Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Arabic terms used in Raqs sharqi


Afrnagi are considered the westernised Egyptian upper class.

Alma (plur. awalim)

Alma is an educated woman who could sing, write music and poetry, play instruments and sometimes danced and who performed mainly for women in the harem.


An assaya is a stick used sometimes as a prop for Egyptian dance performances.


Awalim is the plural for alma.


Also spelt Beledi, Baldi is literally ‘of the country’, local. Baladi also refers to authentic working class (mainly from urban areas) and their social dance.


A bedlah is a bra and skirt costume commonly associated with belly dance.

Bint al balad

(also sometimes spelt bint el balad) daughter of the country, or daughter of the town; an urban working-class woman.

Ghawazee (sing. Ghaziya)

Ghawazee are Sinti gypsies from Egypt.


Haram means forbidden, sinful.


A kabareh is a nightclub, but with negative connotations.


A kanoun is a string instrument.


Nay is a musical instrument, a type of flute.


The word raqs in Arabic means ‘dance’.

Raqs sharqi

And the term Raqs sharqi translates as oriental dance.


Sagat means finger cymbals.


Saidi means from Upper Egypt. Also, a type of musical rhythm originated from Upper Egypt.


Sala is one of the nightclubs in which raqs sharqi was first developed in Cairo in the 1920s.


Shaabi is a term that refers to ‘of the people’, popular. Associated with urban working classes from Cairo and a type of music, which has often playful or political connotations.


This is a candelabrum with lit candles, which the performer balances on her head whilst dancing.


Sharqi means oriental (literally, of the east).

Shika (plural shikhat)

In Morocco, a female dancer who performs at rites of passage such as marriages or circumcision rituals.


Tahtib is combat activity from Upper Egypt using sticks.


Tarab is enchantment or ecstasy. In the field of performing arts, it refers to the feeling produced by music and often conveyed visually by the dancer to the audience.


A zeffa is a procession. Zeffa al Aroussa, bridal procession.

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Hi - I'm Dr Valeria Lo Iacono and I am a dance researcher with a PhD in dance as a form of living heritage. I also teach belly dance and love to travel to discover new dances around the world. I have worked also as an academic and in the UK and in Korea. Thank you for visiting my site.