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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

UNESCO debate granting Al Azi Intangible Heritage recognition

Traditional Emirati poetry recitals could gain protection from the Intergovernmental Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Francesco Bandarin, assistant director-general for culture at UNESCO, gives a speech at the opening of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s intergovernmental committee on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage conference in South Korea. EPA / YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT
Francesco Bandarin, assistant director-general for culture at UNESCO, gives a speech at the opening of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s intergovernmental committee on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage conference in South Korea. EPA / YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is this week considering the inclusion of the UAE tradition of Al Azi on to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The decision is being made in a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in South Korea, which is to conclude on December 9, state news agency WAM reported.

The Intangible Cultural Heritage list currently provides urgent support and protection to cultural practices from around the world that are either rare or fragile. Inclusion on the list would mean international cooperation and support to ensure the survival of Al Azi within the UAE community.

Although performed regularly until the mid-1990s, performances of Al Azi, a traditional group recital of rhyming poetry that includes sayings and proverbs, have dwindled in recent years. The practice is an important part of Emirati heritage and society, strengthening group bonds. It is also connected with knowledge and practices related to nature.

If selected, it will join practices such as Europe’s Mediterranean diet and Indian yoga. Other nominees this year include German organ music and a Neapolitan pizza baking tradition that involves songs and stories that are handed down over generations.

The committee, made up of representatives from the 24 member countries of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meets on an annual basis to decide which cultural traditions should be added to the 360-strong list.