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Have you ever been to a Middle Eastern wedding? You must have noticed how unique Arab weddings are somehow. I hope that you were entertained by the different fun ceremonies that could be a night-long celebration; from the Zaffeh at the beginning of the wedding, the Dabke show, the delicious yummy food at the buffet, to the engaging Arab music. But, did you notice the strange high-pitched sound produced by the crowd (Arab women specifically) every few minutes throughout the whole celebration? Don’t freak out! this is called “Zaghrouta.”
Here, let me explain more:
“Zaghrouta” (زغروتة) is best described in English as “Ululation”. It is a form of a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound representing trills of joy. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied by a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue.
Ululation is usually used by women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and is commonly performed in weddings, parties, celebrations and sometimes in funerals to honor someone and to express strong emotions.
The origin of “Zaghareet” [pl.] or Ululation dates back to the pre-Islamic era, as it was a traditional ritual of idolatry practiced collectively by women asking the idols for relief, mercy, rain…etc. In addition to drumbeats, they also used ululation to stimulate excitement on battlefields.
There is a type of ululation that comes in a form of songs, where the woman starts it by saying “Aweeeha” loudly then the words follow. By the end of the last sentence of the song, the rest of the women produce the “lolololololeeesh” sound. This form of “Zaghareet” can be compared to the men’s ‘ataba (عتابة).
Ululation is likely to be heard everywhere. There is literally no occasion where you can’t hear the women performing a “Zaghrouta”, such as in:
Weddings and Engagement Parties:
Weddings are one of the most emotional occasions in the Arab world. Once the newlyweds make their appearance into the hall, the ululating battle begins.
Returning from Hajj
Pilgrims are always warmly welcomed when they return back from Hajj. Some people decorate the houses with colored lights, banners and palm tree leaves. Women emit the “Zaghareet” to celebrate their Hajj’s safe arrival and to congratulate them on performing Hajj.
Birth of a New Baby
What is more exciting than welcoming a new bundle of joy to the world? A “Zaghrouta” does the perfect job in expressing the ultimate happiness and excitement upon the arrival of the new baby.
As aforementioned, ululation in the Arab world is mainly used to express happiness and joy. However, it can be applied in funerals as well. If the deceased is still a bachelor, “Zaghareet” are emitted to honor him/her and to express strong emotions of sadness and grief.
In conclusion, make sure next time you experience an Arab celebration to join the flock and try your hand at the “Zaghrouta”. Trust me you will enjoy it.