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Tannoura otanoura_dance_imager el-Tanoura is a popular traditional Egyptian folk dance derived from the whirling dance performed as a Sufi religious practice. The word "tannoura" may refer to the dance, the dancer, or the large skirt used in the performance. Furthermore, the name of one particular group of performers in Cairo is the "Al Tannoura Dance Troupe".

The central dancer then folds the flag and passes it to a spotter. In the last few minutes of the show, the dancer performs several folkloric tricks with the skirt. The long portion of the show concludes as the central dancer ceases his spin.


There seems to be a dearth of information about the history of the tannoura. The most obvious idea is that Mevlevi Sufis travelled to tannoura_folk_imageEgypt and practiced the whirling Sema there. The Egyptians picked up the practice both for devotional purposes, as practiced by real the darawish (from "dervish"), and as a folk dance. The tannoura evolved to include the bright skirts, specific movements and music, folkloric introductions, and so on.

However, dance researcher Laurel Victoria Gray writes of a different possibility. She studied tannoura with Adil, the sagat player and leader of the group dancers as mentioned above. She writes: "But then Adil told me that tanoura had been introduced to Egypt by the Fatimids."

The Fatimids captured (and named) Cairo around 970 CE, invading from Tunisia (although Said ibn Husayn - the founder of the Fatimid dynasty - was Syrian, he travelled to Tunisia and founded the Caliphate there). The Seljuks captured Cairo in the mid 1100s, so the introduction of tannoura would have been between 970 and 1100 CE. The Mevlevi order of Sufism was founded in 1273 CE by followers of Jalal al-Din Muhammed Rumi. Consequently, if the tannoura was brought to Egypt by the Fatimids, its origin predates the Mevlevi.

The practice of spinning is quite ancient and occurs in many cultures. Spinning was practiced in Iran, Rumi's original home, long before Rumi's followers founded the Mevlevi order. Sufism is as old as Islam in the broad sense of mystic practice (7th century CE), with formal theorists first occurring around the 9th century. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that both the Mevlevi Sama and the Tannoura derive from a single, preexisting tradition.
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