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Workout in the Air! Aerial Arts in the Arab World

posted on: Aug 3, 2022

A stag position in aerial silks, Photo Credit: Quizzup

By: Caroline Umphlet / Arab America Contributing Writer

The industry of aerial art has grown tremendously as a fun hobby, and not just in the circus. There are many different mediums that can carry people off the ground to create incredible performances and expressions of art. Some include aerial silks, lyra/hoop, pole, rope, trapeze, and even hair hanging. It is a mixture of dance, gymnastics, contortion, and circus performance. The Arab World has become much more open to these types of sports as we have seen an increasing number of aerial studios thriving in recent years. 

Perception of Aerial Arts

The main reason it is so shocking to see this sport thrive in a predominantly muslim region is the sexual context around aerial art.

Body Movement

Most aerial art accentuates the body in various shapes. The goal is to create beautiful figures and impress the audience with ways that the aerialist can contort their body using the given equipment (fabric, pole, rope, etc). Therefore, everyone is expected to be looking at the person performing. Contrastly, Muslim women, although not all, wear loose fitting clothing in order to hide their shape or figure. As we see, these are contradictory practices and it is understandable for there to be some differing reactions.


Some might consider the attire of aerial sports unnecessarily revealing. Instructors and professionals have strongly reiterated the importance of dressing properly for these different types of sports.

For example, for aerial silks, one should wear ankle-length tight leggings and a tight short sleeve or long sleeve work-out shirt. On the contrary, for pole, especially when starting out, it is advised by certified trainers to wear a short pair of spandex and either a tight tank top or sports bra. This is because for silks, the fabric should not stick to the body. In fact, exposing the skin to the silk could result in “silk burn,” similar to rug burn. Silk burn can cause serious bruising and even break the skin like a normal rug-burn, depending on the severity. When doing pole, shorter clothes are advised because the skin has to stick to the pole to cause friction to hold the body up.

In the Arab world, this tight or more revealing clothing is not common due to the more conservative society and societal standards. Being encouraged to dress the opposite of what they are comfortable with drives some women away, and understandably so. 


Aerial Rope

The Arab world is seeing more and more classes and performances of this art recently. It is an appealing hobby to take up with many benefits. They are exceptional forms of exercise, utilizing muscles completely different from weightlifting or running, but also good for the heart. Additionally, the community of aerialists, even if international, is also very accepting and supportive. 

Classes are more commonly only women, but are not always. The gym or studio usually has a closed room if the students prefer to take their hijab off or wear shorter/tighter clothes better suited for an aerial sport. All studios have trained and licensed professionals who specialize in training for these sports, so all the students are in safe hands. 

Studios in the Arab World

In the KSA, Roa’a Al-Sahhaf founded the country’s first yoga aerial arts studio, introducing it to a skeptical group of people. Over time, she has grown the network of individuals interested in classes, or even becoming instructors themselves in aerial yoga.

Cairo, as surprising as this may be, is home to various aerial studios. From New Cairo, Zamalek, Maadi, and Sheikh Zayed, and even to Gouna, there is a great interest in aerial art, and its growing every year. 

Aerial Silks

Among many others, FSquare Aerial Arts has various locations, with silks, pole, and flexibility classes available.

Aerial hoop or Lyra

Upside Aerial Arts also offers classes with flying pole (a moving pole not mounted on the ground), Lyra/Hoop, and aerial silks. 

Given Dubai prioritizes being more Westernized than other cities, the community for aerial arts is very alive there. 

Pole Fit Dubai is a very popular choice for taking classes in Dubai, which offers pole, silks, and also aerial hammock classes, which is the same material as silks but tied and hung in a hammock rather than two long pieces hanging. 

Arab countries even compete in the Azul Fest World Championship, where over 65 countries participate. Check out the 2021 submissions here

It is heartwarming to see this form of art and exercise get the attention and recognition that it deserves. Aerial sports are incredibly fun, but also great for the body and mind. Even if just one time, everyone should consider taking a class at a nearby studio!

Check out Arab America’s blog here!