Middle Eastern Dance:

Books on Middle Eastern Dance

The Oldest Dance
Zarifa Aradoon
Also mentioned on the med-dance list; I don't much more about it such as whether it's still in print or not, but it doesn't sound like it. "Old and hard to find but has some good information in it."

Belly Dancing: The Serpent and the Sphinx
Wendy Buonaventura
London: Virago (1983)
ISBN 086068279K
(From card catalog listing) Belly dance: History, Muslim Women: Conduct of Life. Paperback, 167 pages, b&w illustrations, $5.95 US.

Serpent of the Nile - Women and Dance in the Arab World
Wendy Buonaventura
NYC: Interlink Books (1994)
ISBN 1-56656-117-5
Wendy Buonaventura traces the history of Belly Dance, using a huge number of paintings, photos, sketches, and sculptures illustrating the dance and dancers. It's a large format book with wonderful artwork depicting dancers and their costumes from different cultures and over time.

Looking For Little Egypt
Donna Carlton
Bloomington:IN International Dance Discovery Books (1994)
ISBN 0-9623998-1-7
Traces the history of middle eastern dancer(s) "Little Egypt" who is said to have performed (and shocked the crowds) at Chicago's World Fair of 1893; the first large-scale introduction of the dance to the US. Available from International Dance Discovery, 108 1/2 E. Kirkwood Ave. #5, Bloomington, IN 47401, 812-336-5009. Price: $14.95 plus $2 postage and handling. See listing for International Dance Discovery, below, for further info on their book catalog, or go directly to their website which includes a review of the book by Shakira.

The Transmission of Oriental Dance in the United States: From Raqs Sharki to "Belly Dance"
Michelle L. Forner
"The most up-to-date picture of Oriental Dance in the US... This work describes and analyzes the proliferation of Middle Eastern dance in the United States and the resulting subculture that has developed. Using participant-observation, interviews, and analysis of primary sources, this ethnographic study (originally submitted as the thesis for a master of arts degree in dance at UCLA) looks at the history, people, dancing, media, events, and other aspects of la danse Orientale in contemporary society. It features a detailed case study of Ibrahim Farrah, preeminent international leader of the dance subculture, including an analysis of his choreography and teaching method. 130 pp. includes tables, appendices, photographs, illustrations, and bibliography." $22/copy plus $3 in the US/$8 International mailing, per copy. Send check or money order to M. Forner, 215 Constitution Ave. NE Box 410, Washington, DC 20002. For more information, contact Michelle at the above address.

Fingerzimbeln und Doumbeg, Technik und Rhythmen
Nahema and Joe Koinzer
Versand: Klaus Hugle
Stockacherweg 1
D - 7835 Teningen/Nimburg
"The best book about zills that I know is written in German by Nahema and Joe Koinzer, Title is "Fingerzimbeln und Doumbeg, Technik und Rhythmen, Versand: Klaus Hügle, Stockacherweg 1, D - 7835 Teningen/Nimburg. It is a book I can highly recomend.

"For those who don't know the German language a short history: The origins of the zills are laying 4500 years ago in Mesopotamia; the oldest pictures of artists whith zills are from painters of Assyria. In the time of the New Empire (1555 - 1070 v. Chr) they went to Egypt The word Zill or Zimbel might come from the word Kybele, the goddess of the earth and the fertility. For her honour the dancers and musicians played the Kymbala = the zills. The Kybele-cult was exported to Greece, where it was called the Demeter-cult, but with the same way of celebration (ecstatic festivals and by the sound of the Kymbalas). In the Roman Empire it changed to the Bacchus-cult. In Pompeii they found pictures of dancing woman, playing the "Cymbalum" = zills, when doing the Bacchus-cult. The Kybele and the Demeter-cult had great influences to the beginning christian church. As fas as it concerns the zills we can read in the bible "honour him by the sound of zills".

