Dabke (Arabic: دبكة; also transliterated as debke, dabka, and dabkeh) is the traditional folk dance of the Levant, going back generations, and is also the national dance of Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan, it's found also in Iraq there quite often under the colloquial term (Chobi).

It is danced by men, women, or both, with different steps and different rhythms being more common in different areas of the Middle East. Dabke is a dance of community, often performed at weddings and other joyous occasions. Like other folk dances of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Armenia, and Eastern Europe, dabke is a line dance.

However, it is also a dance of solidarity and a way of expressing nationalism and the age-old presence of art and culture in a positive way. The Dabke leader is supposed to be like a tree, with arms in the air, a proud and upright trunk, and feet that stomp the ground in rhythm, emphasizing their connection to their land. The meaning of "dabke" in Arabic is "stomping of the feet", and stomping, as well as jumping and kicking, are moves that characterize the dabke in a unique manner. The leader, called raas (meaning "head") or "lawwih" (meaning "waver"), is allowed to improvise on the type of dabke being danced, and he or she would also be twirling a handkerchief or string of beads known as a masbha (similar to a rosary), while the rest of the dancers keep the rhythm. The dancers also use vocalizations to show energy and to punctuate the rhythm. Many learn dabke as children, while others perform it as part of professional dance troupes. Dabke was popularized and modernized during the Twentieth Century by Lebanese composers Assi and Mansour Rahbani and singers like Zaki Nassif, Fairuz, Wadih el Safi, and Nasri Shamseddine and sooner by Wafik Habib and Ali el Dik, all who performed at the legendary Baalbek Festival. This was held at the ancient Roman temples of Baalbek, Lebanon. Some famous performers of various troupes in Lebanon included Alain Merheb, Kigham, and Hassan Harfouche. Lebanon's most famous dabke troupe was the Firkat el Arz. Some internationally famous dabke troupes today include Ibdaa, Sareyyet Ramallah, and El-Funoun, all based in Palestine.


There are several theories on its origin, none which are well documented. Since the Middle East was under various Turkic dynasties for many centuries, it is possible that the Turks introduced it, since most Middle Eastern cultures with line dancing were under their rule. However, it is more likely though that the relatively new Turks were influenced by the Assyrians, Kurds, Greeks, Arabs and Armenians given the fact that their cultures are more ancient and prevalent in the Middle East. However, the Turks may have received the dance from the Gypsies (or vice versa) since most instruments affiliated with the dabke are also affiliated with Gypsies, particularly the Ghajar and Nawar tribes who populate the Middle East: buzuk, tabl, mijwiz, mizmar, nay, kamanja, rababa, derbekkeh and bagpipe. Some popular dabke songs, like Ala Ain Moulayiteen have Turkish Gypsy counterparts (Shashkin is its name in Turkish). It may also have influenced North Indian dancing.

World records

In 2007, Palestinian Arabs in the city of Acre broke the world record for the longest dabke dance. A human chain of 2,743 people danced the dabke for seven minutes straight in Acre's Old City, breaking the previous record of 1,700 set in Toronto.


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