What is Arabic?

Belly Love

New member
Every once in a while I hear the word "Arabic" mentioned in a belly dance reference. Sometimes it's meant as a general term, sometimes someone will say it's not a proper term... I'm confused. I don't know much about ME culture and I'm not sure what is considered Arabic. Is it just a language that Arabs speak? Is it just anything that pertains to Arab culture?

I don't mean to sound ignorant, but have never been educated in this subject. I Googled a bit, but mostly articles about language come up and I still don't have a solid grasp on what it means. Aaaand, where does belly dance fit in?

Any thoughts or info any of you would like to share? Thanks :)
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
I'm no expert, but I did find one link that might be a bit of help as far as the geography of the Arab world:

Arab world - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The map includes the countries where Arabic is the official language, and countries where it is spoken as a second language. I just wish they had included the names of the countries, since I'm not familiar with some of them. :confused:

Of course, there is so much more to it than geography and language. Hopefully, others will join in the discussion. In the meantime, I still have laundry to do and dinner to cook. :confused:
 

Nejmeh

New member
Every once in a while I hear the word "Arabic" mentioned in a belly dance reference. Sometimes it's meant as a general term, sometimes someone will say it's not a proper term... I'm confused. I don't know much about ME culture and I'm not sure what is considered Arabic. Is it just a language that Arabs speak? Is it just anything that pertains to Arab culture?

I don't mean to sound ignorant, but have never been educated in this subject. I Googled a bit, but mostly articles about language come up and I still don't have a solid grasp on what it means. Aaaand, where does belly dance fit in?

Any thoughts or info any of you would like to share? Thanks :)
Arabic is mostly considered(in the west) as the whole set of ideas and facts that make up the arab world(which is easier to define, see farasha`s link). The language differs from region to region, so does culture, specific believes and practices.
Bd fits in imo in the oriental view, though dance was a big part of every culture, bd got at least a kick start when victorian prudes saw all the beautifull arab women:p

I`ll try to give a longer answer later on, have to go to college right now!
 

Aziyade

New member
As I understand it:
Arabic refers to the language.
Arab refers to the dance or the food or the people, etc. I guess Arabian might be an accepted adjective too?

But are you asking about the step that is commonly called "Arabic" ? Jamila Salimpour named a family of movements "Arabic" 1,2,3,4. Is that what you're asking about? The ATS dancers borrow some of Jamila's terminology, but they got the actual steps confused. So in ATS the step "Arabic 3" is completely different from the Salimpour "Arabic 3."
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
This question has a lot of facets. From what an old Palestinian friend from high school described it, he stated that Arab means all of the countries in the Arab League Nation or group of nations that are united to promote the Muslim religion and to bind together as a group politically as well.

As far as Arab dance goes, I have the impression that it is dancing from all different areas in Arabia itself.
 

Nejmeh

New member
This question has a lot of facets. From what an old Palestinian friend from high school described it, he stated that Arab means all of the countries in the Arab League Nation or group of nations that are united to promote the Muslim religion and to bind together as a group politically as well.

As far as Arab dance goes, I have the impression that it is dancing from all different areas in Arabia itself.
With all due the respect for your friend but being muslim is not immanent on being arab, or are christian palestinians not arabs(and considered as such)? ;)

Uh, but before I start to write complete antropological papers, bellylove, could you specify your question? Are you talking about what the gp thinks of when they talk about arabic or more in detail?
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
With all due the respect for your friend but being muslim is not immanent on being arab, or are christian palestinians not arabs(and considered as such)? ;)
I'll have to ask him. I know he is not against Christian Palestinians or Christian others in the area; in fact, he was friends with a Coptic so maybe it does include anyone in the area that is not Israeli.
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
Arabic in a broad sense to me ( not any dictionary definition:D) encompasses the Middle East, the - culture, music, food, dance, even language if it is based on the written Arabic language.

But in the "official" sense I would think most scholars would say it refers to language.

As for dance steps, one of my teachers calls the basic Egyptian step basic Arabic (this is a basic travelling step)
~Mosaic
 

Belly Love

New member
bellylove, could you specify your question? Are you talking about what the gp thinks of when they talk about arabic or more in detail?
Anything! I am completely uneducated when it comes to anything Arabic/Arab/Arabian... so I will take any little insight or bit of info I can get whether it pertains to belly dance or not. Once in a while the word Arabic comes up in the bd world and I don't even have a grasp on what that is exactly.

I wish I could give you ladies something more specific, but I can't because I don't even know what I'm talking about! The only things that come to mind are Arabian horses, ME people with black head/body covering, the desert and a language- I don't know how accurate some of that is, but these are the images I have either from movies or the news... neither of which are necessarily the best educational tools :)

Then I think, how can it be possible for bd to have anything to do with the Arab culture if they are so conservative when it comes to women and how they dress... but maybe it's because not all Arabic women dress this way... is calling a person "Arabic" even proper terminology? Can you tell that I'm lost?!

I have read everyone's replies and am trying to educate myself so that when this subject comes up in the bd world (or in any other scenario for that matter) I understand it. I don't want to ever repeat something and not actually know what I'm talking about ;)

But are you asking about the step that is commonly called "Arabic" ? Jamila Salimpour named a family of movements "Arabic" 1,2,3,4.
Thanks for the info. Sometimes I will hear a reference to a step and sometimes it's a whole dance or a dancer.
 