"The second way to Europe was the "Dansa Mora". A dance with zills practised by the Arabian and Andalousien Maures, that came to Spain. The third way of the zills are the Gypsies. We know, that in India dancers wore zills 500 years v. Chr. In their way from India to Northern Africa and Europe they used besides the soundsticks, the dums, the bars and all other sorts of things that sounds - also the zills. Back to the roots. From Mesopotamia the zills went also to Persia, to India and from there to China and Indonesia. Zills are still nowadays "holy instruments" in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Exported with the Oriental dance we find them today all over the world!" --Djihara

Oriental Dance Technique:
A study for Egyptian dance style for the woman of the new age

Nelly Mazloum
Athens, Greece: Astir (1992)
ISBN 960-220-097-9
Contact: Nelly Mazloum
57 Aristotelous Str.
Athens 104 34
"Nelly Mazloum, an egyptian dancer and teacher living in Greece, has written and published a book about oriental dance technique, which contains remarks about the history and the meanings of individual movements, as well as graphic explanation and nice photographs from her very long career. It seems to me that too few people know this book. The book can be ordered directly [from Nelly, see above]".

Bellydance: The Birth Magic Ritual - From Cave to Cult to Cabaret
Jamila Salimpour
Currently no longer for sale, until the new edition is finished (which may take some time).

The Danse Orientale
Jamila Salimpour
PO Box 8612
Landscape Station
Berkeley, CA 94707 USA
This is the famous Salimpour Workbook which teaches you the Salimpour method of belly dance. As of 1996, it is available for $20 USA dollars check or money order. Send to above address.

A Trade Like Any Other: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt
Karin van Nieuwkerk
Austin, TX: Univ. of Texas Press (1995)
ISBN 0-292-78720-0 (alk. paper)
ISBN 0-292-78723-5 (pbk: alk. paper)
(Excerpted Michelle Forner's summary on medance list) "The book is an ethnography (probably taken from a dissertation) on the professional entertainers in Egypt, and focuses on female singers and dancers who work the circuit of weddings and saint's day celebrations, with some comparison to those in the nightclub circuit. The author conducted fieldwork in the late 1980s early 1990s. Her research questions include: Are entertainers considered dishonorable, and if so, for what reasons? She looks at the following: the nature of the relation of Egyptian entertainers with religious and worldly authorities, their legal status and historical developments in professionalization (good stuff here!!); the concepts of "otherness" and "marginality;" how Egyptian society perceives entertainers, and how entertainers see themselves. This book is chock-full of information in a nice scholarly approach. It includes chapters that focus on the issues of honor and shame, gender, and life-stories of several female entertainers. It definitely adds to the literature on this field--we certainly need more! I will reserve most of my "review" for published articles....but I do recommend the book if you are interested in the socio-economic factors of the dance culture and the place of the dance in Egyptian culture..."

Related Cultural/Historical Books

At the Drop of a Veil
Marianne Alireza
Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1971)
ISBN: 039512090X
Saudi Arabia--social life and customs. "Also good...At the Drop of a Veil..." --Azar

The Qashqai of Iran: World of Islam Festival 1976
Joan Allgrove, with Sarah Drake and Linda Coleing
London: World of Islam Festival Publ. Co. Ltd. (1976)
ISBN 0905035240
"The Qashqai are a turkic-speaking transhumant (they travel twice each year, between summer and winter grazing lands) tribe of Southwest Iran, Fars provice. They dance with a small scarf in each hand, and flick the scarf to the beat of the music. In my research and field work with them, I have learned several women's dances, all to 6/8, but never a dance called "dast-e haft dastmal" (doesn't mean there isn't one, I just can't describe it for you). Dastmal translates more to "hanky" or "scarf" rather than "veil". Qashqai women (like most tribal women) do not veil themselves, though they do wear a filmy head scarf that they decorate with large sequins depending from short strings of beads.

