftan, typical for Ghawazee dancers.


ZAAR /culture/ - is a ceremony that comes from Ethiopia but is known in the whole North African area. The aim of Zaar is to cure mentally or physically sick person. The ceremony consists of hypnotizing rhythm (called zaar or ayoub) made by a group of musicians playing drums and a sick person dancing until he or she falls on the floor. In this moment a person is considered to be cured. One of the best-known groups that do Zaar ceremony shows is Mazaher form Egypt. [video]

ZAFFA /rhythm/ - D T T T D T T * [video]

ZAGHARET /culture/ - sound made by very fast move of the tongue, used for cheering the musicians or dancers, sounds like 'lalalalalala'.

ZAKI Suhayr /artist/ - (1945) an Egyptian Belly Dancer and actress. She appeared in over 100 Egyptian movies, like Thaman al Hob (1963), Sultana al Tarab (1978), Al Rajel Elle Ba'aa al Shams (1983). Suhayr Zaki began her career as a wedding dancer in Alexandria, then performed frequently in the Nile Hilton Hotel in Cairo. In 1964, she became to first belly dancer to dance to Oum Kalthum's music when she danced to famous song 'Inta Omri'. [video]

ZIKR /culture/ - or Dikhr, means "remembrance" or "reminder". Zikr is a devotional act, in which phrases or prayers are repeated. It can be counted on a set of prayer beads or through the fingers of the hand. It plays a central role in Sufi Islam. A person who recites the Zikr is called a ḏākir. Group of people is swaying to the rhythm of the prayer. [video]

ZILLS /instr./ - *see Finger Cymbals

ZURNA /instr./ - is a woodwind instrument and is similar to the mizmar. The name comes from from Persian word sunray. It has seven holes and can measure from 30cm to 60cm. It is played during weddings and family ceremonies, folk dances. Zurnas are used in the folk music in Turkey, Iran, Israel, Azerbaijan, Greece, , Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria. [video]

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Bellyctionary Summary

Dance Styles +

almeh, awallim, bambutiyya, baladi, belly dance show, cabaret, dabke, drum solo, egyptian oriental, fellahi, fusion, ghawazee, guedra, golden era, hagalla, iskandarani, iraki - kawaleya, khaligi, lebanese oriental, lyrical pop, melaya leff, modern oriental, mejanse, muashahat, nubian, ouled nail, oriental, pharaonic, raqs al juzur, raqs al shamadan, raqs al sharqi, saidi, shaaby, siwa, tahtib, tanoura, tarab, turkish oriental, zaar, zaffa

Costumes +

assuit - tille bi telli, bedleh, chalvar, dina bra, galabeya, melaya, thobe, yashmak, yelek

Props +

assaya, candles, fan, fan veil, isis wings, shamshir, shamadan, veil, veil poi

Oriental Rhythms +

ayoub, baladi, chiftitelli, fellahy, karsilama, masmoudi, malfuf, maqsum, saidi, samai, saudi, wahda kebira, zaffa

Musical Instruments +

accordion, arghul, bendir, buzuq, daff, dabruka, davul, habban, kamancheh, kaval, kawala, kissar, krakebs, mazhar, mijwiz, mizmar, ney, oud, qanbus, qanun, rabab, rababa, rhaita, riq, santour, simsimiyya, sintir, sistrum, tabla, tanbur, tar, zurna