x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Time Frame: a young girls' tradition, the hair dance

Alain Saint-Hilaire, a young French filmmaker who visited the UAE several times from the 1960s, took this photo of young ladies at a wedding in Abu Dhabi in 1971.

Courtesy of Alain Saint-Hilaire
Courtesy of Alain Saint-Hilaire

Anyone who has spent even a short time in this part of the world will be familiar with what is popularly known as the "hair dance" or more correctly "raqs sha'ar" and performed by younger girls at important celebrations and social occasions.

These young ladies are dressed in their best clothing and taking part in a wedding. The year is 1971 and the photographer is Alain Saint-Hilaire, then a young French filmmaker who visited Abu Dhabi and the other emirates several times from the 1960s.

Saint-Hilaire, who was last month awarded an Abu Dhabi Award for his work, captured scenes from a local wedding in the city.

As cooks toiled over large vats of food, the celebrations continued into the night, accompanied by men's sword dancing and musicians playing traditional instruments such as the mizmar, a wind instrument, and a type of lyre called the tanbura, which was then widely played in the Gulf, but originally came from Africa.

Weddings are still at the heart of Emirati traditions and culture. So this week Time Frame offers congratulations to Alyazia Al Suwaidi, a photo researcher for The National,on her marriage, whose diligence uncovered many of the photographs for this feature. We wish Alyazia and her new husband every happiness for their future life together.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae