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Al-Azi poetry, cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates

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Al-Azi was inscribed in 2017 on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
Al-Azi is characterised by the powerful voices of the poet and the chorus who ‘answers’ him. The chorus members hold mock rifles and stand in rows behind the poet, who holds a sword. The call-and-response performance conveys a sense of unity and solidarity, while the symbolic weapons signify courage.

Al-Azi was performed regularly by desert communities across the United Arab Emirates until the mid-20th century, when the practice became less widespread as people began moving to cities in large numbers. With support from the community, government authorities and growing Emirati interest in preserving heritage, Al-Azi has since been revived. It is regularly performed at weddings, national celebrations and religious holidays, as well as other special events and ceremonies.

Themes



Al-Azi performances have strengthened communal bonds and served as an important means of passing down traditions, knowledge and the Bedouin way of relating to nature.

Drawing inspiration from both colloquial Nabati and classic Arabic poetry, the main theme of Al-Azi poetry is pride in one’s family, tribe or rulers. In Al-Azi verse, the poet speaks about generosity, courage and other qualities that exemplify the greatness of the poem’s subject.

Did You Know ?

Al-Azi is recited, not sung, and is performed without drums or other musical accompaniment.

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