UAE collaborates with Arab countries to nominate henna for Unesco heritage list

Practice could join several other Emirati traditions as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Having henna added to Unesco's list is part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s efforts to promote and preserve the UAE's national identity. AP
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The Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi is collaborating with the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth, as well as the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation to nominate the traditional practice of henna art for inclusion in Unesco's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The three government institutions hosted representatives from 16 Arab countries this month to discuss the nomination.

“The UAE attaches great importance to highlighting the practices of our Emirati identity and showcasing them to the world,” said Mubarak Al Nakhi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Youth.

“The inclusion of this element of our heritage on Unesco's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage is an important step in highlighting the role of henna in our Arab and Gulf culture and identity, which is shared by many other cultures of the world.”

The meeting and planned nomination for henna is part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s efforts to promote and preserve the UAE's national heritage and identity. In the UAE and across the region, henna has been used in both the fields of medicine and decoration, Al Nakhi said.

“It is a special symbol for social occasions, a manifestation of celebration and a special tool for expressing joy and special moments.”

The UAE's efforts to include practices, representation, expressions, knowledge and skills that are part of regions’ cultural fabric began in 2010 with international falconry successfully being added to Unesco's list.

Since then the UAE has also included Al-Taghrooda, a form of improvised poetry; Al-Ayyala, the traditional dance of the UAE and north western Oman; Al-Razfa, the traditional performance that includes dance and poetry; the Majlis as a gathering space where community members discuss local events exchange news and receive guests; Gahwa (Arabic coffee); the palm tree; camel racing and Arabic calligraphy.

“We are proud of our heritage and cultural practices,” said Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, Undersecretary at DCT Abu Dhabi. “The cultural and historical ties between Arab countries run deep, and it is by working together with our neighbours that our efforts to preserve and record our customs and traditions are strengthened and amplified.”

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Updated: September 21, 2022, 2:50 PM