American Egyptomania Search

Sword Dance Before a Pacha

Earl Shinn ["Edward Strahan"], Gerome: A Collection of the Works of J.L. Gerome in One Hundred Photgravures. Multiple Volumes. New York: Samuel L. Hall, 1881.

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Art & Architecture


ances of the female dancers of Gades." Indeed, were we not informed that the Gaditanae or females of this Spanish city (Cadiz), were famous for their dances of this description, even as far back as the times of the early Roman emperors, we might infer that they had been introduced into Spain by the Arabs, so great is the similarity of the Spanish fandango to the dances of the Ghawazees. However, it is not impossible that they were brought to Gades from the East originally, perhaps by the Phoenicians. Possibly Salome's dance before Herod was of this description. In many of the tombs of ancient Egypt may be found representations of females dancing at private entertainments, to the sound of various musical instruments, in a manner similar to that of these modern figurantes, but with even greater freedom from restraint, one or more of the performers being generally depicted as nude, although in the presence of women of the highest rank. Many of the monuments which bear representations of this mode of dancing date back to the most remote times—even before the Exodus of the Jews. It is very probable that the custom has continued down to our time without interruption, and perhaps the modern Ghawazee are descended from the class of female dancers who amused the Egyptians in the times of the earlier Pharaohs. Their origin is involved in much obscurity, and some modern writers assert that they are essentially a distinct race. They are, in general, distinguished by a cast of countenance slightly differing from the rest of the Egyptians ; most of them have rather aquiline noses, and some are extremely handsome. Lane, who lived so many years in Cairo, observes : "Upon the whole, I think they are the finest women in Egypt." They call themselves Baramikeh or Bar- mekees, and boast that they are descended from the famous family of that name—one of whom, Jaafar, was his celebrated vizier—who were the objects of the favors, and afterward of the tyranny, of Haroun ErRasheed. This tribe mostly keep themselves distinct from other classes of the population, abstaining from marriage with any others, but sometimes a Ghazeeyeh makes a vow of repentance and marries a respectable Arab, who is not considered disgraced by such a connection. All are not dancers, and most of them marry, but not generally until they have commenced their public career. The husband is subject to his wife. He performs for her the offices of a servant, and usually, if she be a dancer, he is her musician.

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