Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.B.25

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have nominated Alheda'a, oral traditions of calling camel flocks (No. 01717) for inscription 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.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Alheda'a is an oral tradition of communicating with a flock of camels passed on through generations. Traditionally associated with walking alongside caravans during desert journeys, the element is used by practitioners today to steer and calm the flock of camels by using oral sounds, gestures and instruments while herding. The bearers and practitioners include herders and camel owners. The file and video provide information about the role of men and women in the element. The knowledge and skills of the element are transmitted through informal education, passed on from older to younger generations. Children learn through observation and participation with other family members. At gatherings and social events, practitioners pass on their knowledge and skills to individuals from different tribes. Alheda'a builds strong relationships between herders, supports the creation of bonds between bearers and strengthens social cohesion within tribes. It is associated with the human-camel bond, and the ability of the camel to recognize the herder’s voice, scent and psychological well-being. Herders also share their knowledge and skills at social events and through performances of the oral traditions and music of Alheda'a at festivities, such as weddings, graduations and birth celebrations.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will inspire local communities to safeguard other traditions of intangible cultural heritage and raise awareness of other local intangible cultural heritage elements such as social gatherings, drinking Arabic coffee, reciting poetry, storytelling and organizing festive events. At the national level, inscription will enhance the visibility of intangible cultural heritage related to desert environments in the submitting States. It will also encourage NGOs and governmental parties to safeguard intangible cultural heritage through the development of national sustainable projects. At the international level, it will promote cultural diversity by connecting different communities whose cultures are associated with animal caretaking, especially camels. Inscription will encourage dialogue between communities and practitioners of Alheda'a and other forms of intangible cultural heritage through the exchange of information related to safeguarding programmes between member states and other countries in which similar elements exist.

R.4:   The file explains that the preparation of the nomination file was carried out with the wide participation of local community members of all genders through committees, interviews with practitioners, meetings, visits and workshops. There are no customary practices that prevent reaching the element; it is publicly available and information about it is widely shared. The file includes letters of consent submitted by all submitting States, including letters from individuals, associations and groups.

R.5:   The element was included in the various inventories of the submitting States. Details about the organizations responsible for maintaining the inventories, the references, the dates of inclusion, and the frequencies of updating of the inventories of each submitting state were provided. Alheda'a was identified and defined by community members, practitioners and relevant local NGOs for the purpose of inventorying the element in all nominating states. For all States Parties, the inventories are updated to monitor developments in terms of the number of practitioners and their genders, the geographical reach of the element and the implementation of the safeguarding measures.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting States Parties through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.3:   The nomination file explains that past and existing safeguarding measures include measures to encourage transmission, identification, documentation, research, promotion and enhancement efforts. The submitting States clarified in the dialogue process, that there are ongoing joint efforts to safeguard the element through three community-based festivals which are held annually. In addition, the submitting States will create a coordinating committee with representatives from each state in addition to practitioners of Alheda'a, to support collaborations in safeguarding the element. Each state has developed safeguarding measures, such as scientific studies and documentation efforts, promotional events, youth-related programmes, etc. All submitting States have explained the involvement of the communities and practitioners in the planning and implementation of the proposed safeguarding measures.

  1. Decides to inscribe Alheda'a, oral traditions of calling camel flocks on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the States Parties of the importance of ensuring the widest possible participation of the communities concerned in planning and implementing safeguarding measures.