Why this amazing piece of heritage needs safeguarding

Action has been taken to help preserve another piece of the UAE’s unique culture for generations to come.

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added the traditional performing art of Al-Azi to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

Al-Azi is the repetition and performance of Arabic poems without music or instruments and is widely practised at national and local events to promote Emirati values and celebrate the heritage of the UAE.

Performances feature a singer who is supported by rows of reciters who repeat and emphasise the words of the lead performer in a show of unity and solidarity, as the group praise achievements and celebrate traditions.

The decision to acknowledge the practice was taken at the latest meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, who meet once a year.

HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said: “Al-Azi’s inclusion in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage In Need of Urgent Safeguarding list is reflective of our leadership’s directives to support our authentic cultural heritage, and to emphasise on its importance in building national identity and maintaining communication between different generations.

“Al-Azi is an important performing art which still enjoys wide public participation, highlighting its historical depth and its significant stature among elements of the UAE’s authentic heritage.”

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