"For more info, I can recommend a couple books: The Qashqai of Iran, published as part of the World of Islam Festival in 1976, in Manchester, England. Also, there was a fine exhibit at UCLA's Fowler Museum, maybe 15 years ago, and they published a very nice booklet about the Qashqai. Also, Lois Beck is an anthropologist who has done lot of research on the Qashqai tribes, and has written several books about them. "Nomad" comes to mind." --Robyn Friend

Sufism - Expressions of the Mystic Quest
Laleh Bakhtiar
published by Thames and Hudson
ISBN: 0-500-81015-X
(From medance list, courtesy of P. Walker) "...good introduction to Sufism...it contains lots of fabulous pictorial material including a photo of dervishes dancing in Konya, Turkey."

The Essential Rumi
Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry and Reynold Nicholson, translator
New York: HarperCollins (1995)
ISBN: 0-06-250958-6 or 0-06-250959-4
(From the book jacket) "Jelaluddin Rumi was born in the year 1207 and until the age of 37 was a brilliant scholar and popular teacher. But his life changed forever when he met the powerful wandering dervish, Shams of Tabriz, of whom Rumi said, 'What I had thought of before as God, I met today in a human being'. From this mysterious and esoteric friendship came a new height of spiritual enlightenment. When Shams disappeared, Rumi began his transformation from scholar to artist, and his poetry began to fly...The Essential Rumi offers the most beautiful rendering of the primary poetry of Rumi to both devoted enthusiasts and novice readers. Poems about everything from bewilderment, emptiness, and silence to flirtation, elegance, and majesty are presented with love, humor, warmth, and tenderness. Take in the words of Jelaluddin Rumi and feel yourself transported to the magical, mystical, place of a whirling, ecstatic poet." Excerpts.

The Qashqa'i of Iran
Lois Beck
New Haven: Yale University Press (1986)
ISBN 0300032129.0
See the entry under Joan Allgrove, above for further description.

Wombs and Alien Spirits:
Women, Men, and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan

Janice Patricia Boddy
Univ. of Wisconsin Press (1989)

Nine Parts of Desire - The Hidden World of Islamic Women
Geraldine Brooks
NYC: Anchor Books/Doubleday (1995)
ISBN 0-385-47576-4
Brooks, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, spent 6 years covering the Middle East; her mission in this book was to gain some understanding of Muslim women and their daily life. Well written and fascinating, in my opinion, the book covers different aspects of female islamic life in different islamic countries including one chapter on the current state of belly dancing in Egypt. "A MUST is Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks which is totally about women in the middle east..." --Azar

Harem: The World Behind the Veil
Alev Lytle Croutier
New York: Abbeville Press (1989)
ISBN 0896599035
"...about Turkish harems in previous centuries..." --Helwa "Also good..." --Azar

The Ottoman Lady
Fanny Davis
Westport CN: Greenwood Press (1986)
ISBN 0313248117
"One of my favorite sociological studies re:women in the middles east is a book called "The Ottoman Lady" by Fanny davis (New York, 1986). It is specific to women during the Ottoman Empire (and for some time thereafter) and is quite thoroughly researched. I found it at the Oregon State Univerity library -- if you can't get it locally, try ILL." --Chesme Bulbul

Baladi Women of Cairo: Playing With an Egg and a Stone
Evelyn A. Early
Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers (1993)
ISBN 1555872778 and 1555872689
(From medance list, courtesy of D. Chidester) "This is a wonderful ethnography of life in Bulaq Abu 'Ala in Cairo. Early becomes involved with and discusses the lives of lower-middlle class Egyptians. 'Playing with an egg and a stone' describes how they manage to juggle all the facets of their lives. I found it to be an enjoyable read, but then, of course, I love reading ethnographies."

Everyday Life In the Muslim Middle East
Evelyn A. Early
Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press (1993)
ISBN 0253312531 and 0253207797
Indiana series in Arab and Islamic studies. Middle East and North Africa: social life and customs.

