Sign in Register
Posted On: 16 January 2019 04:32 pm
Updated On: 22 July 2019 12:29 pm

All about Ardha: Qatar's traditional sword dance

nabeela
nabeela
Content Writer
Discuss here!
Start a discussion
Traditionalqataridancers

Cover image credit: Wikiwand: Culture of Qatar


Ardha is a folk dance, which dates back to the times when Bedouin tribes were predominant in Qatar and was performed just before a war or a fight.

Today, the Ardha is a common sight at weddings, cultural events and on special occasions like the Eid - ul - Fitr, Eid - al - Adha and Qatar National Day which falls on 18 December every year today, and is an important part of Qatar’s rich cultural heritage and is deep-rooted in its traditions.

What does ‘Ardha’ mean?

It is believed that the word ‘Ardha’ is derived from ‘ard’ which is an Arabic verb and can be translated as ‘parade’ or ‘to show’.

What is the Ardha dance?

Ardha performers ready to show their strength
Image: Ardha performers ready to show their strength (Find Images)

It is believed that this dance was named ‘Ardha’ because it was performed in historic times, to publicly show the fighting strength of a tribe before it went off to war, showcase weapons, and boost the morales of the tribe and their people. Today, it is most often performed to celebrate culture and heritage, show kinship and promote solidarity between the people of the country and its leadership.

Even in these modern times, men often use this dance to show off their strength through their moves to the beat of the drums, as they recite verses from the centuries old Nabati poetry which is also known as Bedouin poetry or ‘poetry of the people’ in the Middle East.

How is Ardha performed?

Students performing the Ardha sword dance
Students performing the Ardha sword dance (Find Images)

The communal Ardha dance is performed by a group of men facing one each other or standing in semi circles. Each group of men stands shoulder-to-shoulder. It is a common sight to see these men holding swords in their right hands while performing this folk dance, but sometimes, you will see it being performed without the swords. Some may even hold canes or sticks while performing this Qatari ritual dance that can only be performed by men.

Even in these modern times, men often use this dance to show off their strength through their rhythmic moves as they swing to the beat of the drums/tambourines with their heavy swords, as they recite verses from the centuries old Nabati poetry which is also known as Bedouin poetry or ‘poetry of the people’ in the Middle East.

There is usually a poet in the middle of the two groups facing one another who recites the verses that are relevant to the situation and the event being celebrated. In the olden days, the poet was usually the head of the tribe or its military reader. The men performing the Ardha repeat the last line of that verse over and over again whilst dancing from side to side as well as back and forth in a specific manner.

What do Ardha performers wear?

Traditional Costumes of Ardha Performers
Image: Traditional Costumes of Ardha Performers (Qatar Eating)

Performers of the Ardha often wear the thobe which is a one – piece white outfit made for men and covers the arms all the way to the wrists and legs down to the feet. They also wear the Mahzam which is a leather belt on their waist that has leather straps to go over the shoulders in a diagonal fashion, so they can hold their swords in special holders on the belt. On certain occasions these performers may also wear cloaks or coat like tops that are maroon in colour showing solidarity with the Qatari flag that has white and maroon in it.

Have you ever watched the Ardha being performed? What do you think of this dance? Would you want to be part of this folk dance? Do let us know your thoughts in our Comments section. Like and share the article - it keeps us going?