Intangible Cultural Heritage
unesco detail banner

Al-Ayyala

Overview

Gallery

Did You Know

Al-Ayyala: a traditional performing art

LISTEN TO THIS PAGE
Al-Ayyala is an embodiment of United Arab Emirates culture and Emirati values and heritage
Perhaps the best-known traditional performance in the United Arab Emirates, Al-Ayyala is an expressive traditional cultural performance by men and boys who hold thin bamboo canes and move in unison to a steady drummed rhythm. Al-Ayyala involves dancing troupes, poetry, chants and drummers and is performed at weddings, on national holidays and other celebrations, as well as welcome ceremonies for visiting heads of state.

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- Other Participants- Thumbnail

Symbolic Battle

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.

Al-Ayyala has been practised for generations by people across the United Arab Emirates. The performance has such significance that it was inscribed in 2014 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


Download PDF

Did You Know ?

Al-abu (the father) sets and maintains the rhythm, while drummers stand between the two rows of men, carrying large drums.

Postcard

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

Select an image

SELECT AN IMAGE

Write note

WRITE A NOTE

Email

ENTER EMAIL/ POSTAL ADDRESS

Send A postcard

HAVE YOUR SAY