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The word is "alima" not 'almeh.'


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Zeynab
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« on: October 03, 2019, 07:21:56 pm »



"Almeh,"  the big distortion:   Gross misrepresentation of educated women of the medieval Arab world by oriental artists of the West.   This article corrects the travesty.

'Almeh' is the western distortion of the Arabic word "alima" ( عالمة‎) or  its plural, awālim  (عوالم ).  Western oriental artists and painters misspelled, falsified and perverted the word "alima" into 'almeh' according to which they have interpreted an "alima" as a profession public dancer.  The term "alima" itself repudiates this false portrayal.  The root Arabic word is ilm or علم  which means knowledge.  An  ālima  - knowledgeable or learned - was the name of a class women in medieval Middle-East, primarily Egypt, who were highly educated females with taste and finesse, experts in the art of classical singing, recitation of classical poetry and articulate oration.  They enlivened many social gatherings of women, men and children held in family homes and get-togethers.  They were often called for planning and organizing courtyard dinners, as well as funerals where they addressed the visitors as host-mourners of the funeral gathering.

How did such a huge distortion of truth come about?  

In 1834 the performances of travelling dancers of the Dom ethnicity known as "ghawazi" were banned in Egypt and neighboring countries by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.   In a nutshell, the ghawazi  Dom dancers had a reputation for being sleazy.  The word ghawazi  (غوازي )  is the Arabic plural of ghazi ( غازئ) which means "conqueror," but the connotation here in regard to dancers is lewd;  these dancing women are referred to as "conquerors of the hearts" of their male audience.   That's an euphemism for "erotic dancers."  The Doms performed belly dancing and other immodest dances that were vulgar and inviting.  They performed unveiled on the streets and taverns.  The Doms sometimes entertained in the courtyard of a house but usually in the street outside the house, at the front of the main door,  but were NEVER admitted inside a respectable home.  Generally they were only hired to entertain men by their rakish male friends.  But those who were religious, educated and dignified from cultured social circles strongly disapproved of these cheap dancers who were public women or plainly put, prostitutes.  As indecorousness began spreading faster than ever in the West, the ghawazi dance costume influenced the costumes worn by the American-style belly dancers.   Even after the ban, the ghawazis persisted with their disreputable profession .... pretending to be awalim.  Transliterated into French as almée or almeh, the term also came to be synonymous with "belly dancer" in European Orientalism of the 1800s.

Who were the "Doms"?

In Arabic the Dom is also called "Doma" or "Domri" ( دومي‎ / دومري).  The other Arabic word for them is "hanajerah" (هناجره‎), a people with origins in the Indian subcontinent, which through ancient migrations, were scattered across the Middle East, North Africa, Caucasus and Central Asia.  Presently they are primarily found in Europe and USA only, ethnically linked with the Roma people - also of south Asian origin, and also known in English as Gypsies.   They share a similar history, in that, the ancestors of both the Doms and the Roma left their land of origin sometime between the 6th and 11th centuries and spread in lands west of south Asia.   In medieval times when Dom dancers were seen in the Middle-East, musicians of their tribe usually accompanied them in their dance.  They wore heavy makeup - kohl around their eyes and henna on their fingers, palms, toes and feet - and were richly dressed.  Their reputation was thoroughly bawdy.

A falsification as massive as this - the cheap Doms (ghawizi) dubbed as alima - is absolutely offensive, to say the least.  As the myth and exaggerations pertaining to this warp proliferated, Western sources began portraying alimas as female courtesans, attempting to represent them as the Arab equivalent of the "geisha" in Japan.   Patently untrue and complete misrepresentation of Islamic history.  Unlike the Japanese geishas, the alimas were NEVER companions of male guests in social events at any period of Muslim history.  In fact, not a single alima was ever cited in an all-male gathering.  

It wasn't altogether unusual to find a few women audience as well watching the dances of the ghawazi dancers in perhaps inns or traveler's rest houses (perhaps women whose izzat was somewhat dubious).  They would generally depart at the end of the performance and as would many of the men.  But some very loose and licentious males among the audience would hang around to woo the dancing girl / girls for the night.      

