The Cry of Joy – Ez-zaghareet

From Lucie’s letter to Mrs Austin, Sunday February 7, 1864:zaghareet

‘There was a wedding close by here last night, and about ten o’clock all the women passed under my windows with crys [sic] of joy ‘ez-zaghareet’ down to the river.  I find, on inquiry, that in Upper Egypt, as soon as the bridegroom has ‘taken the face’ of his bride, the women take her down to ‘see the Nile.’  They have not yet forgotten that the old god is the giver of increase, it seems.’

For many years I have wanted to master the art of the zaghareet – the wonderfully haunting expression of emotion used in the Middle East.

Zaghareet – or Ululation is – according to Wikipedia – a ‘long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a trilling quality. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied with a rapid movement of the tongue and the uvula’.

It is used primarily at weddings and festivals to express joy but may also be used at funerals as an expression of extreme emotion.

The following video was made at a local wedding we were very kindly invited to in one of Luxor’s outlying villages. You should be able to hear a wonderful zaghareet at the start and if you look closely you can see the microphone being passed to an elderly lady who added many accompanying ‘trills’ to the music throughout the night!


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