Heritage UAE; Intangible Cultural Heritage and UAE UNESCO Heritage Sites

Eslam Mobarak
Published 6 months ago on 5 September, 2023-588 views
Heritage UAE and cultural heritage sites

Heritage UAE has a long history. The Emirates UAE culture is bestowed with a rich heritage and is home to many cultural heritage sites that offer a glimpse into the country’s fascinating history and culture. Hospitality, tolerance, family cohesion, and solidarity among members of society, as well as honor and pride associated with being part of this rich heritage, and Abu Dhabi heritage village, are some of the distinguishing features of the heritage UAE in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


Heritage UAE

Heritage UAE has a plethora of cultural heritage sites that provide visitors with an insight into the country’s fascinating history and culture. These sites, which range from ancient forts and castles to traditional souks and museums, are sure to provide an unforgettable experience for anyone interested in learning more about the UAE’s past and present on a special heritage day in the United Arab Emirates.


UAE Culture and Heritage

Exploring the UAE’s intangible cultural heritage, the customs, traditions, and practices that are invaluable to the planet, aims to better protect and raise awareness of these traditions, while also serving as a repository of Heritage it encapsulates architecture cultural diversity, and creative expression.

According to UNESCO, its significance is not the cultural manifestation itself, but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that it transmits from one generation to the next.

Read more: UAE Natural Landmarks


UNESCO UAE Heritage sites

UNESCO UAE Heritage sites
UNESCO UAE Heritage sites

The city of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Six oases, including the city’s largest, Al Ain Oasis, which includes several “falaj” irrigation systems and traditional architecture, as well as the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hafeet, and Hili.

Sharjah has been awarded two prestigious titles for carrying the torch of culture and heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it as “The Arab World’s Cultural Capital” in 1998. The Organization of Islamic Countries named it the capital of Islamic culture in 2014.

Take a look at: UAE Geological Heritage Sites


Intangible Cultural Heritage of UAE

The UAE has 12 intangible heritage traditions listed by UNESCO, ranging from falconry to sadu. Consider the UAE’s 12 UNESCO-listed traditions, which are among dozens in the Gulf and the wider Mena region.


The Arabic calligraphy

The Arabic calligraphy
The Arabic calligraphy

UNESCO has added Arabic calligraphy to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The nomination was presented to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization by sixteen countries, led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE.

According to UNESCO, “Arabic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace, and beauty.”

“Arabic script’s fluidity offers infinite possibilities, even within a single word, as letters can be stretched and transformed in a variety of ways to create different motifs.”

Read more: UAE Mangrove Forests


Al Aflaj

The aflaj has been added to the United Nations Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Al aflaj, the traditional irrigation network system in the UAE, is on the 2020 representative list, as are its oral traditions, construction knowledge and skills, and maintenance and equitable water distribution.

According to UNESCO, the aflaj is a “source of pride for the associated communities” because its knowledge has been passed down for over 3,000 years.

Also, Al Aflaj has served to provide drinkable water for humans and animals, as well as to irrigate farms in an arid environment, demonstrating the community’s creativity in the face of water scarcity and the desert environment.


Falconry in UAE

UAE Falconry tradition
UAE Falconry tradition

Falconry has been practiced for 4,000 years in the Arab region, primarily by desert-dwelling Bedouins, as an important form of hunting and fishing in a land with limited natural resources. Falconry’s inclusion on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has now been expanded to include six more countries. The UAE led a global effort of 24 countries to expand the inscription, which now includes Croatia, Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Kyrgyzstan.

“The successful fourth inscription of falconry, as well as the growing interest among countries from all over the world in preparing a multinational file, reflects the importance of falconry as an integral part of our shared living heritage”, according to Noura Al Kaabi, The UAE Minister of Culture and Youth that time.

Read more: UAE Karst Topography


Camel Racing

Camel Racing
Camel Racing

National Camel Racing was inscribed on the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2020 for the UAE and Oman. The sport is still popular today, despite the fact that it has been around for centuries. Scholars believe it dates back to the seventh century.

According to UNESCO, “camel racing is a fundamental part of their nomadic lifestyle and a source of inspiration for poetry and singing.”

“Its significance and continuity in Bedouin society are linked to camels’ prominent role in the desert environment.”

Take a look at: UAE Coastal Geography


Al azi

Al azi is a traditional poetry recital performed by a group of people without the use of rhythmical or musical instruments, and it was added to the list of cultural heritage in urgent need of protection in 2017. While Al azi was widely performed in communities until the mid-1900s, it gradually declined as citizens moved from rural to urban areas and sought employment in fields unrelated to culture and the arts.

According to UNESCO, “the number of poets has decreased significantly over the last 20 years.”

“Despite these obstacles, Al azi has avoided extinction thanks to the efforts of a number of creative individuals and traditional art troupes.”


Date Palm

Date Palm
Date Palm

Fourteen countries, including the UAE, nominated the date palm for inscription in 2019 and were successful. For centuries, the date palm has been linked to the regional population of the submitting states, serving both as the source of numerous associated crafts, professions, social and cultural traditions, customs, and practices and as a key form of nutrition, according to UNESCO.

It recognized the critical role the evergreen plant has played in fortifying the Arab region’s people and land, assisting in the face of desert-related challenges. The element’s cultural relevance and proliferation over the centuries demonstrate how committed local communities are to its preservation.

