A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

Swordplay: The Movement Style of Al-Ababeda

Issue 9
Swordplay: The Movement Style of Al-Ababeda

Sameer Jaber (Egypt)

This paper focuses on tribes called Al-Ababeda, grandsons of Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubayr, the prominent Arab sahabi in Islamic Caliphate. Al-Ababeda lived in Egypt and Sudan, where they occupied the Eastern Sahara bounded by the line that connects Safaja with Qana on the north, the Red Sea on the east, Nile Valley on the west, and administrative borderlines on the south. Al-Ababeda settled in Qana, Quos, Luxor, Arment, Esna, Edfo, and Kom Embo east of the Nile, Aswan and the region of Nubia in the south of Egypt. Mixed tribes of Al- Ababeda and Al-Basharia, who are descendants of Al-Beejah, live in Eastern Sahara. Al-Ababeda is divided into five groups: Al-Ashabab, Al-Faqra, Al-Maleekab, Al- Shanateer and Al-Uboodi-een tribes. The majority of Al-Ababeda who live north of Aswan (the research area) belongs to Al- Ashabab. There are no regions exclusively designated to a certain tribe as they often, according to their life style, move to regions which had been previously settled by their Ababeda fellows, no matter the group, to which they belong. Among the customs and traditions of Al- Ababeda is their celebration of weddings and the birth of a child, for which they slaughter animals and prepare a feast. They also celebrate the circumcision of boys, where the night entertainer plays only on the mandolin after dinner. Al-Ababeda do not usually use rhythmic instruments; rather, they keep rhythm by beating a sword on a leather shield while clapping hands and stomping the ground with their feet in a national dance called At-Tarbala (Swordplay). Al- Ababeda and Al-Basharia perform dances that are similar. For example An-Nameem, At-Tarbala and Al-Hoseeb differ from each other only in the method of execution. At-Tarbala can also be performed in groups for a long time. Dancers alternate taking a short break to listen to the mandolin, to watch others dance the An-Nameem and to drink traditional coffee. Also during the break, the sword and leather shield are prepared for individual swordplay, in which the dancer demonstrates his skill. The groom is invited during the wedding ceremony to participate in the individual swordplay, an act considered to be the climactic moment of excitement, where men clap hands and stomp their feet, and women trill cries of joy and happiness..

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