Guests of the Sheik
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1965)
Autobiographical. "It is her story of her sojourn with her anthropologist husband in a small Iraqi village in the 1950s. A good book, holds up well even after some 30 years." --Robyn

Middle Eastern Women Speak
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea and Basima Qattan Bezirgan
Austin: Univ. of Texas Press (1977)
ISBN 0292750331

The Arab World: Personal Encounters
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea and Robert A. Fernea
Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday (1985)
ISBN 0385171234

Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey
Isabel Fonseca
Knopf (1996?)
"The author lived for a time with a Rom family in Albania, and also worked with/studied groups in Bulgaria, Poland the Czech Republic, Slovakia, parts of former Yugoslavia, and Romania. She discusses both current conditions and history of the Rom in these areas. She does an excellent job of illuminating some of the basic ways in which the Rom outlook on life differes from that of the surrounding cultures.

"There was a brief discussion [on a mailinglist] last fall when an excerpt of this book appeared in the "New Yorker." The book is as interesting as the excerpt indicated it would be. It also has an extensive bibliography, including works by Carol Silverman.

"Interesting to me, as a librarian, is the heavy demand for the book here in the Seattle area. I'm glad to see the general public gain some awareness of the Rom culture." --Nancy McGill

Images of Women:
The Portrayal of Women in Photography of the Middle East 1860-1950

Sarah Graham-Brown
New York: Columbia University Press (1988)
ISBN 0231068263
(From medance list) "I want to recommend [this book]. Lots of food for thought and some very good costume ideas. (Caution: be sure to read the caption and info near the photos. Some of these photos were done by westerners in studios with their own interpretation of facts.)"

Dance, Sex and Gender: Signs of Identity, Dominance, Defiance and Desire
Judith Lynne Hanna
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press (1988)
ISBN: 0-226-31550-9 or 0-226-31551-7
"There is only minimal coverage of middle eastern dance, but the book covers roles of dance in society in many cultures." --Ladira

Baghdad Without a Map and other Misadventures in Arabia
Tony Horwitz
NYC: Dutton/Penguin Books (1994)
ISBN 0-525-24960-5
Husband of Geraldine Brooks (see above), also a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and recent Pulitzer Prize winner; Horwitz writes about his experiences in the Middle East (having followed his wife there). Not especially about women or belly dancing (though they do come up), the book is fascinating and provides something of the flip side to his wife's book.

Aesthetics and Ritual in the United Arab Emirates
Aida Kanafani
Ph.D. Thesis: Univ. of Texas, Austin (1979)
Aesthetics and Ritual in the United Arab Emirates:
The Anthropology of Food and Personal Adornment Among Arabian Women

Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut (1983)
"My favorite source for henna info has recently been mentioned by Kay, it's _Aesthetics and ritual in the U.A.E._ by Aida Kanafani. Great descriptions of the process of henna-ing." --Zimra

Naked Song
Maypop (1992)
80 pages, $8.00. Poems of a 14th century Kasmiri woman mystic.

"Many of you may be familiar with the life and work of Lalla, the 12th century Persian mystic and ecstatic dancer. Much of what is known about her as been suppressed over the years by dominant notions of what is proper and modest for women. A good deal of the problem is that, allegedly following an enlightenment experience in her youth, she danced naked through the streets of Kashmir, improvising songs to God. She is said to have done this for the rest of her life, dancing well into her eighties (another of her names is Lal-ded or Grandmother Lal). One can assume how such an attack on conventional notions of what is ugly or beautiful, sacred or profane, continues to horrify patriarchal guardians of custom and morality, unveiling as it did, quite literally, the suppressed unity of maiden, mistress, and crone.

"A good number of these trance induced songs were copied down by witnesses and disciples of hers, and survive to this day. Many of the lyrics passionately contest conventional ideas of dancing, celebration, worship, and nudity. The good news is that Threshold Books has recently published a collection of the songs, indexed under Women's Studies and Sufism." --Richard

An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians
Edward William Lane
5th edition
New York: Dover Publications [1973]
ISBN: 0486229351
"Republication of the fifth edition of the work as published by John Murray, London, in 1860 (first edition, 1836)". "This is a classic" --Dianne Also contains henna info.

