Day 8  of  The A to Z  Blogging Challenge

H is for Hair

Nieces having just done up their hair for an afternoon of fun.
My niece and great nieces having just done up their hair for an afternoon of fun.

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!

Some women in the Gulf wear a more modern sheyla.
Some women in the Gulf wear a more modern sheyla.

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.

The Arabian Hair Dance is often performed for national holidays by young girls.
The Arabian Hair Dance is often performed for national holidays by young girls.

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.

H is for Hair
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15 thoughts on “H is for Hair

  • April 10, 2015 at 3:58 am

    Did not know about it at all.

    BTW beautiful picture of your niece with your grand nieces 🙂

  • April 10, 2015 at 3:59 am

    This was a fascinating story. I had never heard of the hair dance.
    As for me and my hair, well, it has been a long time since I tried to let my hair grow long. I have curly hair and my hair tends to become tall, instead of long. After a while, I just look like shrubbery in need of pruning! My sisters all had long hair, which I desperately wanted, but never succeeded in growing.
    Although I’ve never done a hair dance, I do enjoy dancing. I do zumba exercise twice a week and, in the fall, I am going to start taking tap dancing classes.
    Thank you for your really interesting post, Amy.

  • April 10, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Thank you, Amnol.:)

  • April 10, 2015 at 5:49 am

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    Another 30-35% of Linalool from terpene alcohol in lavender helps to stimulate the immune system and relieve discomfort.

  • April 10, 2015 at 8:15 am

    I hadn’t realized how much of a preference I have until recently when my daughter said she was thinking of cutting her long hair short. It is, of course, her choice but I really like her long hair.

  • April 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Dear Alice,
    You are so welcome! Ha ha! I love your description–like shrubbery in need of a pruning! i have a tough time growing long hair, too. When mine gets long, it just goes limp! I have very fine hair. It’s also has some natural curl and I have to go with that. It looks fuller short. My brothers and sister all have thick hair. 🙂 Your zumba exercise sounds fun and tap dancing, wow!
    I will be checking out your post on history!
    Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts.

  • April 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    What an interesting and beautiful tradition! I had long hair most of my life, and even into my middle-aged adult years, until just a few years ago. All three of my daughters also had long hair until they got older and decided to get shorter haircuts for the sake of convenience. My youngest used to have the longest hair, though, as it was past her bottom. I did enjoy brushing and styling it back in those days!

  • April 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Rhonda,
    I know! You get accustomed to seeing someone a certain way and thinking of them with a different hair style is difficult!
    I know exactly what you mean. I love my nieces with their long hair!
    Thanks so much for taking time to read my post and share your comment.

  • April 11, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you, K. Lee!
    It must have seemed strange after you cut your hair (at least in the beginning) after having it that length for such a long time! Both my nieces love to style their kids’ hair. I don’t think I’d ever be good at that!! But I love to see them in braids and different styles!
    Thanks so much for taking time to comment!

  • April 11, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Thank you for taking time out to read it, S.L.! So glad you enjoyed it!

  • April 11, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    What a fun post to read.. And sometimes so much religious feelings connected to the hair.. Happy to discover your blog. Good luck on the rest of AtoZ from a fellow participant:-)

  • April 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you, Eli!
    Yes, you’re so right about the upkeep and hair in general having religious connections!
    I’m loving the challenge! Thank you for stopping by! Will definitely visit your blog!

  • April 18, 2015 at 2:43 am

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks so much for reading about the hair dance and taking the time to comment!
    Come back and check out some more travel adventures and customs.

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