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The Tannoura Show at Wekalet el Ghouri

Wekalet el Ghouri is an old caravamserai dating back to 1503. It’s Khanqah hall is now a cultural center hosting events such as the Tannoura performances. The hall is a large open space surrounded by 3 story walls. The upper floors were once shops, workshops, and rooms for merchant travelers.

The Egyptian sufi dance troupe, El Tannour Troupe for the Cultural Heritage, puts on a fascinating show of music and dance with lots of spinning and tricks with colorful skirts! I have seen the show on different trips to Cairo; yet enjoy it a bit more each time. The first time, 2000, I was lucky to be in the company of Egyptian dancer Nadia Hamdi. Even thought my friend and I were there one hour before the show, people were being turned away! Nadia and her sister were able to convince the doorkeeper to allow the two of us to enter – oh, the benefit of being with a famous local! This past trip, I assume because there are so few tourists in Egypt, entrance to the show was not as difficult and our group was lead right in.

The show starts with musicians on traditional instruments: tablah, Tar, mizmar, sagat (brass finger cymbals) with songs and chants, swaying and spinning in white galabeyas around the stage. Then drum solos and a call and response between a drummer and the sagat player. This is one of my favorite parts of the show for the sagat musician is a master and a character! Next comes the tannoura dancers spinning and manipulating large colorful circular skirts over their galabeyas. They start slow and build up to a frenzy! The drums and chants are mesmerizing, too!

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