Unesco committee to discuss traditional sport Ardha’s inclusion in heritage list

May 30, 2017

Oman’s push for the inclusion of the traditional camel and horse race Ardha on Unesco’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is one step closer to fruition.

The Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MoHC) announced that Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICSICH) has accepted sultanate’s report on Ardha to be discussed at its next meeting for inclusion in the list.

The meeting is scheduled from December 4-8 in Seoul, South Korea. Ardha, meaning “to perform” in Arabic, is a traditional pastime in Oman where jockeys can display their horsemanship and camel handling skills in the popular sport. Saeed Sultan al Busaidi, assistant director general for literature and arts, MoHC, said the ministry has been supervising the preparation of the report that has been presented to ICSICH.

“Inclusion of Ardha on the List is sultanate’s push to recognise the traditional horse and camel sport as a national treasure. It has been an important part of our tradition and popular Omani culture.” He added that the ministry for the past year has held a number of meetings on the preparation of the report for nomination in cooperation with the Royal Cavalry and Royal Camel Association within the programme of the joint committee between the ministry and Royal Court Affairs. Busaidi informed that Oman has a total of seven listings on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List which include Al‘azi, Al Ayyala, Al Taghrooda, Al Bar’ah, Arabic coffee, Majlis (sitting place) and traditional performing art Al Razfa.

The last three were added in December 2015. The Representative List includes forms of expression that testify to the diversity of the intangible heritage with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. The proposal to list Arabic coffee and Majlis in the Representative List was a joint effort of Oman along with UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while for Al Razfa it was a combined proposal of Oman and UAE.

Al‘azi is a genre of sung poetry performed in the northern regions of Oman. It constitutes one of the major expressions of Omani cultural and musical identity. Al Ayyala is a popular and expressive cultural performance practised in north-western Oman and throughout the UAE. Al Ayyala involves chanted poetry, drum music and dance, and simulates a battle scene.

Al Taghrooda traditional Bedouin chanted poetry is composed and recited by men travelling on camel back. Al Bar’ah is a Bedouin musical tradition from the Dhofar mountains. It takes the form of a war-like dance performed and accompanied by drums and chanting of poetry in a local tribal dialect.

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