The “barbs”, the Saudi dance trend sweeping the Arab world


With its easy choreography and catchy rhythm: the “barbs” dance, invented by Saudi singer Majed el-Esa, has been all the rage in Saudi Arabia since the music video came out last December. Over the past few weeks, the “barbs” phenomenon has spread to other countries.

Now, social media is buzzing with homemade videos of people doing their own interpretation of the “barbs” in gardens, living rooms, parking lots or even alongside deserted highways. In short, the “barbs” seems to be the dance for everyone, at any time.

It all started with this music video by Saudi singer Majed el-Esa.


"Barbs" means "uncoordinated" in the Saudi dialect. To do the basic move, you have to throw your head backwards, then move to one side while doing a body roll.

The music video was first published on YouTube on December 31, 2015. Now, almost four months later, it has more that 20 million views. And eager dancers all over the Arab world have been making many, many knock-off videos.



Each new interpretation of the dance is a little bit zanier.

In this version, young Yemenis dance the “barbs” while chewing qat, a narcotic plant that’s popular in Yemen.

Speed it up ! Omar and Rajaa Belmir, a pair of YouTube celebrities famous amongst Arabic-speakers, did this accelerated version of the “barbs”.

These soldiers from the United Arab Emirates decided to film a version of the video while in uniform… but this video wasn’t appreciated by the top brass. According to the daily newspaper Okaz, the two soldiers in the video were sanctioned for “disrespecting the uniform and the army”.

In extremely conservative Saudi Arabia, this dance craze hasn’t gone without criticism. Numerous commentators and social media users have said this dance represents spreading Western values.

"Even the most educated amongst us are starting to imitate the West. They teach their children frivolity and the result is young people who resemble those in this video, who are busy wriggling to this strange song, the barbs".


Considered to be one of the most conservative countries in the world, Saudi Arabia also manages (paradoxically) to be a source for many hit YouTube videos like the barbs, the “penguin dance”, and remixes of the hit Moroccan song “She wants someone”.