Left handed

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Thank you, Shanazel! I try to be helpful, but now look what happens when you encourage me...Ask a simple question and get an hour of homework to read and watch!

As I'm thinking about this {edited to add that Greek Bonfire posted some similar thoughts on this while I was putting together the YouTube clips}, we don't want to oversimplify the part about the pre-plumbing era giving rise to the idea that the left hand is dirty. This isn't just a relic of olden times, practiced only by the rural poor and nomadic Bedouins now. It's baked into the practice of Islam, so depending how diligently one adheres to their religious obligations, a wealthy, educated city dweller might still consider the left hand "bad."


Of course, if you're an extremely devout Muslim, you're probably not going to become an entertainer, but there are lots of practicing-but-not-hyper-conservative Egyptians who dance or participate in tahtib events, and this sort of thinking would be in the backs of their minds, even though they might not be terribly hung up on it. People are people wherever you go, and never let it be said that folks don't cut a few corners here and there on the parts of their religion that don't seem as necessary or convenient as others.

Speaking of wherever you go, as long as we're here, let's take a peek at what some other dancers are up to...

Over in Lebanon, here's a group dancing with some sort of pointy spear (I don't know the name of it) to debke music as part of a zeffa. They're mostly using it right handed, but not always.

A couple of ladies in this Kuwaiti troupe have thin sticks (not sure of the significance--sometimes the thin sticks are camel whips and other times they are stand-ins for spears or swords), but they don't do much with them beyond holding them in their right hands. If I recall what my former teacher said, I think this is a Bedouin stylization, based on some of the moves they are doing.

Over in the Emirates, most of the time, the camel whips and rifles stay in the right hand, but sometimes they switch and do two- or left-handed manipulations, especially when they get into the fancy rifle tricks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yowla.

(If you're really into the Emirati weapon spinning, please avail yourself of the rabbit hole resulting from a YouTube search of "Dubai media يولة", which will point you to clips of a televised yowla competition.)

Much of the dancing you'll find Saudi men doing with objects on YouTube is the kind where they stand in lines and sway while chanting in honor of some holiday or event. They hold swords in their right hands and rest them on their right shoulders and that's about it, prop-wise. There's more info here http://saudiarabesque.com/al-ardha-the-national-sword-dance-of-saudi-arabia/ if you're not familiar with it.

This is a little more energetic, with swords and rifles, strongly right handed.

I don't have much information about this clip, beyond that it is tagged "Saudi traditional wedding dance," but here's a guy double-handing swords.

Unfortunately, I'm not well versed in when lines of chanting guys are al-ardha and when they are al-ayyala. I think it's a combination of regional/ethnic designation and the subject material of what they're chanting, but here's more information on al-ayyala. I probably didn't need to go this far off topic, but I thought it was interesting to see men doing head movements similar to what women do when they toss their hair.

Finally (well, not really "finally," since I've casually skipped over a lot of people and places), it's not unexpected in Yemen that they wield the janbiya in the right hand alone, since it's a small weapon. I've heard "Never bring a knife to a gunfight," but I guess nobody told this guy not to bring a gun to a knife fight?

TL;DR/DW: When Arab men in these areas dance with props, they have a consistent favoring of right-hand holds, but they make plenty of exceptions, especially when showing off.
WOW! What a jewel you have posted! Now I am going to make some quality time so I can watch all of this uninterrupted! Thank you!!
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