You may have heard the name, or perhaps even seen a recreation at a folkloric or cultural event, but what is a zeffah?
While there are multiple kinds of zeffahs, but the one most commonly referred to is the zeffat al 'Arush, or wedding procession of the bride. It is a tradition in Egypt dating back many years, in which a wedding party is escorted though the streets by a musical procession of drummers, bagpipes, horns and other instruments. Sometimes even car horns! In more recent years, the procession frequently happens indoors, such as through a hotel. To mark the occasion, a traditional rhythm, the iqa zeffah, is normally played.
And guess who commonly leads the procession? You guessed it - a belly dancer! Traditionally, the belly dancer wears a shamadan, or candelabra, balanced on her head, and dances ahead of the bride and groom while playing the sagat, or finger cymbals. Some theories surmise that the inclusion of the belly dancer was to provoke the transformation of the bride from a virgin girl or woman to a mature wife.
Let's take a look at some different examples of zeffahs, some with and some without dancers.
Want to learn more about this Egyptian tradition? You can click here to get expert dance ethnologist, Sahra C. Kent's, free zeffat al 'Arusha ebook.