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A Look at Three Folk Dances from Dubai

The Gulf region is home to a long history of oral traditions and folklore, evident in its diverse cultures of storytelling, song, poetry, and dance, and in some instances a mix of all. The United Arab Emirates is one of many Gulf nations with a myriad of folk dances that reflect heritage and culture, and its most popular emirate, Dubai, hosts some of the region's most iconic dances across the year. Let’s take a look at three of them:

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Ayyalah is a Bedouin folk dance that reenacts war, conquest, and triumph with emphasis on dignity and honor. A total of 20 men are required to perform, but it can also reach as much as 200. The men are then divided into two rows and hold hands as if to do battle. Rhythmically, they then dance to poems and regionally-specific drums (Al Ras and Takhamir), while each holding a camel stick to represent weapons. Ayyalah is performed during holidays and special occasions.

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Named after the musical instrument used for providing the melody and tempo, Haban is an alternative folk dance that can be found in Dubai. It is also known by its other names such as "Khamiri" and "Khayali." Men and women can perform this dance as groups, with one group consisting of four male dancers and the next consisting of four female dancers. Ten artists make up the third group with a conductor providing melody for the dancers. Specific musical instruments and drums are used for the dance. Haban is performed primarily at weddings and other occasions.

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Just like Ayyalah, Yowlah is a Bedouin dance that centers around war, with performers divided into two to four rows. However, both men and women can perform this dance as separate groups, and a different type of drum (Doumbek) is used. Yowlah has its roots in both the UAE and Oman where it used to be performed as a victory dance during battle. In the present day, it is performed during holidays and special occasions. 

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