The rock-strewn deserts and bare mountains of Sinai hold some of the most inhospitable places on earth, but for the Bedouin who live there these are the lands of their people and inseparable from the tales of heroes and heroines from the distant past, stories where water is the greatest blessing, where wealth is reckoned in animals, and the most beautiful and precious things in all the world are the red, yellow, and blue flowers which bloom after the desert rains, for only these treasures - far, far rarer than gold - should be given to the girl of one’s dreams.
Members of the company dancing in Liverpool, Leeds, London, Newcastle, Newport, Rotherham, and Salford. Choreography for Funoon by Joanne Town. Photos: Jo Hirons
The ancient oasis town of Siwa lies almost on Egypt's Libyan border, and even today may only be reached by travelling through miles of seemingly uninhabited desert. Just as it was when visited by Alexander the Great, who came there in 332BC seeking wisdom from the Oracle of Amun, Siwa is still a Berber town, but for many centuries now the surrounding sands have been home to the Awlad Ali Bedouin. Bedouin are tribal people of the deserts and the mountains, who belong to no country and to no city, and who now find themselves scattered across the map of the modern world. Though many have now given up their traditional nomadic lifestyle they proudly mark the calendar with family and tribal festivals, and no wedding or celebration of any sort is thought complete if it lacks for songs and stories and dancing.
Credits: Susie White and Ya Raqs brought their joyful Bedouin dances to Funoon for the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival in July 2014. Unfortunately, due to a backstage technical crisis, we didn't manage to make a photographic record of their performance. These images are all screen-grabs taken from the stage-side video.
For nearly 800 years, the Moors - Arab and Berber princes from North Africa - ruled the cities of Southern Spain and at times governed almost the whole of the Iberian peninsula. Although it was always a time of war and of great change, it was also the Golden Age of legend for then there was an accord between the faiths, and poetry, music, and the arts flourished.
In the 1970s, Egypt’s Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy brought the Golden Age of Al Andalus back to the stage in imagined medieval dances, using muwashahat, traditional songs of love and longing, as their inspiration.
Credits: This beautiful dance began the tour in Liverpool as a solo for Beverley Smith, became a trio for Leeds with Romy, and then as a duet for Karen and Jess became the emotional heartbeat of shows in London, Newcastle, Newport, Rotherham, and Salford. Costumes by Baladi Bazaar (Beverley Smith). Photos: Jo Hirons