Deeply embedded in United Arab Emirates culture, Al-Ayyala exemplifies the ethos and gallantry of Bedouin life and reinforces the values of dignity and honour. Because it reflects the heritage and values of Emirati culture, the performance has become a symbol of national identity and union, and is an integral part of celebrations.
Al-Ayyala involves two rows of 20 or more performers facing each other in a stylised battle scene, with the thin bamboo canes representing arrows or swords. Each row of performers makes alternating movements with their heads, shoulders, arms and canes to suggest victory or defeat.
In between the rows, a band consisting of brass instruments, drums and tambourines plays the music and the men chant lines of verse, usually from Nabati poetry, on the themes of chivalry and valour. There are different types of poems according to the occasion of the performance. Each community and region, whether coastal or inland, has its own particular form of Al-Ayyala. The variations are expressed in the chanted poems, the speed of the rhythm, and in minor changes in movement and sound tones. Also accompanying the performance is a group of men known as yaweela in the Emirati dialect (the name implies movement), who move in a wide circle, stepping in rhythm to the beat and waving canes.