Saudi skirt dancing


Active member
This clip is described as "Amazing Music Dance performance of Saudi Arabia at Saudi Pavilion," and as far as I can tell, it was filmed in Dubai. I don't think I've ever seen this kind of dancing with skirtwork before. I wish I had more information about it...

Saudi Arabia Traditional Dance and Music | Saudi Folklore


"The Veiled Male"
Huh! That's interesting, I didn't know the Saudis had a male skirt tradition! From a purely technical standpoint, I'm wondering if that's a skirt/shirt pairing or is actually a male dress - but either way, its interesting!


Active member
I honestly don't know how their costumes are made. I would have guessed it was a style of one-piece thobe, but the bottom half twirls like a circle skirt, so I'm not sure how you would get that much action unless the skirt was bias-cut separately (attached to the top or an independent waistband).

I've heard this style of music before, but the dancers were always wearing the long, plain white men's thobe we usually think of, and not doing the spinning moves. I suppose it's possible this is a Bedouin tradition that just isn't well known in the dance community or something? It sort of reminds me a little of the Egyptian tannoura. I'm not familiar with a tannoura tradition in Saudi Arabia (Saudis skew Salafi, not Sufi), but that doesn't mean much.


I couldn't watch more than a few sesonds, alas. Between the moving background and the moving dancers and the moving photography, I'm feeling downright motion sick.

I was curious about the costume itself and did some stop-motion study until I found a clear version of the turquoise dress. It is a straight bodice with a gathered skirt attached. You can see the gathers above the belt if you stop motion at 1:42. Skirt is probably a full circle to make it flare like that.


Active member
Good to confirm it's a one-piece thobe. That advanced the knowledge a bit. I wish there was more specific information in the description.

I decided to dig a little more yesterday, and I found this dude in a similar outfit (skirt's narrower, but it's the shorter length with the trousers) captioned:

رجل بدوي يرتدي زي الإخوان من السعودية عام 1923
"Tribesman in Ikhwan dress Saudi Arabia 1923," but the Arabic clarifies Getty Image's "tribesman" as "Bedouin man" and the Ikhwan were Najdi, which roughly refers to the interior of the peninsula.

The photo was used here

More on the Ardah here
or here if the translation doesn't load automatically

and here

Of course, everybody remembers this 2017 example of a Saudi ardah, AKA, "White Men Can't Jump...And Apparently They Also Struggle to Sway in Rhythm in a Group"
(Oh, so close, Rex Tillerson! For a minute there, it looked like you had found the beat!)

Anyway, eventually, I ended up here on a page about Saudi national idress

I still don't know who specifically wears the outfit in the first video. Sometimes "Najdi" seems to mean a specific Bedouin tribe, and other times, it's more of a geographical term spanning multiple tribes (sort of like "Plains Indians" in the US). I tried image searches with the names of the main Bedouin tribes, but I didn't find anything close to the outfit again.

Meanwhile, that Saudi national costume article did accomplish two things.

1. The belt thing is a محزم (m+H+z+m) and Google fills in the short vowels "mahzam." If you do an image search on محزم سعودي (Saudi mahzam) you can see some different styles and what they look like off the body. The word origin has to do with girding and the term also appears to apply to gun holsters.

2. Buried in those Wikipedia images is the answer to question I was rooting around online trying to find with somebody on Bhuz (I think it was Shems) many years ago, namely where dancers got "thobe..." or "raqs..." ""/”"/"," which one was it, and what does it mean?

The embroidered chiffon T-dress in the "Eastern Regional" section's picture is spelled النشل "al-nashal" in Arabic. Google translates "nashal" as "pickpocket"? Okay...I assume women in those fancy-occasion dresses are not stealing tourists' wallets, so I'm going to take a wild guess there's some slang linguistic connection between the dresses and pickpocketing, like being able to hide your hands in your sleeves or something? Otherwise, there have to be more pieces to this puzzle than I've found.

So seeing how successful that was, I set off to find the other word, "nashat," which is usually attached to the women's hair-tossing dance itself. I did find something in an Arabic Wikipedia article about the general concept of social dancing that led to a reveal about ن+ش+ط (n+sh+T) being the Arabic consonant skeleton for words describing activity. I've still not come up with definitive proof anybody calls the hair-tossing dance "raqs al-nashat," but if dance teachers are running around saying that's the proper name of that dance if it really just means "the active dance," it'll be kinda disappointing.