The Majlis (council) has traditionally been an essential part of Emirati social and political life, serving as a forum for members of the community to discuss issues among themselves and to raise important matters with elders and Sheikhs. Merchants and legal experts also held Majalis (the plural of Majlis).
Traditionally, elders and Sheikhs would host Majlis to discuss daily affairs, relay news and tell stories. All members of the community are entitled to attend these forums to offer their opinions on topics of the day.
Majalis run by elders, chieftains and Sheikhs are called barza, and the Majlis host is said to be ‘barez’ (prominent) when he is presiding at his Majlis. During such Majalis, the host hears complaints, demands and other issues of the people and seeks to resolves them. The atmosphere is one of constructive dialogue, defined by honesty, openness, freedom and ingenuity.
The Bedouin call these gatherings Bayt Al-She`r (house of hair), a reference to the goat-hair tents in which they are held. Barza Majalis also are called Al Marms, or Al Mayles.
Because of the significance of the Majlis, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia inscribed it in 2015 on the UNESCO ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.