Majlis, a cultural and social space

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Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA)

Majlis are ‘sitting places’ where community members gather to discuss local events and issues, exchange news, receive guests, socialize and be entertained. The Majlis is where the community gathers to resolve problems, pay condolences and hold wedding receptions. It is typically a large space with carpets on the floor and cushions against the wall. There is usually a stove or fire to prepare coffee and other hot beverages. The Majlis space is open to all people and may be frequented by family members, tribes and inhabitants of the same neighbourhood, and other remote neighbourhoods. Community elders are considered true bearers, especially those with extensive knowledge concerning nature, genealogy and tribal history. Judges and religious sheikhs have special importance in the Majlis as they adjudicate on disputes and clarify political, social and religious rights and responsibilities. Women have their own Majlis, although some prominent women attend other Majlis, which are particularly academic or literary in nature. Majlis also play an important role in the transfer of oral heritage, including folk stories, folk songs and ‘Nabati’ poetry. As Majlis spaces are open to all age groups knowledge is mostly transmitted informally as children accompany community members on their visits. Through observing elders in the Majlis, young people learn the manners and ethics of their community, dialogue and listening skills, and respect for the opinion of others.

Al Hadeera Majlis: Bedouins sitting in a circle in the open air. A fire is lit in the center of the Majlis for light, heat and preparing coffee. The fire is also used as a guide for travellers and those lost in the desert.
A Qatari Bedouin Majlis: tribe men sitting around the fire making Arabic coffee. There are many types of majlis in the four States, one of them is the Bedouin tent.
An Omani wedding ceremony held in a Majlis
Different age groups from a community in Oman meet together and get to know each other in the Majlis; they discuss the various affairs of the society.
A poetry recital in a modern Majlis in Qatar
Almost every Sheikh, Amir and Prince has his own Majlis in which he receives his followers. Large number of Omanis sitting in VIP majlis.
A tent Majlis in the courtyard of a house
Using incense (Dukhoon) in the Majlis: The incense is a distinctive tradition and heritage of the Gulf. It burns slowly without emanating much smoke, but fills the air with pleasant fragrance.
Teaching children the social etiquette and traditions of the Majlis, especially those related to visiting such places: wearing traditional costume, respecting the elderly and observing entrance and exit etiquette by a member of an NGO.
A Saudi Majlis Currently, display screens, electronic games and computers entered to the Majalis, and much effort is made to decorate the Majlis and to make visitors feel more comfortable.