UN's intangible heritage signatories to meet in UAE

Delegates from 114 countries will meet in Abu Dhabi to discuss the safeguarding of intangible heritage assets around the world.

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ABU DHABI // Delegates from 114 countries will descend on the capital at the end of the month for five days of discussions on the safeguarding of intangible heritage assets around the world. The gathering of about 400 representatives of signatory nations to a United Nations convention on the issue will take place from September 28 to October 2. The concept of intangible heritage includes things like Costa Rica's ox-herding traditions, Bangladesh's baul songs and, potentially, falconry.

Last month the UAE and 11 other nations signed a proposal for Unesco, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, to have falconry recognised as a world intangible heritage. "Intangible heritage is a basic component of the identity of the people of the UAE, giving citizens a sense of pride and belonging," Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), said in a news release.

The authority has been leading a drive to have falconry included on the Unesco list. Should the proposal signed by the UAE, France Spain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Syria, Qatar, Korea, Morocco and Mongolia, be accepted, falconry will be added to Unesco's official register within a year. The aim of the proposal is to protect traditions and living expressions that falconers inherit from their ancestors and pass on to their descendants.

The UAE has about 5,000 falconers, according to Adach, compared with a few hundred in other countries. Already included on the list of protected intangible heritage are Yemen's song of Sanaa, a group of songs taken from various poetic traditions dating back to the 14th century, and the Iraqi Maqam, a theatrical performance based on classical and colloquial poetry. As well as the delegates from member nations, the meeting will be attended by 50 representatives of associations and regional, as well as non-governmental organisations.