“Tanoura is Sleeping!”

Exploring an Ancient Whirling Ritual in Cairo

by Laurel Victoria Gray

For a dervish, there must be a purpose,

a cause for existence, and inside the cause,

a True Human Being.

Jelaluddin Rumi1

Mumkin? Itnen?” I asked holding up two fingers and shamelessly fluttering my eyelashes.

The doorkeeper only shook his head and looked away. Dagmar, an exquisite Oriental dancer from Berlin, stood with me and a group of frustrated tourists who had also been prevented from entering. They argued with him, begging to be let into the performance. Dagmar commented that she was sure that at that moment the doorkeeper must have been the unhappiest man in Cairo.

From the other side of the door, we could hear the energetic strains of “Salaam Aley” pouring into the foyer of the Gouriya Palace. I decided that this surely must be one of the torments of Hell, to be locked out of a performance but permitted to hear the music. The door cracked open and another head popped out. I caught the eye of the man and repeated my flirtatious plea for two seats. He saw me, but ducked back into the performance hall.

It seemed odd that I would be so frantic to get in. I had seen many performances of tanoura (the Egyptian “whirling dervish” dance) on video and always considered it to be a theatricalized, circus version of the elegant ritual of the Turkish Sufis. The brightly colored skirts, often twirled off of the waist and above the dancer’s head, seemed to me to be an example of “airport art”—traditional folklore twisted into a consumer product for tourists.

Yes, the Turkish sema, as the turning ritual is properly called, is quite different from the Egyptian tanoura. Years ago, in graduate school, my Turkish friends asked me to organize publicity for a Turkish Festival at the University of Washington. They had arranged an exciting and multifaceted event featuring music, dance, crafts and art. But the highlight was to be an appearance by a “whirling dervish” group based in Canada, which would present a formal sema.

On the night of the event, 700 people crowded into the large gym. Everyone sat on the floor. Children squirmed and babies cried. Everyone talked. Then, after a brief explanation, the ceremony began, slow and stately, with participants robed in black. The ritual walk and bows seemed boring to some in the audience: “When are they going to start spinning?” students whispered. A group of superb musicians performed the regal, dignified music. Dr. Ali Jihad Racy played nay, a reed flute expressing the divine breath of all creation and whose sounds were believed to open up the heart. The music seemed to calm the restless members of the public and they fell silent, relaxing and watching things unfold.

Finally, the dervishes dropped their robes and began to spin. The full, weighted skirts of their garments—the symbolic white of a death shroud—began to open and the entire room was literally filled with light. The stark black husks of the dark robes fell to the ground and luminous white roses blossomed before our eyes. It was as if someone had turned on all the lights in the room. We were enlightened.

At the end of the ritual, I noticed that the babies had long since stopped crying. The adults had stopped fidgeting. And my friend, who had been going through a deep personal trauma, mentioned that she did not once think of her troubles throughout the ceremony. We all felt light of heart. Yes, enlightened.

This then, had been my experience of “whirling dervishes.” The measured pace of the ritual, the stark contrast of black and white, the stately music—all shared little resemblance to the gaudy costumes and flamboyant tricks of the Egyptian tanoura.

While living in Uzbekistan, I had participated in another Sufi ritual, a women’s devran zikr held in Kokand. These ceremonies, dedicated to the remembrance of God, proved profoundly emotional and personal. The experience was cathartic but never intended as a performance. The television crew that filmed us seemed an intrusion, a desecration, but the director insisted that it was necessary since the tradition was dying out. After the ritual, the elderly women surrounded me, singing, “We the old kalenders, greet you, the young kalender.”

Kalendera wandering dervish. Odd that they should give me such a name. The kalender was a mystic who sought a higher morality. These peripatetic figures usually announced their arrival in a new town or village “with a fanfare of flags, flutes, drums, and tambourines,” but, as far as I knew, never with television crews. “As a type of vagrant holy man, the kalender came to replace the shaman in the religious life of the Turkish tribal and village community.”2 The dervish, then, was a descendent of the pre-Islamic shaman of Central Asia.

With these experiences of Sufi rituals in mind I was surprised to feel so compelled to see this Cairo performance. Stunned and disappointed at the doorkeeper’s refusal, I reluctantly walked out of the building. I knew I was supposed to be on the other side of that door. “I can’t believe it,” I began to complain to Dagmar, when a man suddenly appeared, beckoning us back into the anteroom. He opened the door and let us inside, finding Dagmar a place to sit. I remained standing so I could see better.

