While driving uphill to reach the Riffa Fort site before the sun touched the Arabian Gulf Sea, a fews days after the holy month of Ramadan, I could not help noticing a group of Pashtun dancers performing Attan after Namaaz. The rhythmic and energetic reverberations of the dhol made me wonder how easy it is to judge a culture-any culture-based on their rituals. However, the inappropriateness or fairness for the basis of judgement is often influenced by whether the judgement is done based on an objective study or rooted in bias. While the former fosters learning between people of different cultures, the latter, the ones based on prejudice without any attempt to gather any objective knowledge, people tend to look down on other cultures, which creates disharmony and conflict. That was when I decided to stop by and walk towards the dancers…

Seen on the third day of Eid near Riffa Fort in Bahrain on 1.9.2011 was a group of locals perform attan. Mr. Gul Ahmed took time to explain about the dance and its relevance during festivals, in Urdu mixed with Hindi.

Some photographs…

Attan is a traditional Afghan dance performed usually with a Dhol, which is a double-headed barrel drum. All different kinds of Attan are danced with the beats of the drums.However they all differ in style. The beater of the drum known as “Dum”, which instantaneously change the rhythm, is circled by the performers.

Attan originated in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan. Attan began as a folk dance conducted by Afghans in the time of war or during wedding or other celebrations (engagement, new year and informal gatherings). It is now considered the national dance of Afghanistan.

The performance of the attan dance in the open air has long been customary in the Afghan culture. Performed in a large circle to the accompaniment of drums and pipes, the dance begins slowly but grows in momentum for two or three hours without a break except for changes in tempo or changes in song.

The Attan is performed differently in many of the different afghan groups. Some styles of Attan portray themes of war while others portray celebration, especially for events such as marriage, engagements, family gatherings and also as a prelude to the arrival of spring.

Some youngsters who were watching the photo shoot, wanted to pose for a souvenir. They may not see this photograph but still they could not stop laughing…

By the time the shoot was finished, the Shawwal crescent was shining seemingly over the beautiful town of Riffa and the Hunainiya Valley.

“Khoda Hafez..”


2 thoughts on “Attan

  1. Hello!
    I’m helping in casting a male Attan dancer for an upcoming Ben Stiller film. If you know anyone that can perform it or if you have any suggestions please let me know. Thanks!


  2. Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for your comment. Attan is informally performed during Eid which will be starting on the 19th or 20th of August… I will look out for the event and get back to you as soon as I have new info. Meanwhile, let me know how I may help you with any other… Good luck!



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