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Khaliji Dance

Traditional Bedouin war dance
Traditional Bedouin war dance

The best known folkloric dance in the Gulf is the arda, the traditional Bedouin war dance. It is performed by singing men who brandish their rifles or swords in a valiant manner, while they dance in a circle to a 6-beat rhythm that is unmistakably African. Nowadays, Bahraini arda performances have strong nationalistic overtones. The liwa is not a dance in itself but rather a style of music (for men only) meant to dance to. It is often performed on festive occasions and is closely related to the originally African zar ritual for spiritual healing. In Bahrain, liwa is reckoned among the funun al-wafida (the arts of the newcomers, i.e., East Africans). An ‘African’ dance (for females only), which is very popular in the Gulf today – although performed exclusively in private – is called malaya. This is a wild, sensual dance form, probably related to soukous from central Africa. It is officially frowned upon because of its explicit sexual movements, but Rihani would love to have watched the scantily clad and often veiled Gulf women (or, more often, Russian or Eastern European women) performing malaya in the growing number of clips dedicated to the genre on YouTube.

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