Read more: UAE Annual Precipitation


Al Razfa

Al Razfa was added to the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2015, following another submission from Oman and the UAE. It is a traditional male art form that is performed on special occasions, ranging from weddings to national festivals. Dancers fill the space between two lines of performers, who form two lines facing each other.

A main singer leads, while the two rows form a dual chorus and sing chants such as nabati poetry verses, accompanied by drums and other instruments. Dancers move to the music while holding wooden replica rifles and swords.

According to Unesco, “practitioners have adapted musical instruments and composed melodies to appeal to younger audiences while preserving older expressions and oral traditions of the art.”


The Majlis

The Majlis in UAE
The Majlis in UAE

The Majlis is a cultural and social space common throughout the region, was also added in 2015 on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar. It is a large sitting area filled with floor cushions where members of the community gather to discuss news and issues and to socialize in general. The Majlis is where the community comes together to solve problems, express condolences, and celebrate weddings. Knowledge is passed down through generations here.

Because Majlis spaces are open to all age groups, knowledge is mostly transmitted informally as children accompany community members on their visits. Young people learn the manners and ethics of their community, dialogue, and listening skills, and respect for the opinion of others by observing elders in the Majlis.

Read more: UAE Coastal Climate


The Arabian Coffee

The nomination for Arabian coffee, which was added to the representative list in 2015, was led by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar. Serving Arabian coffee is an important part of hospitality in the region, and it is regarded as a ceremonial act of generosity. There are numerous traditional rituals associated with its preparation and consumption. It is prepared in front of guests, for example, and the most important or oldest drinker is served first.

When they ask for more, a quarter of the small cup will be refilled. Guests are expected to drink at least one, but no more than three.

Arabic coffee is made and consumed by men and women from all walks of life, particularly at home. The main bearers are sheiks and tribal leaders who serve Arabic coffee in their meeting places, elderly Bedouin men and women, and owners of coffee trading shops. Through observation and practice, knowledge and traditions are passed down within families.

Take a look at: UAE Cartography


Al Ayyala

Ayyala is a cultural performance practiced in northern Oman and the UAE, which was added in 2014. It includes chanting poetry, percussion, and dance, as well as a battle scene simulation.

Two rows of 20 men face each other while holding bamboo sticks and moving their heads and props to the rhythm, while other performers move around holding other weapons. It is usually done at weddings and other special occasions.

Performers come from a variety of backgrounds and ages. The lead performer is typically an inherited role who is in charge of training other performers. Al Ayyala welcomes people of all ages, genders, and social classes to Heritage UAE vector the heritage district.


Al Sadu

Al Sadu in UAE
Al Sadu in UAE

Sadu is a traditional weaving technique that has appeared twice on the UNESCO list, once for the UAE and once for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The UAE makes its first appearance on the list, having been added in 2011. It is a traditional art form practiced by Bedouin women in rural communities, who use wool from sheep, camels, and goats to create soft furnishings and decorative accessories.

The traditional colors are black, white, brown, beige, and red, with distinct patterns such as bands and geometric markings appearing throughout the designs. Weavers frequently gather in small groups to spin and weave, exchanging family news and occasionally chanting and reciting poetry.

Such gatherings are the traditional mode of transmission, Girls learn by observation and are gradually assigned tasks, such as sorting the wool, before learning the more intricate skills involved. The practice has declined over time, but it is still common among older women.

Read more: Henna art UAE


Al Taghrooda

Al Taghrooda in UAE
Al Taghrooda in UAE

Al taghrooda is traditional Bedouin-chanted poetry and was added in 2012 as part of another joint effort between the UAE and Oman. Men riding camels through the deserts compose and recite this poetry. The Bedouins believe that chanting both entertains and stimulates animals to walk in time.

They are short poems of seven lines or fewer, and the lead singer will chant the first verse while another group responds. They are also commonly chanted around campfires and on special occasions, such as camel races.

The social bonding that occurs during the oral exchange of verses is the most important aspect. Messages to loved ones, relatives, friends, or tribal chiefs are among the themes. It also serves as a vehicle for the poet to express his thoughts on social issues.

Read more: Ramadan UAE


Why is UAE heritage important?

Our expression of this identity demonstrates to others what we value by emphasizing our values and priorities. Our heritage reveals information about our past and how our society has evolved. It allows us to examine our history and traditions while also developing self-awareness.

What is the heritage of the UAE?

The UAE heritage has a rich history that is rooted in trade and is linked to Islam, which arrived in the region in AD 630. Its location between Europe and the Far East drew merchants from India and China, and it was highly valued by Europeans, particularly the Portuguese, Dutch, and British.

What is an example of a UAE heritage?

The city of Al Ain in the emirate of Abu Dhabi has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Six oases and the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hafeet, and Hili are among the cultural sites.

What are the cultural heritage sites of the UAE?

These are the most important cultural heritage in the UAE, such as:
1. Al Ain Oasis.
2. Al Jahili Fort.
3. Al Ain Palace Museum.
4. Hili Archaeological Park.
5. Al Bidya Mosque.
6. Qasr Al Muwaiji.
7. Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs.
8. Jumeirah Mosque.
9. Dubai Museum.


Heritage UAE is rich in intangible cultural heritage, including architectural heritage, sports, occupations, traditions, arts and crafts, food, historical and archaeological sites, lifestyle, and Islamic values in the United Arab Emirates history and heritage Middle East, with royalty-free heritage UAE.

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