Middle eastern culture centers around four cultural groups – Arab, Persian, Turkish and North African Maghribi. The music is based on special scales called "modes" and is organized into beat groupings with patterns of stressed and unstressed beats that are extremely complex. Music can be played with 17 notes, 19 notes or 24 notes in an octave allowing human voice and stringed instruments to hit notes, called quarter tones, that are half way between notes on a western piano’s octave. Instruments favored in the Middle East include lutes, hammered dulcimer, spike fiddle, vertical flute and double reed instruments.
From the beginning, music has been an important part of the Egyptian culture. It was used prominently in ceremonies and festivals as well as daily life. Tomb temple paintings show a variety of musical instruments in both sacred and secular environments, and many of the dead were buried with instruments. Instruments known to have existed in ancient Egypt are roughly the same ones as have been created by nearly all civilizations. Lyres, harps, flutes, pipes, horns and of course, drums, cymbals, and other percussion. It is believed that the tambourine originated in Egypt.