Video Breakdown : Firqit Zeffah

I found this YouTube video of a wedding in Cairo which is a great example of a number of aspects of the modern wedding procession in much of Egypt while writing our new free e-book, Zeffat al ‘Arusah – A Primer.

This video is of the Zeffat al ‘Arusah (wedding procession of the bride) in Firqit Zeffah (group of Zeffah) style.

The Video: “Traditional Egyptian Wedding Cairo”



The Firqit Zeffah style started in the Delta and arrived in Cairo in late 1980′s.   In this post we will just be looking at this particular Zeffah example.

Often Firqit Zeffah are held in hotels and reception halls. This looks to be in a large hotel because of the spiral staircase.

 At :18 the Buruggi (Bagpipes) with no drums or other instruments, lead the bride down the staircase to the waiting Firqit Zeffah (professional Zeffah group) already standing in formation to greet her.
This small Zeffah before the elaborate Firqit Zeffah refers to the private family  accompanying the bride to the public Zeffah.  Sometimes she walks with her groom; sometimes her father walks with her, when they arrive at the waiting Firqah her father kisses her cheek, and the bride takes her place beside her new husband.  In this case it is the groom who walks with the bride. Once the bridal couple takes their place the regular Firqit Zeffah starts.

It is normal for the Buruggi musician (who is known to be the most expensive Zeffah musician) to wear a uniform different than the Firqah uniform; sometimes a Khaliji gallabiya and khufia head-scarf, sometimes a Hassaballah type outfit (decorated military formal uniform).  In this case he wears a Hassaballah uniform.
 
At 1:11 the start of the Firqit Zeffah style the mizmar welcomes the bridal couple and the drums also joins the fanfare.  Normally (and in this case as well) the mizmar musician wears a countryside gallabiya and neck-scarf.  The Firqit Zeffah wears a uniform specific to their group.  Usually it is a jacket or vest, shirt and pants. Occasionally their uniform almost looks like a colorful sports warm-up outfit.  Popular colors are white, gold, red and black.  This Firqah wears white shirt and pants, with a gold vest.
 
In this Zeffah the Firqah is standing as in a normal Zeffah; the two lines facing each other with space in between.  But in this Zeffah the family members were not in their ritual positions.
 
At 1:50 the bride and groom are encouraged to dance while the band plays a dance tune and rhythm.  Very often the bride and groom don’t dance in their Zeffah, most of the time they don’t dance immediately.  At 2:05 they are joined by their bridesmaids and groomsmen who do a “dance of joy”, in this case forming a circle around the bridal couple while clapping.  At 3:40 they are joined by two men, one of which is playing the sagat (finger cymbals).  This is very unusual, as the Zeffat al ‘Arusah is normally a female ritual.  At 4:30 a young woman joins the dancers and dances with the bride, later the bride is joined by another young women.  This often happens, women dancing together, again dancing the “dance of joy” (including holding hands, making a circle, clapping, a bouncy step-together-step, informal arm movements, no concentration on hip-work, not showing off).
 
At 4:55 the video camera pans the drummers; muzhar (large frame drums with cymbals), riq (frame drums), conga drums, and one tablah who is the leader of the percussion.  At 6:42 the groom brings in a female family member, the way they dance and congratulate each other, she is either his mother or a family woman in that role.  There are also two men who might be their fathers, but normally it is only the mothers who dance.
At 8:30 the muzhar drummers do positions such as 2 lines coming together, and 4 musicians holding up the muzhar up over the bride and groom.
 
At 9:30 the Firqah  transitions into the iqa zeffah (rhythm of the zeffah) ; the mizmar trills to emulate and encourage zaghareet. Then the drummers play the iqa zeffah which the ritual rhythm of the wedding procession.  All stop dancing, the bride takes the groom’s arm and they process down the stairs to the wedding song “Mabrouk Alayki” (“Congratulations to you”).
 
The Firqit Zeffah gets into position downstairs, at 11:49 the music transitions into dance music and at 12:52, with the change in camera angle, one can see that they are dancing once again.
 
To read more about Firqit Zeffah and the Zeffat al ‘Arusah please join our newsletter (on the left hand sidebar) to receive our free e-book, Zeffat al ‘Arusah – A Primer. What was your favorite part of the “Traditional Egyptian Wedding Cairo”? Head over to Facebook to tell us, or leave a comment below.

Sahra C. Kent

Sahra C. Kent

Sahra is a dancer, teacher, and dance ethnologist of over 20 years. She travels the world teaching workshops on a variety of subjects, along with her course series - Journey Through Egypt.

4 Comments

  • Mellydance

    Wonderful, thank you!

    January 25, 2014 - at 9:44 pm Reply
  • Khalisah

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. It really helped explain what Zeffa is and what it looks like. Thanks!

    January 27, 2014 - at 5:25 pm Reply
  • Deborah Newberg

    Love it! Thank you! Looking forward to JtE 1 in Denver!

    January 27, 2014 - at 5:26 pm Reply
  • gpen

    It’s an amazing piece of writing for all the web users; they
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    September 5, 2014 - at 2:34 am Reply

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