Khaleegy (dance)

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Arab girls dancing Khaleegy dance

Khaleegy or Khaliji (from Arabic خليج) is a mixture of modern style and traditional folkloric dance from the Persian Gulf, Arabic peninsula and the countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The name of the dance literally means “gulf” in Arabic and it is danced by local women in weddings and other social events. Recently it has become very popular among belly dancers.

Saudi-Kuwait singer Shams dances Iraqi style for moments by moving her hair from side to side, back and forth, in circle and making other figures, similar to Khaleegy dance style.


The traditional costume for khaleegy is composed of 2 pieces or dresses. The bottom or shift dress is molded to the figure and is made of a sturdier fabric than the top dress. It is usually not adorned or embroidered and when it is, the ornaments are very simple. The colors often contrast with the ones of the top dress to create nice color combinations. The top dress is a long, wide, rectangular tunic-like dress called a thobe. It is traditionally made of sheer to create a translucent effect and let a hint of the shift dress be seen, it is heavily embroidered from the center and the extreme wide shoulder parts with beads, yarn embroidery or anything shiny. The neckline is also beautifully ornamented. The Thobe can be any color, but very bright solid tones are the most used. Additional accessories for the costume include necklaces, bracelets, big shiny earrings and the most important one: the woman´s long and well cared hair. It is danced barefoot.

Composition and meaning of the dance[edit]

Khaleegy is a joyful, lively, expressive, gestural and delicate dance performed in events involving happiness and celebration (like weddings). Women dance in complicity and it is often started with one of them standing alone in the dance floor to begin the dance, and then the others join her. The main movements of Khaleegy are done in a very feminine and rhythmical way. The main body parts involved in the dance are the hands, the head and the thobe itself; dancers move it to create undulating figures resembling the sea waves. The hands also make figures with different meanings: representing sea creatures like fish or turtles or they also can represent feelings. The hair, apart from the thobe is the main element used to dance Khaleegy: women let their long hair “dance” moving it from side to side, back and forth, in circle and making other figures. The meaning of this dance is related to the sea and water (because of the Persian Gulf and fishing) another of the objectives of Khaleegy is showing the region´s beauty, richness and the importance of petroleum.


Khaleegy is often danced to traditional Saudi music. The most used rhythms are Adani (from the Arabian Peninsula, original from Yemen) and Nagazy. The songs have lyrics and a good dancer must know their meaning in order to express the real significance of the song in their dance. Music is accompanied with the sound of palms.


  1. "Khaleegy". Sakkara. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  2. "Arabic dances". Otrasdanzas. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  3. "Modalities". Danza Árabe. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2013.