Traditions and oral expressions


The Folk Tale

Hazzaya, kharroufa
As mentioned in the book, ‘Folk tales of the Gulf’ - The Folk Heritage Center of the GCC States - Dr. Fayez Sayagh and Abdul Qadir Aqil - Doha 2001.

The tale is a medium for communicating experience, and linking and connecting events and actions that depict the reality of life and its contradictions. It also depicts oppression, injustice and the lack of equality, which is followed by the heroic savior who restores the image to what human life should be. In many cases, it derives its ornamentation from practices, beliefs, and other natural and supernatural phenomena that are difficult to explain.

Among the Emirati folk tales is the tale of ‘Alia Al Hilaliya’ narrated by Mrs. Salama bint Rashid Al Balushi from the city of Al Ain. The interview was conducted on 19/02/2007 at her home in the Hili area of Al Ain.

Summary of the tale:

Alia Al-Hilaliya grew up in a Bedouin environment. She was a very beautiful girl who liked poetry and chivalry. She had a brother named "Salem" who was known for his courage, chivalry and intelligence, as well as for his selfishness and narcissism. Alia married a man from her neighbourhood and prayed to have a son who possessed the characteristics of her brother Salem. Allah answered her prayer, and she bore three sons and three daughters. The children grew up, and in one of Salem’s travels and adventures, he asked his sister for permission to accompany one of her sons on a trip. She reluctantly sent her eldest son with him, whose intelligence was tested by Salem and was deemed to be substandard, as was the case when she sent her second son with him.

He urged his sister to send her youngest son with him, who demonstrated rare courage and intelligence during their trip, thus triggering Salem's selfishness and pushing him to the idea of wanting to get rid of his nephew so that he would not pose a threat to him in the future. Indeed, he made him go down an abandoned well filled with snakes that bit him and he eventually died of their venom. Salem returned home after burying his nephew and advised a navigator who was passing by to go to Alia’s home and to say to her, “I have news about these two, one is missing. No one remains but the ‘gray-haired man’.” When the navigator informed Alia about this, she was shocked by the severity of her grief and pain, so she lost her composure, broke the navigator’s leg and threw her servant from the roof of the house, thus killing him. When Salem arrived, he told the eldest daughter that her brother Aziz was in Basra market, working in trade.

The eldest girl and middle daughters believed what he said, but the youngest daughter did not fall for it and shouted, “By God, my uncle, if Aziz was alive, I would have received the good news through the flying birds, but Aziz is actually dead.” Aziz had written verses of poetry on the ‘saddle of the camel’ that were often repeated by the people of the neighbourhood:

طاحت دلو الهلالي يوم اليذايبا           عقد لها المزروبي وما عوّل بالربا 
بطّه حنيش صايب غرّز نوايبا            يوم أردفه جدامه دمعت سكايبا
طاحت عصاتي وخرّت بين الروايبا       عقروا علي القودا سبوقن في المدى 
وسيفي سوى صقايل مسنون ماحلا       دفنوني في ديرةٍ قفرية فيها البوم يحدي

Analytical Commentary:

This tale is an example of the style of folk literature circulating orally in our society, in which we can observe the authentic Bedouin qualities that characterized brave knights. Likewise, this story bears an example of a Bedouin woman who lived within the confines of her tribe in her love for chivalry and adventure. In this context, Salem's personality emerges in an unpalatable way, where only his selfishness and narcissism are dominant, so he commits a heinous crime against his nephew, "Aziz". Moreover, this tale was passed on through generations in similar Arab countries in which the Bedouin tribe was the basis of society. This style rarely appears in the folk literature of European and foreign countries.


Craft a postcard to send to a friend or family member, online or through the post.

Select an image


Write note




Send A postcard