The live music filled the room and the audience was completely enraptured. Energy flew back and forth between the performers and the crowd, which was mainly comprised of foreigners. No wonder the video taped performances had left me cold; our modern technologies are inadequate tools for capturing magic. Instead of relying on a camera, I engraved this evening upon my heart.

At the Ghouria Palace, Cairo, 1999. Note the crossed bands on the men’s costumes. Photo: Dagmar Boethe

I was transfixed. The unrestrained, folkloric purity of the music intoxicated. A group of men, dressed in long white galabiyas, moved in unison to the rhythms. At times they moved forward and back in a line, like waves crashing against the shore. Sometimes they traveled in a circle, all the time accompanying themselves on the riq, or tambourine. My eyes were repeatedly drawn to a tall man playing a pair of sagat the size of saucers. He used the finger cymbals to create intricate syncopations against the driving, dominant rhythms while striking elegant postures that were oddly familiar. Sometimes, he balanced on one leg, crossing the other foot in front. His posture and control were perfect.

Suddenly, the centuries evaporated and I recognized the pose from the ancient Egyptian depictions of dance I had been studying. I continued to watch the sagat player throughout the performance, deciding that he also seemed to be the lead dancer; the others appeared to take their cues from him. Even the dancers’ clothing had a reminiscent element of old Egypt in the crisscross of the garment piece worn on top of the galabiya. In ancient times, the male dancers had been bare chested, yet often wore a crossed sash on the upper torso.

This, after all, is why I had come to Cairo—to continue research for “Egypta,” my full-length concert work depicting the myth and history of ancient Egypt. Frustrated by the stilted, gold-lamé clad renditions of so-called “pharaonic” dance, I had renewed my childhood fascination with the land of the Nile, promising to bring the joy and passions of the old Egyptians to the stage. “Egypta” had premiered in Berlin in 1996 to excellent reviews and had been performed in another production there in 1997. But still I was unsatisfied and planned an expanded, American production of the piece. This trip would provide fresh inspiration.

Was this really a remnant of the ancient Egyptian dance that I was seeing? At times the men moved in groups, lifting their knees, sweeping forward as one. This is what I believed some of the old ritual dances to be like. Finding analogues in surviving traditional rituals, such as the Corn Dance of Santa Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico, I recalled that such dances required unison movements as the entire community focused on a single shared goal. Everyone, from the oldest man and woman to the youngest boy and girl, dressed identically, according to gender. And in the Corn Dance, the dancers had been able to summon rain clouds. Did the ancient Egyptians combine their energies to ensure the flooding of the Nile?

During the evening, two different soloists presented the tanoura, and while their exuberant energy was a complete contrast from the contained solemnity of the Turkish sema, Spirit was present here as well. When the performance finally ended, every person in the room was enraptured.

“Please, Dagmar, do you mind waiting? I need to speak with the dancers.” Gracious as ever, Dagmar nodded and allowed me, her wayward traveling companion, to once again head off in an unexpected direction.

I approached the man whom I had identified as the lead dancer. He called over a young man in his twenties to assist with translation.

“Thank you so much, I really enjoyed your performance.” He smiled the automatic smile of one who hears such compliments on a regular basis, but then I asked a question to which I already knew the answer: “Do women ever do this dance?” When he nodded in the affirmative, I asked if he would be willing to teach me. His expression now changed and for a moment I thought he would refuse. In the cultures of the East, study is not merely a commercial transaction; the teacher does not always accept the pupil. This is all the more so in cases of sacred learning. But he nodded in the affirmative and we discussed the specifics of arranging lessons. I left the Gouriya Palace walking on clouds. Little did I suspect that I had just signed up for Sufi boot camp.

Lessons began punctually. It was obvious that my teachers took this quite seriously. Adil, the sagat virtuouso and lead dancer, sat and watched while the younger Hassan instructed me. At first I found this strange, since Adil was obviously the senior, but then realized that Adil controlled the entire lesson. They took me through a series of special exercises to prepare for the turning. Then I realized that they had misunderstood my request. I had wanted to learn the dances the men had done as a group—not the spin. “No,” I was told, “that can come later. You must learn to turn.” I would receive not what I wanted, but what I needed.

Adil gave the orders. He observed me carefully to see if I seemed dangerously close to spinning out of control. When that would happen, he immediately stopped me. But first he changed my name.

