Khaldoun Al-Azab, a coffee seller, dances for customers in Jordan

15/3/2020

Hammam Al-Assaass — Amman

Khaldoun Al-Azab, 22 years old, could hardly have expected that a Jordanian bride’s convoy would elevate him to fame and recognition. In his native Yemen, a country torn apart by war, he used to perform the traditional Yemeni “Al-Barra” dance while wearing traditional Yemeni clothes and donning the traditional dagger on his waist. He now performs the “Al-Barra” by the highway in Jordan. He does this to attract the attention of customers eager for a cup of Turkish coffee, or “plain coffee” as it is known in Jordan.

As the Jordanian bride’s convoy was passing by one day, Al-Azab stepped forward to perform the “Al-Barra” — a dance that normally is performed at Yemeni weddings. At that moment, the convoy stopped, people got out of their cars and joined Al-Azab to celebrate with him.

People filmed it and a video of Al-Azab performing his dance went viral on social media. Customers and journalists came to film him and to enjoy his performances, which were unfamiliar to Jordanians.

“In my situation, fame is similar to the saying ‘to have a reputation of being rich is better than having a reputation of being poor”, ‘he told us while crossing the small room above his workplace. It appears to be used for storing soft drinks and contains a mattress on the floor and a simple toilet in the corner’.

His living conditions do not match the recognition he has attracted. His predicament is similar to the lives of Yemenis who were forced into exile to seek out a living wage due to the war and its fallout.

Al-Azab told Al Jazeera’s Arabic Net that he is the only provider of his family in Sanaa and that, after his father passed away, he had to take care of his younger brothers and mother, who did not adapt to leaving her for more than a few hours. He hasn’t seen her for the past two years, and the conditions of communicating with her are difficult due to the precarious security situation in Sanaa as a result of the war.

Worked at weddings

Al-Azab recounts how he used to work in the domain of wedding preparation in Yemen, and that he was very good at performing the “Al-Barra” dance during these celebrations.

Wearing his Yemeni outfit- a brown shawl and curved dagger by his side- Al-Azab tries to bring back his best memories after being in exile in Jordan for two years. He misses his fiancée who he hasn’t seen for this time and dreams of better life conditions for Yemenis so that one day he may return to his family and get married.

Despite tough working conditions, Al-Azab has worn his Yemeni uniform and performed his dance for customers. This has led the coffee shop owners to offer him better jobs. Recently he had a good offer and moved to a new coffee shop in East Amman.

Customers’ kindness

Al-Azab brings customers their hot drinks whilst skillfully performing his dances, and without spilling a drop for his many, cheerful customers. This has prompted many of them to get to know him and the origin of the dance that Yemenis describe as the dance of “love and war”, which is estimated to be thousands of years old. The name “Al-Barra” is derived from an Arabic word meaning ingenuity, and although it is a war dance in its moves and expressions, it is performed at Yemeni occasions and weddings.

One of Al-Azab’s customers, Ahmad Al-badi, says there are many coffee shops on every street; however, Al-Azab attracts him with his smile and the way that he welcomes customers, in addition to his performance of the dance.

Mohannad Al-Omari, another customer, agrees with Ahmad, saying that he loves Yemen and its culture, and comes to this coffee shop to see the Yemeni folklore embodied in the dance performed by Al-Azab in his uniform and his friendly smile.

Al-Barra dance

The Al-Barra dance is classified as a group dance performed exclusively by men, which in its movements simulates combat, duels, war tactics, and the skills of defending, attacking and hit and run.

Similar to other dances, Al-Barra is performed in different regions in Yemen. It’s like the “Al-Adda” dance in Hadramout, Eastern Yemen, in which a stick and a shield are used. Dances like “Al-Haqfa, Al-fourssani, Al-Hamra, Al-Shanab, Al-Tasyif, and Al-Moubayana” are performed in Tihama, in the far west of the country, and the sword is used in some of these dances. And it is similar to “Al-broushiya” in Ibb, and “Al-sharh” in taiz in which the “Janbiya”, the famous traditional curved Yemeni dagger is used.

The source: Aljazeera.net (Original Content-Arabic)

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