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Ancient culture and traditions

Culture is a way of life in Abu Dhabi. Arts, literary ethos and skills that are passed down from generations play an important role in the UAE society. An emirate rich with culture, history and iconic landmarks, Abu Dhabi has many stories to tell. Abu Dhabi's fascinating, centuries-old story is a rich tapestry of epic adventure and incredible fortitude, covering the resilience of the Bedouins (nomadic Arab people), and Abu Dhabi’s impressive development. Not only have the people of Abu Dhabi been instrumental in its transformation, the creatures living here − from horses and camels to Salukis (desert hunting dogs) and falcons – have played their part too. Ayyala dancing is an embodiment of Emirati values and heritage featuring male performers holding thin bamboo canes and moving to a steady rhythm of drums generally performed during weddings, national holidays and other celebrations. A deep part of UAE culture and practised for generations by people across the UAE, Al Ayyala has such rich significance that it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014. When you visit the UAE you are sure to catch a performance of this Emirati dance form. The dance sometimes also includes chanting lines of verse, often from Nabati poetry (ancient Bedouin poetry), covering topics of valour and chivalry. Nabati poetry uses colloquial dialect and a straightforward style to tell stories, share wisdom and memorialise classical themes in Abu Dhabi. With its lyrical tone and its strength at both storytelling and addressing contemporary issues, Nabati poetry is a vital component of Emirati literary heritage dating back to the 14th century. Taghrouda (ululation) is another beautiful form of chanted Bedouin poetry. It is traditionally composed and recited by men travelling through the desert on camels in Abu Dhabi. Bedouins believe this mesmerising chanting not only entertains the riders but also encourages their animals to walk in time. A musical instrument that is greatly loved in Abu Dhabi is the Oud. The Oud is one of humankind’s oldest stringed instruments, dating back to the Akkadian Empire (approximately 2350 BCE) in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). In an endeavour to preserve and share the understanding of Arabic musical instruments, Abu Dhabi has established a school – Bait Al Oud to teach traditional music. Bait Al Oud is dedicated to the preservation, study and teaching of the Oud, a short-neck, lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument. If you are looking for things to do in Abu Dhabi that are different and culture related, then a visit to Bait Al Oud will be an interesting experience. There are several historic places and UNESCO world heritage sites in Al Ain that feature culture rich programmes. In addition, there are a number of Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage tours on offer, giving you deeper insight into the emirate's customs and traditions. These tours are adapted to all types of travellers, from families and friends to solo adventurers and larger groups.

Welcome to Abu Dhabi.

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