Whirling Dervishes, Cairo
The guide book told me that the weekly free display was at the Al Ghouri centre but the taxi driver knew better and took me to the Citadel. Don't know if this is a permanent change of venue. I arrived at the gates at 17.50 and waited until 18.15 before we were allowed to go in. By then a crowd had gathered and it was more like a Le Mans start as we all raced to the top of the hill to get the best seats. The show didn't start until 19.00 and was held in an open courtyard just below the Mohammed Ali mosque. As night fell the minerats were illuminated - beautiful. The show started with a 10 piece band which included an instantly watchable character. He didn't just play the finger cymbals he flirted, teased, joked and pouted with them. The first Souvi dancer twirled for 40 minutes while a singer told the story. I didn't understand the story but it didn't detract from the enjoyment. He was followed by displays by groups of dancers who removed their skirts while twirling, turning themselves into human funnels. The whole show, which ended at 20.30 was magnificent from start to finish and left me breathless. There were taxis waiting as we all piled out but I'd paid the taxi driver to wait for me, which did'nt cost much more and gave me peace of mind.
First of all - the location. Before my trip to Cairo I have read about lots of them, which have really not helped. Wikala of Al-Ghouri, the Ghourija, somewhere "next to the Citadel", to name a few. Well, as on March 2008, Wikala of Al-Ghouri certainly is a right place to be, if you are around there on a Wednesday or Saturday evening! The shows are free and start more or less promptly at 8:30 pm, lasting an hour and a half. They take place on the internal courtyard of the Wikala.
Wikala of Al-Ghouri is very close to Khan El-Khalili's entrance from Sharia Al-Azhar. If you are there, cross the street via the pedestrian overpass bridge and, once on the other side, turn 180 degrees back and walk some 75 meters down a narrow street that branches slightly to the right from Sharia Al-Azhar . The entrance is on the right side of the street and you will NOT miss it, since lots of people will be heading to it (or just ask a pedestrian for Wikala of Al-Ghouri).
After Mohamed got his revelations and after the Quran was written the Islamic faith grew and grew.
But a portion of the people touched by the Quran missed the mistical experience. They didn't want to live by rules alone. They needed to feel the excistance of God(Allah). They needed to feel close.
This was in the medieval centuries. The reports of the Christian mystical experiences were all abundant. There were heremits, also in Egypt, that sacrificed their lives to God by siting on a pawl or retracting in the desert with no means of life.
Their physical endurance, combined with the mentaly focus on God, gave them experiences beyond their imagination.
Reports of these experiences gave birth to the Souffi belief of Islam.
The Al-Tannoura Traditional Troup performs twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8pm. The show is for free but the tickets are limited. They start to hand out tickets from 7pm so be there as early as possible in order to assure yourself the tickets as well as the best place to watch the show. The show is amazing!!!!
Their believers will swirl and swirl and swirl into a trance where they believe they will experience God.
Every Wednesday and Saturday nights at 8.30pm (as of Nov. 2008), there is a free Sufi dancing show at Wikala Al Ghuri which is located by Khan Al Khalili Souq. Get there early to get your seat as it is gets very crowded with tourists! The show lasts for around an hour and features whirling dervishes who spin around in their brightly coloured skirts to the sounds of the traditional musicians. Great for photo taking and the fact that it's free - very rare indeed!!
One night in Cairo we went on a cruise boat the "Nile Crystal" to see a belly dancing show... The belly dancing itself was pretty poor (the girl really didn't look interested in performing at all) but then a guy came out and started whirling around...he was amazing...he did it for so long and didn't even fall over! ;)
The cruise included a buffet dinner but you had to buy drinks at an extra cost. I personally thought it was a rip off but some may enjoy it. We paid around 150 LE each for the cruise.
This dance is something else. The skills that the dancer is shawing are amaizing. I had an oportunito to watch it twice. In my hotel in Hurghada and on the night cruise in Cairo. Everybody was amaized and after the performance was finishhed lots of us wonted and did tip the dancer.
There is also a dervish theater near the Khan el-Khalili market.
For the origin of the dance i suggest you to read the artical here:
At the end of the Tanoura show at Al-Ghouri Mausoleum, it was clearly evident that each one from the stunned audience - which consisted of people belonging to different continents - had not ever seen such an splendid show of human skills. My agnostic friend was even ready to sacrifice part of his life in order to learn the skill which claims to make a direct connection between God and the human!
Although Cairo, and Egypt for that matter, is famous for the Pharaonic history, those who have visited the land of Nile without watching the Al-Ghouri show should regret imho!
Basically a musical performance, Tanoura/Tanura actually aims to deliver religious messages through a combination of mystical notes and a unique way of dancing. It is part of the Sufi Muslim traditions which uses music for relgious preachings contrary to the mainstream Islam and resembles to the tradition of Sama prevalent in the other parts of Islamic world, especially Turkey and the Sub-Continent.
The simple looking dance routine quickly converts into something that can only be described as a complete mastery of body movements. Darvesh - the swirling dancer - picks up the momentum with the surrounding beats and continues endlessly while spreading a spectrum of vivid colors through his special clothes. In the meantime, he dexterously manages to separate the layered clothing into multiple pieces which adds further color to the show. The climax comes when he is joined by a couple of other performers all of them juggling with colorful pieces of clothes while continuously and relentlessly swirling.
But this is not only about whirling dancers. Men with their traditional instruments play a pivotal part as well to make the whole package unworldly. Before the full fledged show of colors, each artist shows his skills by going solo and receiving a wholehearted applause from spectators.
This was the perfect place for me to regret not developing the Arabic skills beyond a below average level so that I could have absorbed the message delivered in several Nasheeds. Even then it was simply mesmerizing for the audience most of which was completely unaware of the language!
On the other hand, I managed to recognize a few of the beats, especially the one which is played during Ramzan, رمضان, in Karachi in the wee hours to alert people for Sehri, سحری! Another was the one which is traditionally played during wedding ceremonies in the Sub-Continent.
I believe there must be places in Cairo claiming to host the Tanoura evenings but ensuring an authentic experience would be a challenge, especially in a city which is notorious for its creative rip-offs and pushy touts-cum-taxi drivers-cum-guides.
So the best bet would be to join the Free Tanura show which is arranged by the local Culture Ministry in the clairvoyant courtyard of the historic Al-Ghouri Mausoleum, or Vikala Al-Ghouri, in the Islamic Cairo every Monday and Wednesday. The show does not start before 8 pm however the arena starts filling up even before 7 and doors are closed as soon as the last of the limited chairs get occupied.
This is an amazing performance! The dancer spins for at least 25min and doesn't get dizzy. His performance is accompanied by traditional Egyptian music. The "skirt" he wears has several layers which he spins off throughout the performance.
Egyptian Tanoura Show is different from the Turkish Whirling Dervishes!
The Tanoura Show originated in egypt and is usually performed by Egyptian Sufi Muslims and the Tanoura is similar to the Whirling Sufi Dervishes of Turkey but the difference is that the Tanoura Performers wear colorful clothing and skirts, instead of the white ones used by the Turkish Sufi Performers. Tanoura Shows are common in egypt and ari as some big restaurants in cairo and the Nile River Dinner Cruise Shows have the tanoura show, which lasts for 15 to 20 minutes, of which the Dervishes whirl around with their colorful skirts and at the same time carry different objects while whirling. for a more detailed appreciation, please watch my tanoura videos.
they also let audience participate and try tanoura dance.