The origin of Dhamma practice dates back to the time of Suez Canal digging. The word “Dhamma” means “a gathering” as workers and farmers were brought from different Egyptian governorates, while their chiefs and supervisors were mostly Turkish and Moroccan. By night, each group from a different area would sit together “gather” and entertain themselves by singing their familiar songs. These gathering were essential for support against nostalgia and severe working conditions. The largest of the gatherings belong to people from Damietta.

Those who chose to stay in this new settlement the created the new art which was a mixture of cultures. The Dhamma in Port Said evolved from a mere entertainment for diggers, into artistic phenomena. Not only did friends gather to sing by of one their houses, but they would also perform in each other’s family celebrations.

Dhamma is a collection of Gawab and Dor (folk songs), Mawal (folk poems), comic sessions, and many others. These are accompanied by music and dances using props like Handkerchiefs, knives and sticks. The dance moves are inspired by the movement of sea workers, who constitute most of the Sohbageya. It is performed in social events like informal gatherings, and weddings, as well as during religious ceremonies related to pilgrimage.

The most popular musical instruments that accompany Dhamma are: Darabokka (drum), Req (tambourine), Triangle, Spoons, and empty glass bottles. In more latter years Semsemya became popular, and nowadays, more instruments are used in these events.

Examples of songs include:

“The pigeons and the turtle doves are calling out on the branches, Ya lil, Ya ein

And the beautiful lady is coming strolling, asking for connection, Ya lil, Ya ein

Poor is the heart of a lover, how much it suffers.”


“We were three or four

We saw a delightful lady

One of us became so happy

He made the other four dance”


This practice is almost always performed by men with few exceptions. In cases of weddings the ladies can watch from afar.

Samir Gabe, Folk dance atlas, National Center for Theatre, Music, and Folk Art
Dr. Mohammad Shabana, Port Said Dhamma, Academy of Arts