There are several types of dances, most of which have many styles and variations. Dances can differ depending on the culture, geographic region, time period and type or style.

Raks or Raqs (pronounced “rocks”) translates to “dance”

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General Types of Dances

Most Arabic dances fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Line Dance
  2. Circle Dance
  3. Women’s Dance
  4. Men’s Dance
  5. Ceremonial Dance

Line Dancing

  • Line dances are danced by both men and women
  • Generally the sexes do not dance together although in some regions they do dance simultaneously
  • Example: Debkah

Circle Dancing

  • Circle dances are danced by both men and women
  • Generally the sexes do not dance together although in some regions they do dance simultaneously
  • One example is dancing with a circle of women inside a circle of men or vice versa.
  • These dances vary widely from region to region and often the dancers sing while dancing.

Women’s Dancing

  • Can involve one woman dancing alone or several women dancing simultaneously
  • Styles, costume, accessories, and message of the dance can vary across regions

Men’s Dancing

  • The men’s dance consists of both religious(i.e. Sufi) and war or battle dances
  • These are done both in groups or in solo format.

Ceremonial Dancing

Certain dances have ties to religion or are danced for certain ceremonies. These may share elements from the above types of dances or even be classified in one of the above categories.


Dances can also be classified as:

  1. Folk Dances or
  2. Performance Art

A Folk dance is a style of dance that originated among ordinary people and is traditional to their culture, community, or country. Examples include Raks Baladi, Raks al Assaya, Raks al Shemadan, Schikhatt, Guedra, Debke and Raks Al Nasha�ar.

Performance art is a form of theatrical art, usually on a �stage� that features the activity/works of an artist. Examples include Raks Sharki, Oryantal Tansi, Belly Dance, Fusion and American Tribal Style.

Just as with music, there are different views that Muslims have about dancing. To some, there should be no dancing at all. They see music and dancing as moving toward sin. To others, folk dancing just between men or just between women is fine, but not between mixed couples or in front of the opposite sex. They also would criticise dancing as is popular with youth in the United States, for example, as very wrong and too sexy. Others have no objection to watching professional dancers, but “good Muslims” would not do that. And in contrast, some Muslims saw music and dancing as a way to become closer to Allah. Throughout the history of Islam, there have been times of greater acceptance or rejection of dance.

Introducing the Different Arabic Dances

Below you will find a brief description of several Arabic dances. This list is not comprehensive.


  • Dabke (Arabic: دبكة; also transliterated as dabka, debke, and dabkeh) and means “stamping of the feet.”
  • is the national folk dance of Lebanon
  • is also very prominent in Palestine, Syria, and Jordan.
  • is also danced in parts of Eqypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
  • is a line dance, but at times can be formed into a semi-circle.
  • is a dance of community, often performed at weddings and other joyous occasions such as family parties or competitions
  • has a leader called raas (“head”) or lawweeh (“waver”). The leader would be in the front of the line or out of the line alternating face to face to the audience and the other dabke dancers. The leader may also twirl a handkerchief or a string of beads known as a masbha.
  • dancers also use vocalizations to show energy and keep up the beat. They also hold hands.
  • usually begins with everyone doing a basic 1-2-3 step before the song kicks in. The dance itself can involve forward stomps, simple progressive steps, repeated knee bends a combined leap and kick, and the marking of a rhythmic pattern with one foot.
  • there are different styles of Dabke. For example, in Palestine you can find the samaliyyah and sarawiyyah - which have six measure phrases - and the qurradiyyah which has square phrases (of four or eight measures).

An impromptu Dabke dance in Syria