Al-Bar’ah, music and dance of Oman Dhofari valleys

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Oman



Al-Bar’ah, music and dance of Oman Dhofari valleys

Al-Bar’ah is a Bedouin musical tradition from the Dhofar mountains in southern Oman. It takes the form of a warlike dance performed to drums and the chanting of poetry in a local tribal dialect. Al-Bar’ah is performed in a half circle formed by ten to thirty men and women. As they chant and clap, two male dancers holding khanjars (daggers) perform codified dance movements, brandishing their daggers above shoulder level. The dancers’ steps are uncomplicated, but coordination with other performers and the music requires considerable skill. Each tribe has its own characteristic form of al-Bar’ah, possessing different drum rhythms and dance movements. The musical accompaniment is provided by the al-kasir, al-rahmâni and ad-daff drums and al-qassaba flute. The dance is performed outdoors, on occasions such as weddings, circumcisions and religious feasts. As for other Omani Bedouin dances, class and other distinctions are erased, as tribal leaders perform alongside the most humble of the population. The tradition represents the chivalric spirit, strength, courage, generosity and hospitality associated with Bedouins. The dance also emphasizes poetic themes of love and flirtation. Al-Bar’ah has many practitioners from Dhofar, who contribute to maintaining and transmitting its poetic variety and practice.


Decision 5.COM 6.33

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: Al-Bar’ah is a performing art combining dance, music and poetry, during which class and other status distinctions are set aside, embodying the formal equality of all members of the community and creating a sense of their shared identity;
  • R.2: Inscription of Al-Bar’ah on the Representative List could contribute to social cohesion and mutual respect among the communities of the Dhofari valleys and to greater awareness of the diversity of intangible cultural heritage in Oman and neighbouring countries;
  • R.3: The nomination describes the current efforts of State authorities to safeguard this element by encouraging its transmission to younger generations, complemented by the active efforts of performing groups;
  • R.4: The practitioner communities concerned were consulted during the nomination process, and provided their free, prior and informed consent to the element’s nomination;
  • R.5: Al-Bar’ah is included in the Oman Heritage Representative List Directory, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture.



© 2009 Oman Ministry of Information

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