The Ululation in Arab Culture - Kaleela

The Ululation in Arab Culture

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The Ululation in Arab Culture

It’s that time of the year again when wedding bells start ringing out all round the world. Well, that is, unless you live in the Arab world, where it’s that time of year when the zaghrootah (زغروتة) start trilling out throughout the region.

“So, what is the zaghrootah?” you might ask.  Well it’s a kind of ululation  – a kind of a long, wavering, high-pitched shrill of joy created by making a high-pitched, loud voice while rapidly moving the tongue from side-to-side. If you’ve ever been invited to an Arabic wedding, then you’ve surely heard it trilling throughout the ceremony. (You may have heard in the music played at the wedding, too, as it is included in the background of some Arab music tracks.)

The ululation is usually performed by women of the Arab world at weddings, parties, celebrations, and in some Arab cultures, at funerals to express their extreme happiness, or in the case of funerals, deep sorrow. It’s has been around the region for years, dating back to the pre-Islamic era, where it was once used in idol worship when woman asked the gods for mercy relief, rain and the like.  Along with drumbeats, they even used it on the battlefield to motivate soldiers who were fighting.

These days, the ululation is likely to be heard everywhere and for many different occasions, like:

Weddings and Engagement Parties

Weddings are a very special time for the bride and groom, and maybe even a bit more special to the ladies competing to see who can ululate the loudest and longest at these events. Often times, it is even performed at the meeting of the intended married couple when their families meet and agree on the marriage.

Returning from Hajj

The pilgrimage to Hajj is another Hajj is another big event in the Arab culture and when pilgrims arrive back home they can expect to find their houses decorated with colored lights, banners and palm tree leaves, and of course, women lined up performing the ululations to celebrate the pilgrims’ safe arrival after completing the Hajj.

Birth of a New Baby

Families are very important, so besides weddings, there’s nothing celebrated more than the birth of a baby with the performing the zaghrootah to express their extreme happiness and excitement.


Times of joy aren’t the only times that the zaghrootah is performed. In some areas, it is also performed at funerals, especially if the deceased is an unmarried man. In this case, ululations are performed to express extreme grief and sorrow, as well as to honor the dearly departed. 

Ululations are heard throughout the neighborhoods of Arabic speaking countries, especially in the summer when more weddings and engagements take place. Next time you hear it, don’t forget to stop by your neighbors and congratulate them or offer your sympathies, whatever the case may be. It’s also a great opportunity to practice your Arabic language skills.
And speaking of your Arabic language skills, if you would like to know more about the Arabic language or Arab culture, drop us a line at Helping you always gives us reason to celebrate.