Siwa Dance #2219

                                         Siwa Dance #2219

Siwa Oasis Series – May 2019


Of course, for me, Dance is the most exciting segment of the Archive for any region. Over the years, each time I went to Siwa I would try to see dance, but it had never worked out. I had been warned that it was difficult, if not impossible, to see Siwi dance. Even Mahmoud Reda, with his fame, governmental position, and credentials, had difficulty to be able to record it. He would tell me that he had to ask the Governor of Siwa to ask the families to have their children bring the wedding outfits to school. Children could be photographed, and Mahmoud Reda got some great still photos, some of which are still out there in books and posters. I tried for decades to view even a video of the actual, not stage, Siwi dance. Finally I saw Tamalyn Dallal’s DVD “40 Days and 1001 Nights” which included a chapter on Siwa where she filmed male Zaggalah dance. I was pretty sure that would be the closest I would get to seeing authentic Siwi dance, but I was still very grateful to view it.

Eventually I learned that one could not see dance inside the city. When in the May 2019 trip I was told that we would see Siwi dance, I was cautious that it might not happen. Since we stayed two nights outside of the city my dream was realized!

In #2218 and #2220 we can view Siwi music and singing, Now here in #2219 we see their dance. Some of the dance we will see is gender integrated in order to entertain tourists, but there will also be moments of actual Siwi dance.

I apologize for the lack of clarity of the film. Luckily by this time I had found the low-light setting on my video camera. But please note that this video is lit by candlelight, so auto-focus is having difficulties. This dance is normally part of a men’s party outside in the “gardens”, it was
amazing to be seeing and filming what was happening in front of my eyes.


  • 0:06 Two men dancing movement of the Zaggalah.
  • 0:25 Unfortunately (as happened several times this night) the phone got too close, and the dancers wrapped up the dance. The guide said he was helping me film with the phone light, and it definitely helped. But knowing how Siwi people are uncomfortable with photography I think it is possible it might have felt to the dancers that the phone was recording too close.
  • 0:36 Two men dancing movement of the Zaggalah.
  • 1:45 Another man joins in the dance, allowing the first to interact with the tourist.
  • 2:06 All 3 men dance together in movement of the Zaggalah.
  • 2:30 All 3 sit down, one mentioning to another to stop or to sit down.
  • 2:40 The men start dancing then split, one to interact with tourists, the other to put on a hip sash.
  • 3:19 Hip-work with hip scarf, also movement know in Zaggalah dance. The hip scarf is worn higher here than in other accounts. He then started dancing in a tourist way, so I stopped filming.
  • 4:20 This is not in slow-motion: This hip-work is so slow that it looks like the video was altered. Then he starts dancing in a tourist way again, then both dancers start interacting with tourists. I kept the film running, hoping that the man would do hip-work again.
    Siwa Dance #2219
  • 5:11 Man with hip-scarf demonstrates the hip-work.
  • 6:00 Yasmina is told that they would continue for “5 minutes, 5 minutes, ok?” Then continues dancing and interacting with tourists.
  • 6:44 The man with the darker gallabeya places his scarf on his lower back and holds the ends of the scarf out to the side. His lower backside moves up and down in an vertical movement that he had done several times before (but I had not caught it with video). I had seen this movement as Zaggalah main movement before, it is meant to be viewed from the back. In contrast the man in the light  llabeya would do hip-work as viewed from the front while interacting with a tourist.

I held my video camera in an obvious way, and they did not tell me to stop. I would also put it down regularly. As they are performers for tourists it would be normal for the audience to record. Occasionally the phone getting too close seemed to push them to stop the dance.
From my distance, with candlelight, they would not be able to be identified. With a close-up well-lit phone, identification would be possible.
Both identifiable women allowed me to use this video in the Archive.

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