Traditional art Performance



Al Ah’hlah

The art of Al Ah’hlah holds a significant place as one of the most renowned and distinctive traditional folk arts in the United Arab Emirates.
The term "Al Ah’hlah" seems to have evolved from "Al Aahat" or "Al Aah," typically followed by "Ya Allah." In this evolution, "Ya" shifts to "ha," and the expression "ah" paired with "Ya Allah" becomes a colloquial utterance used by individuals in moments of pain or surprise. These exclamations, arising subconsciously as "Ya Allah," reflect feelings of distress or astonishment. Al Ah’hlah ranks second in popularity in the UAE, trailing only behind Al-Ayyala. Despite similarities between Al Ah’hlah and Al-Ayyala, they are distinct in performance, with a notable disparity being the absence of drums and other percussion instruments in Al Ah’hlah. Instead, Al Ah’hlah relies solely on vocal expression, emphasizing the impact of melodies and rhythms that set it apart.

Al Ah’hlah is a staple performance at various religious, national, and social events in the United Arab Emirates, including weddings and state receptions. Typically, it takes place in the majlis of the leader of the Al Ah’hlah troupe. This ensemble, comprising roughly 40 to 60 men, initiates their performance after the Isha prayer and the conclusion of Al-Ayyala rituals. Notably, Al Ah’hlah ceremonies are exclusively held at night, with no daytime performances.

Participants gather in two concentric circles on the ground while seated. The leader, often referred to as abu "the father," begins by reciting renowned verses and selecting a melody. The first group echoes the recitation, followed by the second group, who adjust the rhythm and melody accordingly. Subsequently, everyone rises and forms two facing rows, synchronized in movement with bamboo sticks to complement the chosen melody. While one row continues singing, the other responds with vocalisations, often elongating the phrase "al ahilah."

The leader strategically chooses poetry verses whose metrical structure aligns with the musical cadence, a tradition upheld despite the diverse range of poems in folk music. Typically, the performance commences with the recitation of two specific verses:

ياالله يذعاع النسيم إذنا ويبلغ العاشج هوى مطلوبه
لن العشق يدعي الثجيل إينا ولا يهتني بقوته ولا مشروبه

Oh Allah, with the whispering breeze, grant us permission,
Let hearts filled with love embrace their desired affection
Love, Nor can he find contentment in mere food or drink

In essence, Al Ah’hlah stands out as a unique local art form in the UAE, distinct from other Gulf region performances, characterized by its nocturnal nature.

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