While no actual penguins have been found in the desert country, the Penguin Dance has been taking the country by storm. Men and women of all ages have adopted the dance as a form of entertainment in a traditionally ultra conservative nation. The dance, also called “raqsat al-batriq” in Arabic, is being shared all across the internet on social medias like YouTube and Keek. One of the most popular videos of the dance depicts a man in traditional white robes called thobes, hopping and side stepping in his living room while holding the hand of his young daughter. The video has 1.8 million views worldwide.
While no one is certain where the dance originated, a Finnish nurse named Layla who lives in, and writes a popular blog on Saudi Arabia called Blue Abaya says that she thinks the dance is a dead ringer for a popular Finnish folk dance. On the other hand, many “Western educated” Saudis say they believe it bears resemblance to the Hokey Pokey. Videos of the popular dance can be found as far back as 2010 at a wedding in Macedonia. Turkey and Albania also host videos of the dance.
However, the dance does not come without controversy. Many people think that the dance is unbecoming of Saudi culture and oftentimes women are only allowed to do the dance in the company of other women, if they are allowed to do it at all. Pop videos from the Gulf typically only showcase traditional dance, music, and instruments.