Accomodating Protest - Working Women, the New Veiling, and Change in Cairo
Arlene Elowe MacLeod
New York: Columbia University Press (1991)
ISBN 0231072805
(From medance list, courtesy of D. Chidester) "This is a very good examination of the practice of veiling as shown in the practice of hijab. MacLeod talks to women about their work and why they veil and also gets into analysis of the symbolism, both past and present, of the veil. It's pretty readable although at times theory gets a little complex."

Not Without My Daughter: A True Story
Betty Mahmoody
New York: St. Martin's Press (1987)
ISBN: 0312010737
"Also good: Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody (yes, the Sally Field movie, but better)..." --Azar

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood
Fatima Mernissi
Reading, MA: Addison Wesley (1994)
ISBN 0201626497
Lyrical memoirs about her childhood in a 1940's Moroccan harem. Beautifully written and fascinating. "Fatima Mernissi is also the author of "Dreams of Trespass," a more personal memoir, which was discussed on the net a while back -- a really great book!" --Andrea D. Excerpt.

Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World
Fatima Mernissi
Reading, MA: Addison Wesley (1992)
ISBN 0201608839

Le Maroc Raconte Par Ses Femmes
Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women

Fatima Mernissi
London: Women's (1988)
English translation.

Sultanes Oubliees
The Forgotten Queens of Islam

Fatima Mernissi
Cambridge: Polity Press (1993)
English translation. Includes bibliographic references and index.

Women and Islam: An Historical and Theological Enquiry
Fatima Mernissi
Oxford: Basil Blackwell (1991)
ISBN 0631169040
Includes bibliographic references and index.

The Veil and the Male Elite
(also listed as) Harem Politique. The Veil and the Male Elite:
A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam
Fatima Mernissi
Reading, MA: Addison Wesley (1991)
" The author is a Moroccan woman who is a sociology professor in Rabat, Morocco. The opening chapter is a bit dry, as she explains her research methods. Keep reading, however, as it gets very interesting. This is a history of the very first days of Islam, how Muhammad tried to build "an egalitarian society without slaves or sexual discrimination." The author concludes that he had to jettison these principles in order to keep his movement alive. In an economy where a good deal of the wealth was counted in slave and female flesh, the power interests just would not accept a freeing of the 'treasuries', and in the end Muhammad did not have the political power to resist them.

"Reading this book widened my understanding of Islam, why it is the way it is. As an added bonus, it also helped me understand the Christian tradition I grew up in better too." --Andrea Rodakowski

Cairo 969-1969
Ministry of Culture and Egyptian Pub. Org., Publishers
no ISBN available
Of cultural and costuming interest. (From medance list) "...there is a photograph of the Reda folk troupe [plate no. 290] doing the 'Siwa Dance'...Its [sic] a good clear photo of costumes, etc."

When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm
Layne Redmond
New York: Three Rivers Press (1997)
ISBN 0609801287
"It's currently in print [Nov. 1997], available from bookstores in large-format paperback for $18. It focuses on the pre-historic era in the Near East, detailing the history of women playing frame drums. Lots of illustrations & photos." --Ramona

Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins
New York: Bantam Books (1990)
ISBN 0553057758.0mxxl
Mentioned briefly on the medance list: "...He goes into the dance of the seven veils in some detail..... Many of the Goddesses of rebirth had to shed their jewels/garments to descend into the underworld to retrieve to soul of their dead husband. The connection, and the number 7, sound authentic. Salome is also related to the Salem of Jerusalem, which means peace." --Kahaz

Edward W. Said
New York: Vintage Books (1979)
Edward Said discusses Orientalism as the "corporate institution for dealing with the Orient--dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient". "[The resource-rich world of Arabs and Islam] is a world painted in the minds of the West by Orientalist imaginations of an effeminate, sexy East, one filled with harems, voluptuous belly dancers and blue-veiled men on horses and camels in the desert. It is a fantasy created by Orientalists, come true in Hollywood, of a world the West has a subliminal desire to penetrate, to dominate." --Ronald L. Iverson, Latent Orientalism Part II: The Modern Legacy, Habibi Vol. 14, No. 4; in an article discussing Said's book and the issues it raises.

