Don’t call it belly dancing.

It’s, “Raks Al Sharki,” or “Dance of the east” in Arabic. And it’s not just about the belly but the whole body – head, torso, legs.

Getting the terminology correct is one of the things you learn when you meet Salah Fattah.

The retired Minneapolis pharmacist is founder of the classical Arabic music group called Amwaaj, which means waves – as in waves of the sea. Here they are in a photo I took at a recent performance at Mizna. That’s the Twin Cities-based Arab American cultural organization.

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Left to right, Tim O’Keefe, Laura Narada, Salah Fattah and Dawn Doering.

The ten-year old Amwaaj ensemble frequently accompanies the Jawaahir Dance Company.

Amwaaj performs Saturday afternoon, June 16, at Minnehaha Park as part of World Refugee Day.

Salah Fattah was not a refugee when he left Egypt, his homeland, in 1969 to come to this country. He was a young guy with a college degree in agriculture looking for a job in a battered Egyptian economy following the Six Day War with Israel in1967.

Fattah arrived in the land of opportunity, landed in Minnesota, discovered he wasn’t interested in agriculture, finished a degree in pharmacy at the U of MN, married, raised a family, ran a couple of drug stores, retired.

But all along he pursued his music.

Here’s another Arabic word to work into your musical vocabulary: Tarab.

Fattah says tarab is like a mystical state, or what some call a lightness that can be achieved listening to long and winding Arabic tunes filled with alternating moods of melancholy and happiness.

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