“No, you don’t look like Laurel. You look like Noura.” And from then on I became Noura— from the word nour or “light”—although I had a sneaking suspicion that the rest of my name was “al magnouna”—the mad one.

Hassan looked at me sternly. “You must forget you are a woman. Tanoura is dangerous man.”

Dangerous man. Now what does that mean?

I decided he was trying to clarify the quality of movements he expected from me and to make sure I did not confuse this in any way with raqs sharqi. There should be no feminine softness. This was not “spiritual danse orientale” but a different category of specialized movement altogether.

“What does the word tanoura mean?” I asked. Here we ran into difficulties. It soon became apparent that the term, like the word guedra, had several meanings. Just as guedra can refer to the dance, it can also mean the woman who performs the dance and, finally, it is the name for the cauldron on which traditionally the beat is kept. The same was true of tanoura. It was the weighted skirt of the dancers, the term used for the person who performed it and the name of the dance itself. But when I asked the origin of the word tanoura, they could not answer me. Tanoura. Could it be related to the word nour? It made sense when I remembered the wonderful sense of light brought by the Turkish sema.

But then I realized that I held a piece of the puzzle. I remembered that word for the full, weighted skirt worn by the Turkish dervish, or semazen, was called “tennure.” Could tanoura be the Arabized form of tennure? (I was wrong. Tennure is actually of Arabic origin.) But then Adil told me that tanoura had been introduced to Egypt by the Fatimids. Originating in Syria, the Fatimids claimed descent through the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima from whom the dynasty derived its name. In 969, they captured the Egyptian city, which they named al-Qahira —“the triumphant.” With their capital now in Cairo, the Fatimids brought with them traditions from east of Egypt.

This information about the Fatimid origins of the tanoura puzzled me: I had wrongly assumed that the Turks had introduced the turning practice when they conquered Egypt under Sultan Selim I in 1516. Like many, I had associated the whirling dervishes with the great Sufi poet and teacher, Jalaleddin Rumi. According to tradition, Rumi had learned the turn from Shems-al-Tabrizi, the elusive figure who inspired his poetry. This ritual would become the hallmark of the Mevlevi Sufi Order.

Born in 1207 in what is now Balkh, Afghanistan, Rumi’s father fled westward into present-day Turkey with his family in the wake of the Mongol hordes. And a good thing, too. Balkh, once known as the Mother of Cities, became a huge ghost town after the armies of Ghengis Khan destroyed it. At the time, the area of Konya, Turkey, was called “Rum,” since it was the easternmost outpost of the old Roman Empire. The poet later became known as “Rumi,” indicating his place of residence.

But the Fatimids were earlier than Rumi and Genghis Khan. When and where did this tradition really begin? Sufism, sometimes described as Islamic mysticism, has deep roots in the past. It exists in many variations, and some contemporary interpretations of Sufism take it beyond a Muslim context altogether. One tradition traces it to Hassan al-Basri (d. 728) who received the teachings from Ali, who in turn had learned from the Prophet Muhammad.

Not until around the 12th century did the Sufi orders begin to become institutionalized, many of the first ones originating in Central Asia. One of these groups is the Naqshabandi sect. The tomb of their founding saint, Khazreti Mohammad Bakhuaddin Naqshbandi, is located in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. He encouraged people to seek perfection through good work instead of withdrawing from the world into a life of contemplation: “Give your hands to work and your soul to God.” Naqshbandi believed that the best way to serve God is to have a good heart. If you have that, God will shine into the world through your heart.”3

And there was yet another Central Asia connection. Years ago I had stumbled across a curious reference linking the famous Uzbek wall hangings, or suzaneh, with Sufi teaching. In his travels to research various dervish sects, Omar M. Burke had been given a suzaneh from Bukhara, decorated with many-petaled flowers on a maroon background. The giver explained that, while not truly magical, the hanging belonged to “another realm of human action and thought” which could have a certain environmental effect on him if he placed it in his living space. And there was more to it:

…there is another range of environmental effects. The ancients knew them. This tapestry is not only the product of a certain kind of thought, but it is a pattern of it. It could communicate with the equivalent in your mind. The same with other objects. It is this knowledge, and no mere superstition, which is the foundation for the folklore beliefs.4

The passage captured my attention since I had a modest collection of suzaneh and I puzzled over their hidden meaning. Then, at an exhibition of suzaneh at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., I realized that one of the pieces looked like an overhead depiction of the sema, and the flowers were the unfurled skirts of the dervishes. Other pieces looked liked energy fields emanating from a garden of flowers. Were these the secret messages and how did they relate to Sufism?