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia
Jean P. Sasson
New York: Morrow (1992)
ISBN: 0688116752
Biography. "Also good...Princess by Jean Sasson (a current paperback about a Saudi princess and its sequel about her daughters)..." --Azar

Princess Sultana's Daughters
Jean P. Sasson
New York: Doubleday (1994)
ISBN: 038547444X
>Biography. "Also good...Princess by Jean Sasson (a current paperback about a Saudi princess and its sequel about her daughters)..." --Azar

Rending the Veil - Literal and Poetic Translations of Rumi
Shahram T. Shiva
Hohm Press
ISBN: 0-934252-46-7
(From medance list, courtesy of Me'ira) "...if you've only read awful victorian translations of Persian poetry then you've no idea how wonderful mustical persian love poetry can be. These are the poems used in classical Persian dance and imagery. ...the book gives you: 1)the script in farsi, 2) the phonetic transliteration, 3) the literal translation and 4) a poetic version translated. And an added bonus...in the back is a listing of common Persian mystical terminology and symbolism for things like nightingale, ocean, rose, pearl, etc...."

Women in Islam or Frau im Islam, English transl.
Wiebke Walther
Princeton: M. Wiener Publ. (1993)
ISBN 1558760520
"She first wrote it in 1981 but has published an updated edition in 1993. This book explains the Islamic law and Tradition concerning veiling, seculsion, marriage and divorce, and polygony. There is a long discussion of romance and love in medieval Islam, and the status of wives, 'dancing girl' slaves, and concubines in the consideration of men. The book deals mostly with the status and position of middle and upper class women, with only a little about lower class women or women of other religions and sects living in the Middle East during the Middle Ages. The bibliography lists many books in German and Arabic, but Ms. Walther included a bibliography of recent English-Language works about women in Islamic countries." --Melinda

Oscar Wilde
One of Oscar Wilde's plays (found in any number of collections of his works) and possibly one of the first occurences of attributing a/the dance of the seven veils to Salome or to anyone, actually.

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women
Naomi Wolf
New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc. (1991)
A discussion of American/Western culture's strict set of "beauty" criteriaand what that means for women. It's interesting especially compared with the feeling that so many dancers get from Middle Easter Dance: that the dance celebrates all things female meaning it celebrates all body shapes and types, and women of all ages and stages of life. "This liberating power that Oriental dance can bestow should not be underestimated!" --Basheera, Beyond "The Beauty Myth": The Liberating Power of Oriental Dance, Habibi, Vol. 14, No. 3.

Virgins of Paradise
Barbara Wood
"... The author is Barbara Wood, who I surmise from her acknowledgements is a dancer or dance student in the Los Angeles, CA area... As far as I can tell, Ms. Wood is the first person writing in English to create a book with an Egyptian setting, featuring a heroine who is a professional belly dancer. The 'belly dance' aspecits of the story are important but not the major focus of this family saga. 'Virgins of Paradise' traces the lives mostly of the female members of the very wealthy, very traditional Muslim Rasheed family from 1945 ot the present. It encompasses the various eras in recent Egyptian history: Farouk's reign, Nasser's revolution, the wars with Israel, Sadat, and so on, and depicts how women's roles changed during that time. It also lends enough of the feeling of melodrama present in Egyptian movies to make it, for me, an enjoyable read. (I totally love Egyptian musicals and melodramas. Check 'em out, if you haven't so far.)" --Stephania

"'Virgins of Paradise' was passed to me over the holidays. It's a good read for those interested in the Middle East and in ME dance. There were times when the story line seemed a little repetitive, however. Wood develops the setting beautifully and I will definitely pass the book along to my dance friends." --Dianne Chidester

Arabic Dictionary
David S. Woodruff
23 Sycamore St.
Rochester, NY 14620-1927 USA
email CHENGIR@aol.com
Mentioned on the medance list as someone who created an Arabic Dictionary, containing names with their definitions, among other words. The first printing is already gone, but a second printing is planned/finished. The author invited snail mail and email queries and orders.

Last Modified: 15 Jun 1997
Kimberly Cyr
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