Egypt’s tanoura places kaleidoscopic spin on dervish custom

In a 500-year-old stone theatre within the Egyptian capital, two younger dervishes spin ceaselessly. Slowly, then unexpectedly, they’re consumed in a flurry of vivid materials. Born right into a lineage of whirling dervishes, Mohamed Adel, 20, takes nice pleasure within the uniquely Egyptian interpretation of the centuries-old ritual recognized colloquially as “tanoura”, or skirt in Arabic. “I select the colors and the shapes which are sewn into the skirts,” Adel stated, pointing to the folds of his purple skirt with inexperienced and yellow appliques moments earlier than stepping on stage to carry out at a folks artwork pageant.

The kaleidoscopic efficiency is a world away from the UNESCO-listed whirling dervishes of Turkey, who hint their origins to the teachings of Sufi poet and mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi. Distinguished by their white robes, camel-wool hats and fealty to ascetic Sufi spiritualism, the ceremonies in Turkey bear solely a fleeting resemblance to the psychedelic performances standard in Egypt. Sufis in Egypt, who quantity greater than 15 million, with practically 80 completely different orders, adopted the ritual, progressively including colors and rhythms, turning the non secular apply right into a folkloric artwork in its personal proper.


Each time it’s the similar: Adel steps right into a counter-clockwise twirl. As his skirts bloom, he raises his proper arm to the sky, to obtain divine blessing, and reaches his left arm to the bottom, delivering the blessing to the general public. Then he picks up the tempo. His steps develop quicker, and he unties the cords that maintain his completely different skirts collectively, elevating one excessive above his head. The topmost tanoura represents the sky, the one beneath the earth.

As he spins the primary above his head whereas the opposite kinds an undulating disc round his waist, he recounts the story of genesis, and the way the sky and Earth have been separated. This rendition isn’t any small feat, with every skirt weighing practically 10 kilograms. If Adel deviates from his axis or loses the rhythm of his toes, he can fall and drop them. “At the start, in fact I’d get dizzy and even fall typically,” he informed AFP. “However coaching each single day, both on stage or at dwelling, I escape someplace else with the music.”

To the sound of Sufi chants, percussion beats, or the haunting melodies of the standard flute or rababa-a lute-like string instrument-the revolutions of the dervishes of the Giza Troupe for Folkloric Arts appear as unstoppable because the planets.

‘Like flying’

Aspect by facet, however with out their skirts ever coming in touch, they carry out acrobatics as they spin. They throw their skirts above their heads, catch them midair, fold and unfold the flag of their Sufi order, their spirals by no means ceasing. For Ali Morsi, 25, it’s a labour impressed by “the love of God and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)”. Although the Egyptian model of the artwork has develop into a festive event, most practitioners maintain to the roots of the ritual within the mystical custom of the Muslim Mevlevi Order, based within the thirteenth century by Rumi in Konya, present-day Turkey.

As we speak, it’s a staple of Egyptian tourism, with some dancers, significantly in inns and leisure venues, attaching lights to their skirts for an added shock issue, to the delight of vacationers and spectators. Each spectacle and ritual, tanoura is indispensable for artists like Adel and Morsi, who can’t think about making their dwelling another approach. “It’s like I’m flying, I can now not really feel my physique, I’m now not on earth,” stated Morsi, who has been a dervish for 11 years. “I solely consider God and nothing else.” – AFP


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