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 Ghawazee, ghazeeya and ghazee

The manners and customs of the modern egyptians

In the historic book "The manners and customs of the modern egyptians" of Edward William Lane, Lane dedicated an entire chapter of Egypt's' public dancers.
Edward Lane, born inEnglandd 1801 was engraver of profession. He studied arabic and spent most of the years between 1825 and 1845 in Egypt.

EGYPT has long been celebrated for its public dancing-girls; the most famous of whom are of a distinct tribecallede "Ghawázee". A female of this tribe is called "Gházeeyeh" and a man, "Gházee"; but the plural ghawazee is generally understood as applying to the females. ghawazee or ghazeeyehs The misapplication of the appellation "Almehs"(1) to the common dancing-girls of this country has already been noticed. The Ghawazee perform unveiled, in the public streets, even to amuse the rabble. Their dancing has little elegance; its chief pecularity being a very rapid vibrating motion of the hips, from side to side. They commence with a degree of decorum; but soon, by more animated looks, by a more rapid collision of their castanets(2) of brass, and by increased energy in every motion; they exhibit a spectacle exactly agreeing with the descriptions which Martial and Juvenal have given of the performances of the female dances of Gades. The dress in which they generally thus exhibit in public is similar to that which is worn by women of the middlle classes in Egypt in private; that is, in the hareem; consisting of a yelek, or an anteree, and the shintiyán of handsome materials. They also wear various ornaments: their eyes are bordered with the kohl (or black collyrium); an the tips of their fingers, the palms of their hands, and their toes and other parts of their feet, are usually stained with the red dye of the hennà,accordingg to the general custom of the middle and higher classes of Egyptian women.
In general they are accompanied by musicians (mostly of the same tribe), whose instruments are the kemengeh or the rabáb(3) with the tár; or the darabukkeh(4) with the zummárah(5) or the zemr; the tár is usually in the hands of an old woman.

  1. Almehs,almah, awalem (pl.): Egyptian indoor performer, lit."learned"
  2. castanets (zills of sagat): a set of four brass finger cymbals, worn on the thumb and middle finger of each hand
  3. rabáb or rebab: a stringed folk instrument played with a bow
  4. darabukkeh: a goblet-shaped drum played with the hands, often called a doumbek, lit. "drum"
  5. zummárah or the zemr: (mijwiz) a double reed wind instrument, about 14 inch long having a drone, with a shrill tone

More on ghawazee is found in the museum, a movie was dedicated to this egyptian dancers: Wedad Al ghazea from Safa Fathi (1993).