Sufism is a spiritual path, or tariqah, requiring dedication and discipline as the individual seeks to purify himself from nafs—false ego, addictions and vices. Mevlevi novices, for example, “underwent long years of self denial, penance and training.”5 The rituals, including sema and zikr, bring a person into a knowingness of God, source of all existence, in an experience of joyful rapture. Turning, then, is a recognition of a scientific fact:

There is no being or object that does not revolve, because all beings are comprised of revolving electrons, protons, and neutrons in atoms. Everything revolves, and the human being lives by means of the revolution of these particles, by the revolution of the blood in his body, and by the revolution of the stages of his life, by his coming from the earth and his returning to it. However, all of these revolutions are natural and unconscious. But the human being possesses a mind and an intelligence which distinguishes him from other beings. Thus the whirling “dervish” or “semazen,” intentionally and consciously participates in the shared revolution of other beings.6

Turning may be an extremely ancient ritual possibly linked with the ancient Mystery Schools of the East. There is a curious passage in the Acts of John (from the Gnostic Gospels) which describes Jesus summoning his disciples at the Last Supper: “He bade us therefore make as it were a ring, holding one another’s hands, and himself standing in the midst he said: ‘Answer Amen unto me.’ He began, then, to sing a hymn and to say: ‘Glory be to thee, Father.’ And we, going about in a ring, answered him: ‘Amen.’” The chanting continued as a sort of call and response:

The number Twelve danceth on high. Amen.

The Whole on high hath part in our dancing. Amen.

Whoso danceth not, knoweth not what cometh to pass. Amen.7

This description sounds hauntingly similar to an ancient Egyptian ritual linked to the celestial mysteries of the heavens: “The imitation of the astral movements has led to all circle dances, and the Egyptian astronomer-priests had their Dance of Stars, a very intricate dance in which the priests, moving from east to west around a sun-altar, made the signs of the Zodiac.”8 I recalled the stylish, angular poses struck by Adil, evocative of dancers in ancient Egyptian art. They were a far cry from the sinuous raqs sharqi. Was the turn also a legacy of old Egypt?

With these thoughts in mind, round and round I went, with my two teachers shouting out instruction as Dagmar watched my beginning efforts. I started to travel with the spin instead of remaining in a fixed place. I recalled a lecture from graduate school during which one of my professors showed a slide of a strange wooden object. It was a plank with a large peg sticking out of it. He explained that Turkish dervishes had used this for training apprentices. The foot was placed on the board so the peg was between the big toe and the second toe. This kept the apprentice “nailed” in place during practices. The wood had been worn smooth through use. I tried to visualize this wooden peg between my own toes, but still I meandered from my spot.

My leg muscles were burning. This was repetitive movement; there was no relief since the weight could not be shifted to the other side. I tried to remember to breathe, thinking that, of all the dance classes I had experienced in my life, this must surely be the toughest. I teetered. Adil barked the command to stop. They checked their watches. Six minutes. Not bad, but my form was dreadful.

I was allowed to stretch and breathe while my teachers sternly lectured me. “No coffee. No cigarettes,” they said as they sipped their coffee and puffed away. I pointed out the irony of this dictate and they reminded me that, at the moment, they were not the ones dancing. Cigarettes were not a problem for me since I do not smoke, but coffee? “Only one cup in the morning,” they conceded. “Now, do it again.”

Hassan must have spotted my grimace. “You must love tanoura. You love tanoura, tanoura is loving you.” We started again, with Adil and Hassan playing tar and riq. Again the pain, again the faltering, again the command to stop.

Each lesson was the same, but I gradually found myself staying in place. The duration of my spin improved. But then Hassan brought out his tanoura and lifted it over my head. The garment had geometric appliqués of green, red, yellow, and blue on it, which, my teachers explained, represented different Sufi orders. When worn by a skilled dancer spinning rapidly, the colored patterns of the tanoura create a kaleidoscopic effect.

Everything changed. The weighted skirt was heavy; it affected my balance and placement. “Couldn’t we just keep working on my form, then add the tanoura?” I suggested. Hassan, my relentless drill sergeant, scowled.