The distortion was a mix of lack of knowledge within the oriental artists / historians plus their earliest desires of propaganda to spice up their works, similar to their distortion that created the myth called "harem."

Since early modern times, segments of the Dom community have merged with the Roma scattered around Europe, mostly eastern Europe.  But they also still exist across the Middle East as minorities in Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Iran.  Their total population in all of these countries would be approximately two million.  Most of them now speak the language of the country they reside in, except pockets of few very insular and traditional members of the Dom community who still adhere to their ancient Domari language within their reclusive circles.   They haven't assimilated with mainstream Arabs, Turks and Iranians.  In Iran, the Dom community is commonly known as 'gurbati' meaning "foreigners."  In view of their disreputable profession in the middle ages that brought them in the spotlight of Middle-Eastern history, the Dom ancestry has a tainted image.  Several Dom people living in modern Middle East prefer to conceal their original ethnic links. 

Have the modern day Dom in the Middle East embraced Islam?  The answer is yes they have, but only nominally.  Just a small fraction of the Dom population are practicing Muslims.  Very, very few are devout Muslims who might even wish to go for Hajj.   But by far the greater majority are secular and very distant from Islamic principles and values. 


Check the following pieces of art where cheap Dom dancers are falsely dubbed as "alima" (almeh) by orientalist artists.











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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2019, 09:03:32 pm »



Interesting and hugely informative.  I have come across the term "almee" in the caption of some such paintings by orientalists and did wonder what that meant.  I've never known of that word in the Arabic vocabulary.   I couldn't guess they meant alima.   OMG!   alimas are as far away from public dancers as the north pole is from the south.     True that what these orientalists call "almee or almey" are actually the doms and hanajeerah, very lowly and promiscuous women, basically prostitutes selling their bodies with the help of their dances.  From what I hear, they migrated from South Asia even before the 6th century, perhaps around 2nd or 3rd centuries.  Would you know if their migration was some sort of exodus from South Asia largely concentrated to a specific time in history?

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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2019, 09:56:18 pm »



No sister Heba, I don't think there was an specific exodus at a specific time.  It was more a gradual diaspora that started in ancient times.  You could be right that it started before the 6th century, these people escaping the social apartheid of the caste system in India.  Back in those days migration was easy, no stringent rules, no costly paperworks, no border vigilence.  So it was easy for them to flee persecution and find refuge in other lands.   

From what I know, presently there are not many Dom people in the Middle East.  Some have gradually blended with the Roma in Europe.  They are in countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia,  Poland and Ukraine.  They are also found in Britain and France.  They were in largest numbers in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, from where they spread almost everywhere in Europe.  The Roma people are scattered around at least 30 European countries as well as USA.  Italy in particular sees them as quite a nuisance.  Everywhere they are a minority. 

Roma, also called Romani, are nowadays also referred to as Europe's ancient south Asians.  At present, if you research their ancestry, you will find several of Dom origin among them too.  I think about 3 or 4 years ago there was some sort of international Roma conference which was attended by India's external affairs minister.  He admitted that roma people were descendants of Indians and they were symbolic of "Indian diaspora."   This includes Roma and Dom, but it's the ethnic title Roma that still remains.




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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2019, 09:59:08 pm »




O, I see  ......  and what religion does this Roma community follow?
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2019, 10:21:28 pm »



They were originally Hindus coming out of India periodically, escaping the caste-system apartheid and looking for freedom outside their country.  No doubt about that.  Later on, as they assimilated in the countries they arrived in - some landed up in the Middle East and some in Europe - they adopted the religion of their host countries.   The Roma or Romani in Europe are now Christians (not sure what denomination of Christianity they adhere to).  Many of those Dom who later mixed with the Roma in Europe are also Christians.   Those Dom people who came to the Middle East, formed their own tribes and after living there for a while, became 'Muslims' but only in name .. as I've already mentioned.  They hardly lived or practiced Islam.   There's no evidence in history that the majority of Dom were practicing Muslims, and absolutely no evidence of their adherence to Quranic principles.



