- Alemah - (Arabic) "Learned woman".
- Almeh - (Arabic) Originally singers trained in the fine arts of music and improvised poetry. From Alemah. Later came to include dancers who also sang. (And singers of popular songs, who also danced.)
- As-salaam - Alas, or so be it.
- Asaya - (Egyptian) Arabic for cane, as in Raks al Assaya, the (Egyptian) Cane dance. Raks al Assaya is also done in Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, etc.
- Baladi, Balady, or Beledi - (Arabic) Literally means "my town/city", used colloquially to mean "native/country", often used pejoratively to mean "hick/backwards". Also the name of a rhythm - however, not the one we call "belady"!
- Cabaret - Totally American distinction or designation for Raks Sharki or Oriental dance, when done in a beaded, sequined Egyptian or Turkish style "bedleh" costume, often (but not always) in a night club setting, to distinguish it from American Tribal. Also refers to the type of costume worn therein.
- Caravanserai - (Turkish) A large inn or hostelry, built around a large court, for accommodating caravans, travellers on them, and their animals at night.
- Cengi - (Turkish) From Cingene, it means a dancing boy or girl (chengis).
- Cifte telli - (Turkish) An oriental dance rhythm, sometimes used as a name for the dance. Tsifte telli in Greek.
- Cingene - (Turkish) "Gypsy", the same as Tzigane.
- Danse Orientale - Middle Eastern oriental dance, so as not to confuse with other Baladi dances.
- Danse du Ventre - (French) "Dance of the stomach"; used at first to describe one dance of the Ouled Nail of Bou Saada in Algeria, where they manipulated only the abdominal muscles. Later used as a dismissive catch-all for any dance from North Africa or the Near/ Middle East with hip or muscle isolation.
- Debka or Debkie - A Levantine folk dance, usually done in a lively line or circle, with a leader. Each village and often each large family, has its own special variation.
- Fallahin - (Arabic) Egyptian for farmers or peasants (plural). Singular: fella - masc. fellaha - fem.
- Feyrouz - (Arabic) First name of a famous Arabic female singer. Also a name used by women called Ann, Jane or Gertrude.
- Ghawazii - The plural of GHAZIYA, it means literally "invaders of the heart" They are Gypsies/ Roma. What is left of them is in several different small cities in Egypt, mainly Luxor, Quena & Sumbat. The most famous were the Banaat Maazin of Luxor.
- Grand Seraglio - (From the Italian 'serraglio'' meaning enclosure, because of it's similarity to the Persian 'sarai', meaning palace.) A Western term used to refer to Topkapi Sarayi (Palace), Istanbul. Occasionally synonymous with the Harem Section. Now a museum, Topkapi Sarayi, which translates as 'Palace of the Cannon Gate', is built on top of an ancient Byzantine acropolis located on an isthmus known as Seraglio Point.
- Guedra - Literally a "cauldron" or "pot", it is a trance ritual of the Blue People of the Tuareg Berbers of the Sahara. For a much more complete description see: http://www.casbahdance.org/cordconf.html.
- Habibi - (Arabic) A term of endearment or affection, like we use "sweetheart" or "honey"
- Hafla - A party/celebration with music, food, dance and (maybe) drink.
- Hammam - (Turkish) The name given to Turkish Bathes, very often public.
- Harem - From the Arabic"haram" meaning unlawful, protected or forbidden, it was a separate part of the house for the women, where they were isolated/ protected from strangers & only family men could enter.
- Henna - A reddish dye made from the leaves of the Henna shrub. Used to dye the skin and hair.
- In-shaa'a laah - If it's God's will.
- Iziz - How?
- Kohl - (Egyptian) "Antimony", an inorganic solution which blackens the eye area, use of which is a very ancient practice. Never use Kohl which doesn't come from a well known modern (western) cosmetics company. Anything else might contain lead or something worse!
- Malish - It doesn't matter; don't worry about it.
- Merhaba - (Turkish) Hello.
- Nargileh - (Turkish) A water pipe.
- Odalisque - (Turkish) From the word "oda" meaning room, it literally translates as "woman of the room". An odalisque was a (temporarily) favored one in the Grand Seraglio Turkish harem, who was given her own room. She was not officially elevated to Kadin (wife). She was a concubine. All the women in the Grand Seraglio were slaves of the Sultan. Some of the more favored in turn had their own slaves/ servants.
- "Opa!" - (Greek) Exclamatory called out when people are enjoying a performer, dancers or singers, men or women. Loosely translated it means, "You go!"
- Ouled Nail - A tribe who could be found in the Sahara and in settlements from Biskra and Laghout.. A term which came to be used to refer to dancers in general, not unlike the use of Ghawazee.
- Raks Baladi - (Arabic) "Dance of the people."
- Raks Hawanem - (Arabic) "Dance of the ladies." Name of a specific song.
- Raks Sharki - (Arabic) "Dance of the East/Orient."
- Rakkase - (Turkish from Arabic) "Oriental dance"
- Raks Sha'abi - (Arabic) "Folkdance"
- Saaidi - (Arabic) Anything related to Upper Egypt.
- Sahbee - My friend.
- Samar - (Arabic) Literally, "To talk into the night," but implies the softly spoken conversation between lovers. Samar is synonymous with "Zil Al Qamar" or "The Shadow of the Moon."
- Schikhatt - A Moroccan women's dance, (can also be done by men); plural of "Sheikha" - experienced woman: in Maghrebi dialect, carnally experienced. See also http://www.casbahdance.org/cordconf.html for a much more detailed explanation.
- Shamadan - (Arabic/Egyptian) A specially constructed candelabrum which is worn on the head while dancing.
- Shi - Tea.
- Souk - Market place.
- Sultan - (Turkish) An emperor of the Ottoman Empire.
- Taverna - (Greek or Turkish) Restaurant that sells alcoholic drinks, tavern.
- Topkapi Palace - (Turkish) Built by Muhammad II, on Seraglio Point , Constantinople, between 1459-1465. A Harem continued there until 1909, when all Harems were outlawed. This was the last Ottoman palace.
- Tuareg - A Berber nation that roams the Sahara, from Mauritania to the borders of Egypt. Some of them are known as the "Blue People", in reference to the fact that their clothes are colored with powdered indigo stones, some of which rubs off and remains on their skin, dying it blue.
- "Y'Allah" - (Arabic) "Oh, God", origin of the Spanish "Ole".
- "Ya Lilli Ya Aini" - (Arabic) "You are my eyes."
- "Ya Noori" - (Arabic) "You are my light."
- "Yalla" - (Arabic) See "Opa!"
- "Yasha" - (Turkish) Exclamatory shouted at peaks of excitement, it means, "Long live."
- "Yasu" - (Greek) Exclamatory meaning "yes". Called out to a dancer, singer, etc.
- Zagharett - Shrill warble or ululation, used as a cry of encouragement or approval.
- Zambra Mora - A Cante Chico Flamenco dance that came directly from the Moors. Often danced with zils and bare feet, using some slow movements that are very Sharki.
- Zar - An exorcism ritual, originally from the Sudan, but also popular among the poor of Egypt, involving trance possession.
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This page last modified:
December 22, 2005