Alheda'a, oral traditions of calling camel flocks
Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates
Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Alheda’a is an oral polyphonic expression accompanied by gestures or musical instruments played by herders to communicate with their camels. The rhythmic expression is inspired by poetry, and the herder uses a unique repository of sounds that the camels have become accustomed to in order to direct herds through the desert or pasture to an area for drinking, feeding and milking preparation. Alheda’a can also be used for swift assembly in case of immediate danger such as sandstorms. Herders train their camels to recognize the difference between right and left, to open their mouths when asked, and to kneel down to be ridden. The practice creates a strong bond between the camels and their herders, as well as among the herders themselves. It is transmitted within families and communities, with children accompanying adult family members on daily trips.