Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Whirling Dervishes of Cairo, Egypt: An amazing performance!

We visited the Whirling Dervishes last month.  Watching the Whirling Dervishes in an ancient castle-like building in Cairo was an amazing experience.  The dancing was mezmorizing, the music haunting and beautiful, and the colors and other worldliness quality about it unforgetable.  The shows are even free with several shows per week.  We went with our 6 year old and he really enjoyed it too.

The dancing is a religious event, in addition to being very entertaining.  One branch of Islam is called Sufism and Sufis believe that the twirling dance which puts them in a trance-like state, is a way to leave your body, have mental focus and be closer to God (Allah).  The founder of the Whirling Dervishes was a man named Jelaluddin Rumi, an Afghan, born in 1207.  It is said that Rumi met a 'wandering dervish' in the road and said, "What I had thought of before as God, I met today in a person."   Rumi founded the Mevlevi Order of dervishes, also called the Whirling Dervishes of Sufism. 

Here is a poem from the founder of the Whirling Dervishes, Rumi. The poem is called "Art as Flirtation and Surrender".

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.

Other poems and more history about Rumi can be found at this web link:

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I found one online source ( that offered these interesting historical meanings of the words "Whirling Dervishes".

'The followers of this Sufi sect used to always wear wool garments over their bare skin. Hence, the term Sufi is derived from the word "suf", which in Arabic means "wool". However, some believe that the term Sufi comes from the word, "sophos", which means "wisdom" in the Greek language. On the other hand, the word Dervish comes from the Persian word "Darwish" which can be translated as "on the still of the door". It implies that the Sufi are at the door of enlightenment."

Here is the link to this video:

Logistics about the Whirling Dervishes:

If you would like to visit the Whirling Dervishes, they perform a couple times a week at an ancient stone building not far from the Khan El Kahlili market.  We walked to market after the performance and it was about a 10-15 minute walk.  We took a cab to get there from Tahrir Square, about a 10-15 Egyptian pound cab ride (about 15 minutes I think).  One online source said the location was called El Ghory, Sharia Al Azhar and that the nearest metro is Al Sayeda Zeinab.  The show is free and lasts between an hour and an hour and a half.  It can be very popular so I've heard it's good to get there early. 

Below is a photo of us with our Egyptian friend, Mahmoud, who brought us to see the Whirling Dervishes.  His friend is one of the dervishes.  After the performance we went to a cafe in the Khan El Khalili market called El Fishaway, a cafew that has been open nonstop for 400+ years.  The market was buzzing because it was a holiday, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed's son.  The mosque next to the market was draped in colored holiday lights and the feeling in the street was very festive.
One last video for any family and friends following this blog:  here's our signing duo playing guitars, Cameron's 'guitar' being something he put together with his erector set. 
Here's a link to this video:

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