The Gilded Serpent presents...
Photos from
the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival

June 10-17, Cairo, Egypt.

The Opening Night Gala
at the Mena House Oberoi Hotel
Photography by Tahseen Alkoudsi
Captions by Shira and Tahseen Alkoudsi

(more promised!)

Please click here for Shira's report of the festival

Dervish Parade
The opening night gala began outdoors in front of the Mena House Oberoi Hotel. A series of men in the traditional multi-colored skirts used for Egypt's own whirling dervish tradition known as tannoura took their positions on the landings of the staircase leading up to the ballroom, with their accompanying musicians standing on the staircase in between in their white robes with red belts. As the musicians began to play appropriate Sufi music on the ney, mizmar, and percussion, the tannoura performance began.

A Dervish Boy

This tannoura exhibition in the Ahlan wa Sahlan opening night gala was an abbreviated version of the full tannoura show that can be seen on Wednesday and Saturday nights in Cairo at the Citadel. This individual is one of the lead performers appearing in that show.

As the dervishes progressed with their exhibition, a new source of action was unfolding at the foot of the staircase. Some members of the Musicians of the Nile, who were brought north from Luxor for the occasion, began to play Saidi music on their rebabas, mizmars, and tablas. Watchers were thrilled as Khairiyya Maazin, the last of the Banat Maazin to still be performing, entered the scene with her partner and delivered an exciting Ghawazee performance.

After Khairiyya and her partner left the scene, a couple of the men with the Musicians of the Nile produced sticks and delivered a very brief exhibition of the tahtib martial art. However, this quickly transformed into a simple audience participation piece in which people were invited to come forward and dance with them.

The Dancing Arabic horse

While the dervishes still whirled on the staircase landings, a man parted the crowd around the Saidi musicians and cleared an open space in the center. As they continued to play, with an emphasis on the heavy drumming, a man rode into the cleared space on the back of a horse. The horse proceeded to dance in time to the drumming, shifting his back feet back and forth in time to the heavy beats, and picking up his front feet one at a time with the rhythm of the lighter beats.

Khairiyya Mazin
on right dancing with her student.
Khairiyya was also an instructor at the festival

As the outdoor show began to wind down and it grew dark, the party moved indoors. People presented their tickets and filed in to take their seats at the dinner tables set up in the dining hall. As the crowd settled, it was time for the indoor show to begin. The dervishes opened it with a brief, simple tannoura exhibition, just enough to provide the flavor. Next Khairiyya Maazin and her partner took the stage with the Saidi band and demonstrated the legendary Ghawazee dancing that was made so famous by the writings of the 19th-century Orientalists.

This ended the folkloric section of the show. During the break that followed, diners were given the opportunity to visit the buffet lines and stack their plates with an abundant feast.



During the breaks between Saroya, Dandash, and Randa Kamel, as one band tore down and the next one set up, there was time for table-hopping, socializing, and networking.


Hanaan, Raqia Hassan and Shira

Tahseen Alkoudsi with Johara, Jihan Jamal of Florida and Khadija of Germany.

Tahseen Alkoudsi, Zizi and Dina
Tahseen- "Zizi and Dina are assistants to one of the best costume designers in Cairo, Mr. Ahmed Dhiaa Eldean."

Yousri Sharif
of New York
also an instructor at the festival

Raqia Hassan
Organizer and

also an instructor at the festival

Please click here for Shira's report of the festival

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

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