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Mosaic

Super Moderator
Maybe if you go through the various articles on these 2 websites ( both dancers who live in Cairo Egypt) you might begin to understand how the dance relates to the Middle eastern culture.
Outi of Cairo - Articles

Keti Sharif's Bellydance Articles with Keti's articles read the 'Cultural Stylisations & 'Egypt Related' articles

Also check out the online magazine Gilded Serpent there are hundreds of articles there but you may have to scroll through the archives to find relevant ones

for starters try:
Keti writes for the Gilded Serpent
Leila writes for the Gilded Serpent
Andrea's Cairo 2005 trip for the Gilded Serpent
Catherine Barros interviews Leila for the Gilded Serpent
Hope these help.
~Mosaic
 

Belly Love

New member
Mosaic - Omgoodness, I have only read a few articles from the first two links so far, but there is so much good info! Thank you :)
 

Kashmir

New member
It can refer to the language - in which case it could be either the language of the Koran, Modern Standard Arabic - or one of the many related languages - such as Egyptian.

It is also used to describe a culture which is characterised by use of the Arabic language, musical scales, poetry etc etc. Then there are the Arab States. In contrast, Turkey and Iran are most certainly not Arabic.

Not all people who live in the Arab States consider themselves Arabic. For instance many Egyptians are proudly non-Arab although they share language and culture. "Arabic people" usually refers to people from the Arab Peninisula or just north of it - Jordon, Palestine, Syria. Although there too there is some debate.
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
Mosaic - Omgoodness, I have only read a few articles from the first two links so far, but there is so much good info! Thank you :)
Glad to be of help. Once you have an idea of things it will help you to search out bits & pieces you may need more clarity on. Enjoy the journey:D
~Mosaic
 

Nejmeh

New member
Ok, no problem, at least nothing will be abundant:p And don`t feel too uneducated, this is already a touchy and undecided subject in anthropology!

Hmm, first of all, keep in mind english is not my native language so I hope I get the terminology correct..

To start, the Arab world(generally speaking, that what is in the wiki-link) is as diverse(if not more) as the western world is; saying something about the US, won`t say squad about europe. (look at views on abortion etc) Even within europe views differ. The same goes for the arab world, as my question for Farasha points out(because I do agree there are different views about that too)
As said, Turkey and Iran are not considered as Arab.

So, to say something in general is tricky, but there are similarities.

In language, all Arab dialects and forms(you have quranic arab language, 'common'arabic language and all kinds off different strains from that) derive from the semantic root. So does hebrew, but mainly the grammar is different. I believe the language is called Arabic in english

In descend, traditionally all arabs believe they are desendants from Ibrahim, trough Ismail(Abraham, his other son was Isaac, the founding father of the Jewish people). I believe the term for the people are Arabs.

Mostly, when people talk of Arabs, they also mean muslim, and when they speak of muslims, they are talking about Arabs. Imo nonsens, since there where Arabs before the introduction of Islam and there are many muslims who are definitely not arab.

As for the culture, I think the main thing is to note that all arab cultures are mainly patriarchal(same as in the West btw) And that the focus lies on the group( family/tribe/nation) instead of the individual in most.

As for you image, thats a very small part of reality. The black veiled women are in conservative area`s, just as there are conservative area`s in the us, where you can 'read' the religion on appearance. I know mainly about Palestine, but even in that small area, it can differ from town to town what is appropriate and what is not. In one town, women don`t dance with men and are expected to wear scarfs, 10 km further down the road, the weddings are mixed and you can see floating hair.


and now I`m tired of typing, this should be enough for now:p
 

Yame

New member
I am going to try to give a very short and over-simplified answer:

Arabic is a Semitic language spoken in much of the Middle East and North Africa. There are many different dialects of Arabic, depending on the region.

Arab, as a noun, usually refers to the people from those countries who identify themselves with that ethnicity (there are people who are not ethnically Arab, but who identify themselves as Arabs because they speak Arabic... yet there are others, who speak Arabic, but do not identify themselves as Arab, but let's not complicate things).
Arab or Arabic (or Arabian, though I usually associate that word with Orientalism, for some reason. I don't think many people use it much anymore) as adjectives will refer to things that come from those countries.

It's important to note that not everyone and everything that comes from an Arab-majority country is Arabic. The Arab world is very diverse and has people of a variety of different ethnicities who speak a variety of languages... but I am not going to go into that here.

Here are the countries of the Arab world... I will list the ones that are, to my knowledge, Arab-majority countries or that speak Arabic as their official language, so I am neglecting any country that may have a significant Arab population that is not a majority or where most people don't speak Arabic. I am listing them by geographic region:
Levant
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories
Khaleej
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar
Mesopotamia
Iraq
Maghreb
Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania
Other
Egypt, maybe Sudan (not an Arab-majority country but Arabic is one of the official languages)

I may be missing a couple.
 

Nejmeh

New member
Yame, nice and clear outset!

Ok,I found this wiki-link, its in dutch(too lazy to find the english one), but Staten is countries, so it should be understandable ...apparently also Somalia and Djibouti are arab:think:
 

Yame

New member
Yame, nice and clear outset!

Ok,I found this wiki-link, its in dutch(too lazy to find the english one), but Staten is countries, so it should be understandable ...apparently also Somalia and Djibouti are arab:think:
Somalia and Djibouti are not ethnically Arab-majority countries... Arabic is not an official language in Somalia but is in Djibouti.
 
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