From the earliest times until the present, the one thing that hasn't changed about them is that they have persistently been sunk in poverty, leading wandering lives.  I don't know to what extent the Roma-Dom females in Europe today make a living by dancing on the streets as public women (as did the Dom women in medieval Middle East), nonetheless those in Europe (both women and men) are extremely poor, making a living as scavengers, garbage pickers or doing minimal wage daily jobs and are more or less nomadic.


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« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2019, 10:28:15 pm »



Thank you for the articulate summary Sister Zeynab.  We never knew some of these aspects of this chapter of history.   Must share it with my husband.
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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2019, 10:29:12 pm »



Very welcome Sister Heba.
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« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2019, 04:36:36 am »



That's a fine write-up and a very revealing one.  Malicious propaganda like these  aren't known to many readers.   Westerners are never interested in spreading the word about intellectual Muslim women of good taste who excelled in poetry, literature, art, personal dignity and political astuteness.    But many Westerners are darn quick to manipulate the social status of sophisticated Muslim women, contorting their reputation as fourth-raters.   It's not possible to find any art images of the real alimas.  Alimas participated in their work of organizing, managing and carrying out the tasks required for indoor gatherings of respectable family homes (not in the streets or sidewalks) where outsiders would never be allowed.  No orientalist artist would be admitted in family-and-friends-gatherings inside residences .. just as no artist has ever painted the true picture of a family's recreational portion of the household for women as artists would never be permitted inside.  That would completely violate the privacy of women of that household.  For that reason just about all orientalists painted the so-called "harem life" with half-clothed women, a figment of their own imagination that grew from the western social propaganda of "Muslim men with 100 concubines" and the load of rubbish to spice up such fictions.  Similarly, the alima-turned-almey is painted as a tart and the Middle-Eastern version of a geisha.   

A packet of propaganda and disinformation that has gone on for centuries with no signs of being corrected because hardly any reader or watcher of such arts knows the level of inaccuracy contained within these stories. 

In modern times, some Jews professing to know a lot about the Arab society and the dom dancing culture, attempt to compare modern Middle Eastern dances with medieval dom performances and also try to portray that modern Middle-Eastern dance, music and art are inherited by the dom tradition.  Thoroughly false.    Dances can be lewd or decent, depending on the type of dance, atmosphere and gathering.  Some are dignified for the purpose of art, some not.  Raqs or belly dancing is never considered an acceptable profession in the Middle East nor anywhere in the world.  Many modern authors use the term ghawizya for dancers in general. Very incorrect portrayal.  Everyone knows that the medieval culture of ghwazi dances had nothing to do with art and dignity and neither was the field of art & culture ever influenced by this unscrupulous practice.  Dom dancing culture represented plain immorality and debauchery.  That's precisely the reason why many of those Dom minority still residing in the Middle East never speak of their decendancy.

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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2019, 05:09:42 am »



Very succinctly put brother TS.  Your points are a very logical clarification of this issue.   

Btw, I never knew that some of those lousy Jews are poking their nose to present the bad dom culture in a positive light.  What else can one expect from land robbers other than a sick perspective of life?


 
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« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2019, 04:58:31 am »



Well said brother.     Btw, my husband was saying there's also a similar community called Lom.   Who are they?    Dom, Rom and Lom ... are all these buggers related?

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« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2019, 05:07:50 am »




lol  Cheesy    ......  As far as I know, the Lom people are the gypsies of Armenia.   Not too much is known about their ancestry but it's surmised they do have ancestral links with the Roma.    Earliest origin of Lom was very likely either western India or Afghanistan.  Also from whatever I know, Lom are slightly more talented than the Dom and Roma.  Lom people are supposed to excel in basket weaving and metalsmithing.   Many of them are also interested in playing music.



 
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« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2019, 05:10:11 am »



I see   ...... 
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