Travel & Tourism

Yemeni Popular Dances

National Yemen

By Tamjid Alkohali

Yemen has a diverse cultural heritage including dances, songs, fashion, jewelry, or food. People say that Yemen has more than a hundred dances; the most popular are al-Bara, San’aani dance in the northern areas, and al-Sharh, Alahji, and Alzaffeen in southern areas.

Expert of folk dances Ahmed al-Majidi said that Al-Bara is the most famous kind, especially in Sana’a, Dhamar, Hajjah, and Ibb provinces. “It’s a male dance and has many varieties. However all kinds express the fighting and war. The dancers in al-Bara use Daggers or Janabiya (traditional Yemeni dagger), sometimes they put weapons on their shoulders like a Kalashnikov,” he explained.

Al-Majidi added that Al-Bara has two or more people while the viewers make a circle around the dancers. “They dance with the sounds of drums and oboe.”

Unlike Al-Bara, San’aani dance is for both men and women. It expresses the culture of old Sana’a and many people in the other province like to dance it, especially in northern areas.  “It should be danced with two or more people accompanied by San’aani songs which are characterized by the oud. The dancers do the same movements,” Al-Majidi explained.

The other dances, al-Zaffeen, al-Sharh, and Alahji, all belong to southern regions such as Hadramout, Lahj and Aden. “Al-Zaffeen is danced by two men, two women, or sometimes one man with a woman, accompanied by tones and rhythms,” said Al-Majidi.

He added that al-Sharh and Alhajy are the same as al-Zaffeen in music, but differ in movements, where al-Sharh and Alahji are faster than al-Zaffeen. “Alahji is a famous dance. People from most governorates like to dance it on occasions, even in Sana’a, Ibb, Taiz or other northern areas,” al-Majidi stated.

However, recently Yemenis dances have adopted other styles. Ali, a guitarist in a band named Sahar in Sana’a, said that the vanishing of Yemeni songs and the attention on foreign songs have made people replace Yemeni dances with other kinds of dances.

“On the social occasions, people focus on Gulf, foreign, Egyptian, and Indian songs more than Yemeni songs. Exposure to other cultures through television and the Internet make youth these days abandon the Yemeni dances, focusing on other popular dances under the concept of evolution,” Ali added.