In addition to the barza, traditionally there were two other types of majalis in the United Arab Emirates: the Majlis of the Merchants and the Majlis of Justice.
The Majlis of the Merchants was open to all, but especially pearl divers, as they provided a way of raising funds for their journeys and to ensure that their families would receive basic foodstuffs such as rice, flour and coffee. This type was busy during the pearling season, especially near the end, when pearl prices were negotiated.
During the diving season, the Majlis was used as a platform to share stories about incidents at sea, as well as a space to address disputes among divers or between divers and traders. Storytelling, poetry recitals and other forms of entertainment also took place at these sessions.
The Majlis of Justice specialised in dispensing Shari'a judgments and often dealt with cases passed up from barza and merchants’ majalis. A Justice Majlis was recognised not only for settling disputes, but also for providing education on religious topics to attendees. The sessions traditionally opened from early morning until noon prayer, and then between the afternoon and sunset prayers.
The Majlis and nature
Majalis were held either in a bait al-she’r
(house of hair) or in open-air settings, around fires, with coffee served to attendees. Majalis in cities and towns along the coast were often constructed of plaster and mud, arbour and bower, or simple canvas to provide shade. Majalis in mountain areas were held in special guesthouses or other gathering places.
Learn more about Majlis in the PDF below.