The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federal state composed of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain and Ras al Khaimah. At the federal level, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development (established in 1972 by Federal Law No. 1I1972) is the body responsible for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in the UAE, acting through a dedicated Intangible Cultural Heritage Section within the Department for Heritage and Arts. A draft Law for safeguarding both the tangible and intangible Heritage of the UAE is being prepared. At the regional (emirate) level, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), established by Law No. 28/2005, has been superseded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA, Abu Dhabi) created under Law No. 2I2011; this body safeguards the intangible cultural heritage in the emirate of Abu Dhabi through its Intangible Heritage Department. Other relevant regional bodies are the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the Departments of Antiquities and/or Tourism of Ajman, Fujaira, Ras AI Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain.
The development of human resources and training capacities for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage varies among the emirates. The UAE Ministry of Culture has set up a Diploma in Heritage in collaboration with UAE University; the University offers courses in heritage which may lead, in the future, to an undergraduate programme in intangible heritage. Degrees or certificates in Museum Studies and Heritage Studies are also available at three universities (American University of Sharjah, Zayed University, and Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi). The Heritage Directorate in Sharjah organizes intangible cultural heritage training courses, and TCA,Abu Dhabi organizes training sessions for researchers in intangible cultural heritage. For inventorying, the Ministry has organized training and workshops and provided funding for research in all emirates.
With regard to the documentation of intangible cultural heritage, at the federal level, the National Centre for Documentation and Research was established by Law No. 7I 2008. The Intangible Heritage Department (TCA, Abu Dhabi) continues to conduct intangible cultural heritage documentation and there are similar bodies responsible for this in the other six emirates. Other bodies involved in documentation include Bait AI Turath (House of Heritage) in Sharjah; the Zayed Complex for Herbal and Traditional Medicine Research; the Poetry Academy; the Emirates Heritage Club; and Ras AI Khaimah Museum.
The inventorying of intangible cultural heritage is undertaken both at the federal and emirate level: there is one federal inventory of intangible cultural heritage, the ‘National Intangible Heritage Inventory’, which covers all seven emirates. In addition, there is a comprehensive inventory of intangible cultural heritage for the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Abu Dhabi’. Other specialized inventories include the Inventory of Traditional Medicine (deposited at the Zayed Complex for Herbal and Traditional Medicine Research Centre) and the Inventory of Poets and Poetry (deposited at the Academy of Poetry, Committee for Festival and Cultural Heritage Programmes).
With regard to the national inventory, in 2009, the Minister of Culture established a Committee to compile a federal National Intangible Heritage Inventory to be held in the Intangible Heritage Section of the Ministry. An Inventory Committee was set up, comprising 24 representatives from the seven emirates, as well as intangible cultural heritage specialists. The Ministry organized training programmes and workshops, and provided funding for research in all emirates. The criteria used for inclusion are: (i) that the bearers and community consider the element to be part of their heritage, and it provides them with a sense of identity and continuity; (ii) the element belongs to one or more categories of intangible heritage; and (iii) the element still exists as part of the community and is transmitted and continuously recreated. The inventory also identifies intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding. The identification and description of intangible cultural heritage elements have been conducted through field visits and group discussions with community members, the bearers of this living heritage. Communities in all emirates participated in the national inventory. Participation is also sought from different tribal groups, as they have variations of the element.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Abu Dhabi is held by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Department of TCA, Abu Dhabi (formerly, ADACH). Initiated in 2003 as a General Survey of Abu Dhabi Heritage, in 2006 the survey was integrated into a more structured and systematic inventory. The criteria are similar to those used in the National Inventory. Although there is no special category for elements that need urgent safeguarding measures, priority for collection and documentation is given to elements under threat of disappearance (e.g. known only to elderly people or with very few practitioners). Non-governmental organizations, community groups and individuals participated both in the initial survey of Abu Dhabi heritage and in the making of the Abu Dhabi inventory. In 2006, ADACH established a Committee of about 30 men and women to work as a source group to identify cultural elements in the emirate. Non-governmental organizations, such as Emirates Heritage Club, and many well-known male and female heritage bearers actively participated in making the inventory and providing information about elements on the inventory list, through many meetings, interviews and the provision of documentation. The inventory is updated continuously through the work of committees and in response to community wishes and will be reviewed and updated every five years.