“Noura! Tanoura is sleeping. Faster!” He was right, the skirt was not flaring out as it should, I tried to go faster but I felt control slipping away. “If I go faster, I lose control!” I protested while maintaining the spin. No use.

Tanoura is sleeping!”

I kept turning, carrying on a rebellious, internal monologue, filled with all sorts of nafs. Perhaps I really was “al magnouna”, allowing myself to be tortured on a daily basis. After all, what did they expect? How long had it taken them to learn this? Surely I must be doing better than the average person. After all, I was a trained dancer. I could do all kinds of spins and turns. Did they think I was just your regular tourist? How about a little encouragement?

With all these angry, resentful thoughts, I remembered Hassan’s statement: “You must forget you are a woman. Tanoura is dangerous man.” I looked Hassan straight in the eye and gave him my most ferocious warrior look. He looked surprised, then smiled, quite fleetingly. I was finally getting it.

Another lesson. This time I was prepared for the change in balance caused by the weight of the tanoura. “Play louder.” I requested, “The music helps.” Hassan again called out the instructions that were meant to help to keep the dancer from getting dizzy. He then had me change my arm position. Another balance adjustment, but still I hung on. More instructions. Then he spotted the set of frame drums I had purchased that day on Muhammed Ali street and began to hand them to me, showing me how to hold them. He had me shift positions several times, then hand each tar back, all the while shouting, “Faster! Tanoura is sleeping!”

By this time I had lost all track of time, but I was aware of a shift in internal energy right up through the chakras. Now isn’t that interesting! And still I turned.

Then I noticed the fluttering edge of the tanoura. I began to feel as though I were flying. Yes, I was on a flying carpet, and the hem of the tanoura was the edge of the magical rug. As I flew, the entire earth spun below me. I watched the outlines of cities pass by. I flew on and on.

This was it then. This is what the flying carpet really was. This was the origin of the legends and fairy tales. The flying carpet was the dervish’s tanoura. I had fallen into an Arabian Nights tale.

I cannot recall how, why, or when I stopped. Hassan and Adil conferred and told me I had turned for fifteen minutes. I was exhausted but at rest, at peace. I tried to explain my sensation of the flying carpet but it was clear that they thought me quite mad.

But another lesson did not go well at all. Dagmar had taken me that morning to Giza, where we began the day in a most civilized fashion with early morning coffee at Mena House. We then walked up to the pyramids to find them relatively tourist free. When the postcard peddlers cried out to us, I answered in Russian, only to discover that these boys could reply in Russian. Commerce is a great incentive to language study.

Even though it was early March, the Goddess Sekhmet had turned the power of Ra’s solar disc on me. I was unaware that, in spite of my long sleeves and ankle length skirt, the sun had found vulnerable areas on my hands, shoulders, and face. Soon I was suffering the bane of redheads, a sunburn. By lesson time, I was dizzy and a bit nauseated.

Even the simplest task became difficult. Where I had been able to turn for up to fifteen minutes, I could not maintain the spin for more than three. My teachers were angry. The situation was all the more uncomfortable because I had invited an American woman living in Cairo to observe the lesson. I was failing miserably. Disgusted, Hassan filled his mouth with water and sprayed it in my face. He did it again. My guest was shocked but I was actually pleased. This rough sort of teaching technique is fairly common throughout the East. Hassan had probably had the same thing done to him by one of his teachers. By this treatment, I realized I had transcended the social boundaries that should have forbidden such behavior. I was no longer a guest, a woman, or even “older sister.” I was just another Sufi apprentice.

After class, I went to that evening’s concert at the Gouriya palace. Adil took me by the hand and lead me into the room and across the stage area. At first I felt like a small child being guided through a crowd by her parent. Suddenly, I recalled a scene familiar scene in Egyptian tomb paintings; the deceased is taken by the hand and led into the presence of the Gods.

Having now a little first hand experience of the technique of spinning, I watched the performance through new eyes, taking notes and making sketches. The following day at my lesson, my teachers quizzed me about the concert. “I liked the second dancer better, he seemed to have more feeling, more spirit.”

“That is because the first dancer was folkloric and the second was Sufi,” explained Hassan. Now this made perfect sense. The dervishes who had presented the sema ritual in Seattle were members of a Sufi order. But the videos I had seen of the Egyptian tanoura must have been of the folklore variety, hence the emphasis on visually spectacular moves. And from Hassan’s repeated references to the “second tanoura,” I realized that this must have been the place of honor in the evening’s presentation. The first performance was folkloric, but the second tanoura was Sufi.

