Ayala is an expressive cultural folk performance practiced by certain rural and urban communities in the UAE. It involves dancing troupes, poetry, chants and drum music. The performance is given by two rows of men standing opposite each other, with each row usually consisting of twenty men, or more. It simulates battle scenes, with the performers forming tight rows and holding thin bamboo sticks symbolising arrows or swords in their hands. The rows exchange movements, symbolising victory or defeat, whilst chanting a poem in encouragement and moving their heads and sticks harmoniously with the beat of the drum.
This performance is governed by a set of rules, whereby the group is led by a person given the name of “abu” ["father"], who is responsible for setting the rhythm and speed of performance. Drummers and other "jawala" [“roving”] performers stand among the men's ranks, and turn in a ring holding their swords or rifles, from time to time tossing them into the air and catching them. Likewise, a group of girls known as “na'ashat" [inspirations], wearing traditional coloured dresses, stand at the front and move their hair from side to side, symbolising the confidence they feel because of the protection of the male performers.
The poems of encouragement that are chanted constitute an integral part of the performance. They come under the category of Nabati poetry. Different types of poem are used as appropriate to the occasion of the performance. As for the musical instruments used to make the accompanying rhythmic sounds, there are both the large drums, the “qasir" or "rass,” and small drums “takhmir" or "rahmani.” There are also tambourines and castanets. Each region and each community are characterised by their own particular form of Ayala. Those variations are expressed in the chanted poems, in the speed of the rhythm and in minor variations in movements and sound tones.