Do you have a Kirdan in your costume wardrobe?

Egyptian Kirdan,
a dance tradition

In our world of belly dance, we call necklaces like the one to the right many different things.

They might be called a “Dowery Necklace” as they are associated with weddings and are worn during the zeffeh, a traditional wedding processional. Photo Courtesy of

You might also find them described as “Egyptian Crescent Moon Necklaces. ” The moon is symbolic of the cyclical nature of womanhood. During the 20th century, dance performers wore these to performances associated with weddings.

Belly dancers have long used their terminology to describe the style and use of these traditional costume pieces. However, Egyptian jewelry makers and dealers call this necklace style a “Kirdan.”

A Kirdan-style necklace is a larger, multi-layered piece worn from the neck down the chest.  The kirdan might be mounted on a choker at the neck, or worn on a chain lower down the chest. Although this style is quite large and dramatic, kirdans are traditionally crafted from small dainty components.  These pieces include shaped fillets, bells, coins, and charms.

In this film clip featuring the song Yamma El Amar Al Bab, notice the lovely kirdan worn by the singer.  (And all that assiut?  You know, I had to sneak it in!)

The crescent moon kirdan has been popular in Upper Egypt since the first quarter of the 20th century.  The style that belly dancers today wear, harkens back to older, more traditional styles of necklaces that appear in classic Egyptian musicals starting in the 1930s.

Check out this classic clip starring legendary Egyptian dancer Nabaweya Mustapha wearing a crescent moon kirdan.

So next time someone asks you for more information about your jewelry, you can tell a more complete story of your necklace.

“My Kirdan is from Egypt. As you can see, it’s an ornate tiered necklace, composed of symbolic moon imagery. This necklace style is traditionally worn for wedding performances.  This could include henna-night informal dancing, the formal zeffah or wedding processional, or at the banquet for a cane dance or with a shamadan, an ornate candelabra.”

Are you looking for a traditional Egyptian wedding kirdan?

When shopping, always ask your favorite belly dance dealer.  I use for specialty belly dance gear.  You can also try on websites like Etsy and eBay.  Just be sure to search using many different terms.  You never know what words the seller is calling it.

Happy Dance, Music, and Costuming,
Dawn Devine
Mar, 2024


An 18th Century Turkish Dancer

Early 18th Century Turkish Dancer

This is one of the best-known illustrations of a Turkish dancer, hailing from the 18th century.  But where did this illustration come from and why do we see so many versions in digital and print forms?  Turkish Dancer published in 1714

Early 18th Century Turkish Dancer

“Tchinguis, ou Danseuse Turque” is a genre-defining illustration made for the book “Recueil de cent estampes representant differentes nations du Levant.”  The version above is from an early edition, first published in 1714.  Original copies survive as individual plates on unbound paper and in bound book format.

Between 1706-08, Flemish artist, Jean Baptiste Vanmour (also referred to as J. B. van Mour 1671-1739) prepared an album consisting of one hundred and two paintings for the French ambassador to the Ottoman court, Charles de Feriol.

Celebrated French engraver Gérard Scotin (French: 1643-1715)  transformed the original paintings into printing plates. The book was published in 1714 in two versions.  A black and white version, and an ornate and lavishly bound hand-colored version. 

During the 18th century, The Ottoman Empire had a growing interaction with the countries of Europe as trade in luxury goods from the East including spices, textiles, and precious gems. 

This publication served to educate Europeans about the Turkish courts, political hierarchy, social practices, and of course, their clothing.  The book includes examples of men and women from accross the Turkish empire. 

Keep in mind, that at this point, the Ottoman Empire ruled great swaths of Eastern Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa. Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, sections of the Arabian Peninsula, and many more were under the cultural hegemony of the Turkish Empire. 

18th Century Turkish Dancer

Turkish Dancer: Color Variations

In the 18th century, color books were hand-painted by craftsmen working in the printing center of Europe. These book painters never saw the original paintings.  Instead, they used the colors that were provided to them by the publisher. This leads to inconsistent choices for colors of the costumes and clothing presented in the book. 

So depending on the exact book, you might find images where our Turkish dancer is wearing green, gold, red, or pink.  What does this tell us as costume history buffs?  These images feature readily made and affordable colored paint at the date and time the book was printed. It’s difficult, but historians have to resist the urge to use colorized book illustrations as accurate information.

Turkish Dancers: Cut and Style

Though we can’t “Trust the Colors,” we do know that the original paintings were made by an eyewitness observer living and working in Constantinople.

Notice that the Vanmaur carefully depicts female and male dancers in different ensembles. This information in comparison tells us, the reader, that everyone danced regardless of gender.  However, there were specific clothing differences.  Male dancers, above right, would wear long belted anteri (open robe) with a turban. He might also choose to wear a weapon.

In contrast, our feminine dancer would wear a shorter belted anteri over a long flowing skirt with a long, soft transparent headwrap worn over the head and around the neck and allowed to flutter loose down the dancer’s back.

Turkish Dancers: Tools of The Trade

In this image, the dancer is playing – Kaşik or Kaşiki – the predecessor of the wooden spoons used in today’s Turkish folk dances.

The ancient Greeks called these clappers Krotala, played in the Greek/Anatolian regions since pre-history. However, ancient wooden examples haven’t survived to modern times like metal finger cymbals.

