Our guest writer and Saudi-born Middle Eastern dancer Khadijah tells us about the beautiful dance of her region
Khaleeji (خليجي, also spelled khaleegy or khaliji) is a mix of folk dances containing traditional and modern styles from the surrounding Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.
The name Khaleeji literally means "from the Gulf" in Arabic and it is often performed in groups at special events by women. Men also have their styles but is also performed in groups, with or without props such as rifles, canes, drums, swords, scarfs etc. The word Khaleeji is used to describe more than just the dance aspect of the culture. For anything that relates to Gulf culture this word is appropriate to use.
Khaleeji culture is often misunderstood and appears to be mysterious in various parts of the world. Many of the Khaleeji cultural and religious traditions to outsiders can seem a bit intimidating. But as you get to know Khaleeji people, the culture is very warm, welcoming, family-oriented and inviting to all.
Watch Khadijah Dance Khaleeji
The Khaleeji dance itself incorporates very distinctive footwork, shimmies only involving the hands and the shoulders, head slides and circles, chest drops, specialized finger snapping and distinctive hair flips.
Depending on the region, styles of Khaleeji dance accompany the heavy percussive stylization on the music. There are various rhythm patterns throughout the Gulf region, so it's very important to know what style you are performing to.
An Illustration of Various Styles of Thobe Nasha'al
Image source: AramcoWorld "The Gown That Steals Your Heart"
Costuming varies from region to region even city to city but the traditional Khaleeji costume style is called thobe Nasha'al. There are various styles available other than the thobe Nasha'al. They come in all colors, styles and embroidery patterns. The thobe Nasha'al is a costume to be worn all on its own. It is not meant to be worn as a belly dance costume cover up. It is encouraged to wear jewelry such as lots of bracelets and anklets. Necklaces and jewelry in the hair can be worn, however if you are wanting to perform lots of hair work it is not suggested to wear jewelry in the hair or heavy necklaces.
Khaleeji dance can have so many meanings. When the dance is fully executed it looks incredibly beautiful especially when the dance is performed in a group. The essence of this dance is very feminine, strong while honoring noble Khaleeji traditions.
About Today's Author
Want to Learn More About Khaleeji?
We're hosting Khadijah for an online Khaleeji workshop on Sunday May 24, 2020. Learn more here!
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Happy learning, and happy dancing!
Yamê is a Brazilian-American belly dancer based out of New Jersey, USA.