H is for Hair
As little girls we revel in brushing each other’s hair, the longer the locks the better. We smooth, pat, style and drape it behind our ears. Hair feels lovely between our fingers. As little girls, we style our mother’s hair. And mother’s put bows on an infant’s head, often even before she has hair!
In the Arabian Gulf states, hair is a woman’s most precious feature. Rarely cut, hair is seen as a girl (or women’s) pride so it remains long and well-cared for.
At adolescence, young women hide their hair. It’s only for a brother, a father or husband to view. They wear a sheyla to cover it and indicate their modesty.
Traditionally, the head covering is black to match the overdress, or abiyah. But even in the more conservative college where I taught, young women were changing things up a bit and chose to wear colored sheylas, such as this one.
In the United Arab Emirates, there is a performance that features a young girl’s long tresses. It’s called “The Hair Dance.” A traditional dance of folklore, it’s performed by groups of young girls during national holidays, weddings and engagements – usually at girls’ schools or women’s clubs. But the girls also danced in public at our women’s college during on December 2 each year for the National Day holiday. However, in Saudi Arabia, the girls would never dance in public.
But the dance really only involves moving three parts of their bodies – shaking their shoulders and upper body, their hips ( a little bit) and their head. The dance is noted for their ability to beguile the audience with their long hair, sweeping it back and forth to the beat of local instruments. These performances charm everyone. I certainly always enjoyed watching it.
The girls form two lines and sometimes they break off into partners and they mirror each other’s movements. When each of them is sweeping her hair back and forth at the same time as every other girl, I find it adorable. They look so proud of themselves. I loved to watch my students’ little sisters dance. It’s so much a part of their culture.
The dresses are beautiful with sequins sewn into them. This photo above doesn’t show the brilliance of their dresses. I found a short video clip I want to share with you.
Most of these little girls are dressed in the colors depicting the Emirati flag. Here, I love it how the girls aren’t really in unison. They’re just having so much fun!
The boys begin to dance “the cane dance,” in the middle of the clip while the girls continue to dance the hair dance.
From a very young age, girls learn how important hair is to them. Those with the longest hair are given the honor of performing the “solo” part of the dance. These little girls grow up learning that dance is one of the accepted activities women can participate in. By the time they are young women and attending the college, they dance at every opportunity – in front of other women. I remember chaperoning bus trips. Shortly after we took off, they drew the curtains, cranked up the music and danced in the aisles or in their seats and sang along with the music, which, more likely than not, would be Egyptian songs.
Do you have a preference in length of hair? Did you grow up with any traditional views on it? How much and on what occasion do you dance?
You have just read, “H is for Hair,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright April 9, 2015. You can see who else is participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.