Vanmaur captured this essential instrument for both male and female Turkish dancers at the beginning of the 18th century.  For us nerdy historians, this tells us that the traditional Krotala style of wooden clappers was still in use in 1714.

Further Research

If you would like to look at an excellent digital reproduction of our Turkish Dancer, I recommend a click-through to the Met Museum.

If you are doing research and would like to see a digital copy of all of the plates, check out a black and white edition in the New York Public Library digital collection.

For a digital copy of a hand-colored edition, check out the version at


Studio Davina Jan. Coffee Chat 2024

Coffee Chat, Jan 2024

Have you ever seen the book “Belly Dance: Celebrating the Sacred Feminine?”  Written by Los Angeles-based photographer Martha Burns, this limited-edition coffee-table book is stunning!

Martha Burns’ book is featured in this month’s Studio Davina Coffee Chat. It was published in 2009. and I met Martha in 2008 at the Desert Dance Festival in San Jose California.  She told me about her upcoming project. She explained her twin passions of photography and belly dance. This book was expensive, but a real labor of love. Martha hoped it would be the start of many more books to follow.

Fast forward to 2023 and I pulled this book off my shelf to have a re-read. It has become a time capsule of an era.  I was present for some of these performances by friends, students, colleagues, and my instructors.

I spent a little time poking around the web to see what Martha Elena Burns is up to today.  Unfortunately, her Facebook account and the book website are both shut down. After inquiring with several dancers who appear in the book no one has heard from her in over a decade.

Do you find this quick video flip interesting? I’ve included the first 100 pages and some commentary in this month’s Studio Davina Coffee Chat on Patreon.  The second half of the book will be available in February’s Coffee Chat.

Wanna join me for a coffee?  It’s only $3!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina


La Belle Otero

La Belle Otero

This powerful sculpture of La Belle Otero by Camilo Rodríguez Vidal is located in Valga, Spain. This statue is a tribute to this legendary Belle Epoch entertainer who was born Agustina del Carmen Otero Iglesias in 1869.

La Belle Otero took the Parisian nightclub scene by storm in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. She was a singer, dancer, and notorious and unabashed courtesan. Her little black book included heads of state, dukes, and even a king or two!  At the apex of notoriety, she was one of the stars of the famous Follies Bèrgere.

When the Salome dance movement was at its height in the first decade of the 20th century, La Belle Otero adopted the dance fusing her authentic classic Spanish style with early modern Orientalist vibes. The Lumiere brothers caught her on film – check out this compilation of photos and an 1898 Spanish dance snippet in this video:

This rare clip was filled during a performance of her specialty dance, the “Valse Brillante” in St. Petersberg, Russia.

Although she was primarily a Spanish dancer, the artist Camilo Rodríguez Vidal chose to depict her in her Salome costume.

This has been a Belly Dance History Snack.

Thank you for visiting my website and supporting my ongoing research on the Visual History of Belly Dance.
Dawn Devine ~ Davina


A Blast From the Past: Latifa Davis c. 1984

Latifa Davis in Assiut c. 1984


Arabesque Dance company

Story Time: A Long Time Ago…

Back in 1982, I had dreams of being a Rockette dancer in New York City.  But due to a major injury, I hung up my toe shoes. Of course, it just changed my direction and so I explored other ways to express myself through dance, and make money doing it!

I started my classes with a dance instructor named Brenda at a small mixed-technique dance studio whose name I cannot recall in Milwaukee, WI. However, I had big dreams of becoming a costume designer and historian and I was only there briefly before I graduated high school and moved to San Diego, CA to follow my dreams.

Dreaming of Assiut Costumes: 1985-’95

For nearly a decade, I was a full-time college student living on a shoestring. I finished the Fashion Program at Mesa College and went on to do theater and visual arts at UCSD.  During that era of my dance career, I studied regularly with Cyrena of San Diego.  Over 10 years from 1985 – 1995, she helped me learn to dance, showed me the ropes of being a pro, and even booked me for group dance gigs.  Photo Above: post-show photoshoot c. 1989

Making my costumes was essential for budgetary reasons, so authentic assiut was out of the question.  But in my early years soaking up the rich variety and moves of the San Diego/Los Angeles dance scene I dreamed of having a beautiful assiut ensemble like Latifa of Arabesque Dance Company.

Above Video: Same Dance – but with the Original sound.  Listen to that unmistakable tone of Saroyan coins. 

In the video above, Latifa Davis completely embodies my vision of movement and costuming for belly dance and what I hoped to achieve in 1984.  I LOVED catching her shows solo or as part of her amazing troupe Arabesque Dance Company as often as I could. Little did I know how fortunate I was to be located in Southern California with such a hot dance scene!  Be sure to like and subscribe to Latifa’s YouTube channel.

I’m so glad Latifa shared this video with the Assiut Fans Group on Facebook.  If you would like more inspiration for assiut costuming come and join the conversation on all things assiut!   In this group, we talk about everything from collecting and selling, to making, wearing, and styling beautiful ensembles for onstage and off.

And you know me, I’m always sharing historical photos. Perhaps if you love assiut, from antique to modern, we will see you there!  Photo Below: Davina in Blue Assiut c. 2016

Here’s wishing you a happy and safe Holiday Season,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
December, 2023