field research


The Arabic word Kaf كف literary means ‘Palm of the Hand’, so we could say that Raks  الرقص (dance) el Kaf means ‘Dance of the Palm.’ Raks el Kaf, sometimes called Kafafa, is said to be one of the oldest Egyptian dances, dating back to the days of the pharaohs. El Kafafa, music and dance troupe leader, Abd El Wahed El Sayed, explains that wall inscriptions depicting this kind of art can be found in many temples and tombs, especially in the Asasya tombs on the West  Bank of Luxor (

This is a folk dance based on clapping, accompanied by a framed drum, which is called a Duf. The one who claps the best leads the group, as they clap in different rhythmic patterns, which change throughout the song. When clapping, the performing artists also sing and dance. Their dancing is based on a rhythmical movement which they perform on one spot, but also to the left and right; they can also move forwards and backwards or around themselves, even jump or squat. Kafafa is not only done by men but women as well.

In October 2019, I had the chance to see a local Kafafa group in Luxor (on the west bank), performing the Kafafa. It lasted almost two hours (with no breaks in-between)! They were clapping, singing and dancing the whole time. The only thing that changed was the rhythm, going from more ‘easy-going, on the spot’ movements, to forward/backward movements and then finally to more ‘dynamic’ moves, like turns, jumps, and squats.