The last lesson arrived. I had planned the day carefully, returning early in the day to the Cairo Museum to make more sketches for “Egypta.” Dagmar had found some wonderful replicas of ancient Egyptian jewelry for me, some of it copied from Tutankhamen’s tomb. She had also helped me locate the large beaded collars I needed. Along with purchases of fabric and folklore costumes for my ensemble, my shopping was completed. I could focus my energies on dance.

Since I was leaving the next day, I assiduously prepared for my final class, being sure to stay out of the sun and taking an hour to go through the various drills and warm-ups I had learned. I also would have an illustrious guest present, Nadia Hamdi, who was a friend of Dagmar’s.

While my teachers chatted in Arabic with Nadia, they had me go through all the warm-ups again. They comfortably enjoyed their coffee and conversation as I dutifully ran through my drills a second time, feeling rather silly. Nadia reminded me that there had been a woman tanoura years ago at Sahara City. I hoped she did not expect such brilliance from me.

Hassan placed the tanoura over my head and I started the turn. Going through the mental checklist of all the things I had been taught, I battled for focus. The purpose is not to lose consciousness so much as to attain a hyperconsciousness. I had to close my ears to the side conversations and listen only to the instructions of my teachers.

The muscles burned with the constant repetition and I tried to tune out the pain. How long had I been going? Was it better than last time?

“Noura! Tanoura is sleeping!” I pushed extraneous thoughts from my mind and tried to focus again.

The change in energy came slowly; the flying carpet sensation returned. I was fully aware of everything in the room, but also aware of another reality. The word “zaman” floated in front of me, and I realized that I knew what it meant: “time.” I caught Hassan smiling to Adil, but when he turned back to me, he frowned again. “Tanoura is sleeping!” he reminded me.

I kept turning, now completely out of touch with time, with zaman. I repeated all the practices I had learned to maintain my balance and to remain fixed in one place. I tried to improve my form, to hold myself in the exquisite postures I had seen at the Gouriya Palace. Again, I heard the word zaman and I knew my teachers were pleased. I pushed and tried to turn more quickly. The flying carpet carried me over Cairo, over Egypt. I saw the lotus shape of the Nile delta below…


My teachers conferred. Hassan rewarded me with the smile he had been withholding during all our lessons. “Twenty-six minutes!” he exclaimed. I had redeemed myself.

At last we said our goodbyes. Hassan carefully wrapped up the heavy tanoura for me, making sure that I knew how to do this myself so the garment would be properly maintained. He did this with great and tender care, then kissing it like a precious baby. Sitting next to Dagmar on the flight back to Berlin, I hugged the heavy, tightly bound tanoura. I remembered my teachers, the great gift they had given me, and my new name, Noura. What now would I do with these precious teachings?

Noura. Light.

Laurel Victoria Gray is an internationally acclaimed dancer, scholar, instructor and choreographer who has taught and performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Central Asia, and Australia. Her articles have appeared in many publications including the Oxford University Press International Encyclopedia of Dance, and the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, and Dance Magazine. She teaches Persian dance at the Iranian Community School and is Artistic Director of the Silk Road Dance Company. www.silkroaddance.com


1. Jalaleddin Rumi, Mathnawi, cited in This Longing, translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, (Threshold Books, 1988) p. xvii.

2. John Robert Barnes, “Dervish Orders,” The Dervish Lodge: Architecture, Art and Sufism in Ottoman Turkey, edited by Raymond Lifchez, University of California Press, p.34.

3. Israil Subhonov, quoted by Stephen Kinzer, “In This Islam, Practices (Not Beliefs) Make Perfect,” New York Times International, November 4, 1997.

4. Omar Burke, Among the Dervishes, Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge, 1973.

5. Necdet Sakaoglu, “The Whirling Dance of the Dervishes,” Skylife, September 1994, p.18.

6. Sheikh Helminski, “Gate of Secrets,” made available by the Threshold Society at www.sufism.org/sema2.html.

7. The Acts of John from “The Apocryphal New Testament,” translation and notes by M. R. James. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924.

8. Walter Sorell, The Dance Through the Ages. New York: Grosset and Dunlap,1967, p.22. See also Lincoln Kirstein, Dance. New York: G. P. Putnams’ Sons, 1935.


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