If Istanbul is known for its long white-robed dervishes listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco, in Cairo the art of the followers of the Sufi Jalal al-Din Roumi is combined in color under the name of “tannoura”. , the skirt in Arabic.

Mohammed Adel, 20, is the son, grandson and nephew of whirling dervishes in a country with more than fifteen million Sufis and nearly 80 brotherhoods. He personally took care of the design of her purple dress with swirls sewn in green and yellow.

“It was I who chose the colors and the shapes that are sewn on the skirts,” he told AFP before entering the stage of a folk festival.

Because it is these skirts that are the highlight of the show.

– “I’m escaping” –

Each time, the ritual is the same: Mohammed begins by turning counter-clockwise, his right arm turned towards the sky — to collect the divine blessings — and his left arm towards the ground — for distribution to the public.

Then he picks up the pace.

As the choreography progresses, he loosens the cords that hold the different skirts he has put on over his long dress.

The one above represents the sky, the one below the earth and by spinning the first above his head while the second forms an undulating disc around his waist, he tells of the creation of the world and the separation of the sky and Earth.

A physical feat because each thickness weighs nearly ten kilos and can fall at any time if he deviates from his trajectory or loses the rhythm of his feet which make him twirl.

“At the beginning, of course, I was dizzy, sometimes I even fell. But by dint of training every day without exception, either on a stage or at home, I escape elsewhere with the music”, assures Mohammed.

To the sound of Sufi incantations, basses from percussionists, throbbing litanies from traditional flutes and rababs, these stringed instruments stretched over animal skins, he seems unstoppable, just like the other tannoura dancer from the Troupe des Arts popular people of Giza, Ali Morsi, dressed all in blue.

– “For God’s sake” –

Side by side, but without their skirts ever touching, they perform acrobatics, throwing their skirts in the air before catching them in mid-flight or unfolding and folding their brotherhood’s pennant while continuing to spin.

“It’s as if I was flying, I no longer feel my body, I am no longer on earth, I only think of God and nothing else,” Ali Morsi, 25 and a dervish, told AFP. turner for eleven years “for the love of God and the Prophet Muhammad”.

Because if in Egypt the tannoura has always wanted to be festive, inviting itself to concerts, festivals or weddings, it draws its origin from the mystical tradition of the Muslim mevlevi order founded in the 12th century by the great poet and mystic Persian Jalal al-Din Roumi in Konya, present-day Turkey.

Today, it is the heyday of Egyptian tourism, which is trying to recover from ten years of political torment since the “revolution” which toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

And those of Ali and Mohammed who claim not to be able to imagine living from anything other than their art.