Al-Ayyala, a traditional performing art of the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates


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Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© TCA Abu Dhabi, 2013

Al-Ayyala is a popular and expressive cultural performance practised in north-western Oman and throughout the United Arab Emirates. Al-Ayyala involves chanted poetry, drum music and dance, and simulates a battle scene. Two rows of about twenty men face each other, carrying thin bamboo sticks to signify spears or swords. Between the rows musicians play large and small drums, tambourines and brass cymbals. The rows of men move their heads and sticks synchronously with the drum rhythm and chant poetic lyrics, while other performers move around the rows holding swords or guns, which they occasionally hurl to the sky and catch. In the United Arab Emirates, girls wearing traditional dresses stand at the front, tossing their long hair from side to side. The melody has seven tones in an irregular repeated pattern, and the chanted poetry varies according to the occasion. Al-Ayyala is performed during weddings and other festive occasions in both the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Performers come from diverse backgrounds and age groups. The lead performer is usually an inherited role and is responsible for training others performers. Al-Ayyala is inclusive of all ages, genders and social classes.