Arab Culture: The Zaffa in Arabic Wedding Traditions

Arab Culture: The Zaffa in Arabic Wedding Traditions

Have you been invited to an Arab wedding, but you’re not too sure about Arab wedding traditions? In any case, you want to arrive there early because you don’t want to miss the zaffa meaning, in Arab culture, the Arab wedding entrance – a musical pageant of bendir drums, bagpipes, horns, flaming swords and belly dancers.  (Wait! Belling dancers AND flaming swords? Where’s my invite?)

Anthropologists don’t know exactly when this tradition started, but most believe it’s an ancient Egyptian tradition that predates Islam. It’s also been very well documented in Egyptian movies since their beginning over 100 years ago. Anyway, the zaffa has been around for quite some time and continues to be a mainstay of Arab weddings.

Indeed, at many Arab weddings, even before the bride (in her beautiful Arab wedding dress) and the groom (in his smart and expensive suit) arrive at the reception hall, the zaffa has already begun taking place. When you see this musical procession start – the drummers drumming, the bagpipers piping, horn players blowing, the belly dancers dancing, and the swords flaming – you know the party is about to begin and you can’t help joining in the singing and dancing.


The troupe of dancers and musicians sings and dances for about 30 minutes as they welcome the bride and groom into the reception hall and give way to the band or DJ inside where the party continues with dancing, singing, and ululations from the womenfolk in attendance. Often, there is also a dinner which usually includes the traditional foods of the country; for example, in Jordan you might be eating mansaf or zarb. Of course, there is also the traditional cutting and serving of the wedding cake, as well.


Some countries even have a kind of “pre-zaffa” where the wedding procession cruises the streets, the newlyweds in their decorated car leading the way to the reception hall,  accompanied by the cars of their friends and family blasting their horns and cheering all along the way. It is said that, lately, even motorcycles have been joining in! 


So, now you’re ready to be invited to an Arab wedding and enjoy the zaffa. You might also want to start practicing the dabke, too, but that’s another article for another day.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more about Arab customs and traditions, or if you’ve really been invited to a wedding and you’d like to learn Arabic language skills before the big day, head over to our website. Recent studies have shown that the best way to learn Arabic is through downloadable Arabic learning apps, so while you’re there, why not download the Kaleela Arabic learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device? It’s free from kaleela.com.