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Egyptian Tanoura Dance

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. Furthermore, the name of one particular group of performers in Cairo is the Al Tanoura Dance Troupe.

There seems to be a dearth of information about the history of the tanoura. The most obvious idea is that Mevlevi Sufis travelled to Egypt and practiced the whirling Sema there. The Egyptians picked up the practice both for devotional purposes, as practiced by real the darawish (from “dervish”), and as a folk dance. The tanoura evolved to include the bright skirts, specific movements and music, folkloric introductions, and so on.

However, dance researcher Laurel Victoria Gray writes of a different possibility. She studied tanoura with Adil, the sagat player and leader of the group dancers as mentioned above. She writes But then Adil told me that tanoura had been introduced to Egypt by the Fatimids.