An important strategy to promote the function of intangible cultural heritage within society is the organization of intangible cultural heritage competitions. Most take place within related heritage festivals and exhibitions. They often include a special entry section for youth and have encouraged a wide range of heritage-bearers to share their skills with young people. For example, the annual four-day Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX) focuses on falconry and other hunting traditions, but also offers several heritage shows and competitions (e.g. Arabic coffee-making, Nabati popular poetry on falcons etc.), performances of traditional performing arts, and children’s games and songs. The annual Nabati poetry competition organized by the Poetry Academy has large cash prizes for the winners (the first prize is 5 million AED or US$1,363,000).
A number of community associations and non-governmental organizations are also actively involved in promoting intangible cultural heritage in the community (14 are listed in the report). AI Ain National Museum displays different intangible cultural heritage elements (e.g. related to dress, water resources, sadu weaving and falconry hunting equipment) and held several exhibitions during 2013 in large shopping malls in order to target young people. The Zayed National Museum (under construction) will have galleries exhibiting intangible cultural heritage elements. Heritage villages (open-air museums) have also been established in Dubai and Hatta. Cultural Clubs and Centres promote and support the transmission of intangible cultural heritage by organizing public performances. Dubai Culture and Arts Authority has three Heritage Centres to promote awareness of heritage among secondary-school students (reaching ca. 2000 annually). The media, particularly television, also raise awareness about important intangible cultural heritage elements and their role in contemporary society. This is the case especially for local networks, which enable local communities to share information.
Educational efforts reflect the collaboration of TCA, Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Educational Council, as well as the Ministry of Education and focus on including cultural heritage into primary and secondary school curricula throughout the country. For example, traditional children’s games have been introduced into the school sports programme. Extracurricular activities involve inviting practitioners and bearers to explain their heritage in schools, and provide opportunities for children to exhibit and perform some of their heritage. The Abu Dhabi Educational Council (ADEC) along with TCA, Abu Dhabi and other organizations plan to teach children topics related to their intangible cultural heritage. TCA, Abu Dhabi established a Department of Education in 2012 and is developing a curriculum and appropriate educational material (books, CDs, videos, documentaries, manuals and brochures). Similarly, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, has an agreement with Dubai Education Zone (DEZ) to develop heritage centres in primary schools.
As far as bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is concerned, the TCA, Abu Dhabi (former ADACH) organized ten regional and international conferences, workshops and meetings attended by Gulf Cooperation Council states and some Arab countries. It also organized one international and one regional conference on the 2003 Convention, including inventory making and the revitalization of heritage as well as heritage and education. And, in collaboration with UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Section, ADACH organized an international workshop concerning the Training of Trainers in Abu Dhabi from 10 to 14 April 2011. The objective was for Arab States experts to be integrated into the Facilitators’ Network for the Global Capacity-Building programme, which aims to strengthen capacities for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
The UAE reports on one element on the Representative List: Falconry: a living human heritage (inscribed in 2010, and re-inscribed in 2012 on a multinational basis with Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Syrian Arab Republic). Inscription has greatly raised awareness of this element and of UNESCO’s role in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Since its inscription, membership in falconry clubs has increased by 40%, and the number of birds per member has risen from one to three. The Emirates Falconry Club (EFC), which has 3,000 members, plans to restructure the club into a large fully-integrated falconry heritage institution to be housed in a new purpose-built building. The Abu Dhabi Falconer’s Club was created by the Abu Dhabi General Association for Youth to promote falconry heritage, run breeding centres, designate outdoor spaces for falconry, and run programmes (in collaboration with other agencies) to train young people and teach them how to look after falcons. Several publications on falconry have been made available by heritage institutions and clubs, and falconry books have been translated into Arabic. The Zayed National Museum (2016) will be built in the shape of a falcon and one of the five galleries will be dedicated to falconry heritage. For the preparation of the present report, a meeting was held in AI Ain with representatives of falconry clubs, the UAE Environmental Agency, the International Association of Falconry and individual international falconers. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss progress on safeguarding measures and collect information that formed the basis for this report.