This article explores the structure and meaning of the Zār ceremony
as carried out throughout the Persian Gulf. This ceremony is mirrored by similar
ones throughout North and East Africa, suggesting that the Zār may have resulted
from cultural diffusion along historical trade routes. The Zār practitioners, the
bābā and the māmā, must cultivate extensive skills in musical performance,
movement and coordination in order to affect a palliative relief for persons affected
by spirit ‘winds’ that inhabit them, causing physical and emotional distress. The
Zār ceremony is an important method of non-allopathic treatment for emotional
disorders that might elsewhere be treated through psychiatry in clinical settings.
Practitioners see it as compatible with Islam, though not a strictly Islamic practice.