Magnificent performance of folkloric dancing at Cairo Opera House

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Established in 1960 with a mission to maintain and preserve the common dance heritage of Egypt and the Arab world, the National Folkloric Arts Troupe presented a brilliant display of traditional dancing at Cairo Opera House.

The famous Saidi stick dance (Raks Al Asayya) originated in the south of Egypt and is considered the most important of Egyptian folklore dances.

Tahtib refers to a kind of dance but also to a game played by two men in which each of them holds a big bamboo stick to show power and prowess, with one of them winning in the end.  

Stick dancing is also practised as a pastime and is used as a means of self-defence. This particular dance has become very famous and is common at wedding parties and festive occasions.

Originally Saidi women did not dance because it was forbidden in their culture, but Mahmoud Reda created the female Saidi dance version for the theatre, allowing them to share the stage with men.

The traditional men’s costume consists of long pants, two galabeyas with wide sleeves and a round neckline, and a long scarf wound around the head.

The women wear a baladi dress with a belt or scarf around the hips and a veil on the head.

Raks Assaya is performed by men and women and shows off a more acrobatic version of handling the stick.

The women’s version of the stick dance is much more feminine and graceful, and only lightly imitates the tahtib.

The women make the movements charming and delightful and omit the fighting.

They display their effortless control of the much smaller stick or crooked cane and use it as a frame for the body movements.


Wearing brightly coloured costumes of orange and yellow dancers perform the candelabra (Raks Shamadan) dance.

The Shamadan is a large candelabra balanced on top of a dancer’s head, in a tradition unique to Egyptian dance.

This beautiful dance prop is historically used in the Egyptian wedding procession (zeffah).

The wedding procession traditionally occurs at night, winding its way through the streets of the neighbourhood from the home of the bride’s parents to her new home at the groom’s house.

In the years before electricity was used, dancers would balance large, lit-up lanterns – and later specially made candelabrum – on top of their heads, to illuminate the bride and groom’s faces during their first appearance as man and wife.

Tanoura is an Egyptian folk dance derived from the whirling dance performed as a Sufi religious practice. The word ‘tanoura’ may refer to the dance, the dancer, or the large skirt used in the performance. 

The Tanoura dervish dance is originally a religious cultural contemplative practice, where you might get the feel of a spiritual connection behind all these swirls and turns, the groove, the music and the colours are just overwhelming.

The central dancer folds the flag and passes it to a spotter. In the show, the dancer performs several folkloric tricks with the skirt. 

The performer ‘turns’ or whirls endlessly while manipulating skirts in a colourful display and the concentration and training is obvious.

Evolving from a religious practice to a form of mesmerising entertainment, Egyptian folkloric Tanoura dancers dazzle as they rhythmically spin in their multi-coloured Egyptian motif skirts. 

As they spin, audiences glimpse the most unusual shapes and colours, all derived from the geometrical patterns and bright colours on their attire. 

The skirts worn by the dancers have evolved even further as they are now embedded with tubes of light that sequentially turn on and off as the dancers spin.