Almezmar, drumming and dancing with sticks


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Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ahmed Abdullatif, 2015

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.