Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.b.27

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Saudi Arabia has nominated Almezmar, drumming and dancing with sticks (No. 01011) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Almezmar is a traditional group performance practised by members of the Hijazi community in Saudi Arabia for festive occasions, such as family and national celebrations, religious holidays or government events. It involves about 15 to 100 practitioners dressed in long white garments who begin by standing in two rows opposite each other. When beating drums are heard, the leader of each row starts to clap and chant loudly songs about gallantry, generosity or love. The first row of performers repeats the song with strong clapping, then the second row sings antiphonally. Two performers go to the centre, twirling large sticks in quick, graceful moves, sometimes around a fire or objects then two others follow. Women participate in some of the costume making and may take part in the singing and dancing in private gatherings, while local craftspeople produce the drums and sticks used. The tradition is passed down to younger generations through observation and practice mainly by performing arts troupes and heritage centres. Almezmar is a cultural expression that acts as a marker of community identity, brings together people from diverse backgrounds, is a source of entertainment and offers shared knowledge that provides a part of the community’s collective memory.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The entire population in the Hijaz region recognizes Almezmar as part of its cultural heritage and identity. Transmitted from generation to generation, the element encompasses the shared values and knowledge that are part of the collective memory of the communities concerned, and of Saudi Arabia in general. The element works to unify the people, playing an important role as a strong marker of cultural identity in a diverse community. The lyrics transmit the values of gallantry, magnanimity, tolerance, peace and love. Knowledge and skills of the element are transmitted through observation and practice by all participating members of the community. The element is compatible with international human rights instruments.

R.2:   The file states that inscription would raise the profile of intangible cultural heritage in general and would contribute to ensuring the visibility and commitment of bearers of similar elements within Saudi Arabia and abroad, as well as raise awareness of their own intangible cultural heritage. The Hijaz region is characterized by its multi-ethnic identity and the file states that inscription would also draw the attention of other communities to the contribution that the Hijazis are making to cultural diversity on the basis of parity and dignity, while fostering its recognition by the younger generation as a valuable asset that provides a sense of identity, companionship and tolerance;

R.3:   The file asserts that the Hijazi community is at the forefront of safeguarding and transmitting the element, with the support of their chiefs. The private sector, non‑governmental organizations, and municipalities also provide support (workshops to teach children, festivals and documentation). The community concerned has developed future safeguarding measures in cooperation with government and non-governmental organizations. These include inventorying, research and documentation, design of courses, and holding Almezmar performances at national and international fora. The State plans to strengthen its legal protection. These measures will be implemented by the Ministry of Culture and Information of Saudi Arabia with the cooperation of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society. A broad participation of communities concerned is foreseen;

R.4:   The nomination was initiated by communities concerned, who have been playing a central role throughout the process. Supportive evidence of their full prior knowledge, consent and engagement in the nomination is attached to the file. Some community members even used social media to promote the announcement of the nomination stages to a wider community audience. Information about the nomination was also published in newspapers. There is no restriction on access to the element;

R.5:   The element has been included in the Inventory for Performing Arts in Saudi Arabia since 2015 and drawn up with the participation of communities and government representatives. The inventory is regularly updated in collaboration with the government and the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society. The element is also included in the intangible cultural heritage inventory of the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia, based on community participation, with data constantly updated.

  1. Inscribes Almezmar, drumming and dancing with sticks on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.