UNESCO-inscribed oral tradition of Alheda’a reflects enduring bond between Arabs and camels

Camel herders use Alheda’a — a combination of sounds, gestures, and sometimes musical instruments — to communicate with their camels. (SPA)
Camel herders use Alheda’a — a combination of sounds, gestures, and sometimes musical instruments — to communicate with their camels. (SPA)
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Updated 03 July 2024
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UNESCO-inscribed oral tradition of Alheda’a reflects enduring bond between Arabs and camels

UNESCO-inscribed oral tradition of Alheda’a reflects enduring bond between Arabs and camels
  • Historical accounts credit Mudar bin Nizar with having invented Alheda’a. After a fall from his camel, he kept crying “Waidah! Waidah!” (Oh, my hand!). The camels began moving, thus beginning the tradition of using vocal cues to guide camels

RIYADH: Alheda’a, a folk art passed down through generations across Arabian societies, embodies the deep connection between camels and locals.

Camel herders use Alheda’a — a combination of sounds, gestures, and sometimes musical instruments — to communicate with their camels. These rhythmic expressions, inspired by poetry, form a unique vocabulary that camels seem to understand and obey.

According to a report by the Saudi Press Agency published on June 29, herders use Alheda’a to guide their camels through the desert, find pastures for grazing, and prepare them for watering, milking, and riding. It also allows them to quickly gather the herd together in case of sandstorms.

Historical accounts credit Mudar bin Nizar with having invented Alheda’a. After a fall from his camel, he kept crying “Waidah! Waidah!” (Oh, my hand!). The camels began moving, thus beginning the tradition of using vocal cues to guide camels.

Early Alheda’a mimicked natural camel noises — herders would urge their animals along with sounds including “Heh,” “Doh,” and “Dah.” These vocalizations, along with rajaz (short, improvised poems), are still used today, but their use varies depending on the environment.

Over time, Alheda’a has evolved into a more poetic artform, with distinct styles and vocabulary. It has incorporated deeper meanings, sung verses, and balanced rhythms.

Saudi folk heritage researcher Ibrahim Al-Khaldi told the SPA that Alheda’a was “essential” for nomadic caravans. It typically involved two people reciting simple rhyming verses in unison, a practice that helped encourage the camels while extracting water from wells. For larger water-extraction tasks, where gathering distant camels was crucial, up to four people might recite Alheda’a. Their voices, carried in the quiet of the desert night or dawn, would travel a great distance.

The chairman of the Saudi Society for Camel Studies, Dr. Mohammed Al-Otaibi, told the SPA that Alheda’a existed in pre-Islamic times. The short, impactful chants helped gather camels, guide their movements, and direct them back to their resting places.

Inscribed in 2022 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Alheda’a has various specific chants — for departure, travel, watering, gathering, and drawing water from wells.

Camels hold a unique place in Arab society. Recognizing this rich cultural heritage, the Camel Club was established in Saudi Arabia under the directives of King Salman in 2017.

The Ministry of Culture even declared 2024 “Year of the Camel,” in honor of an animal seen as a cultural treasure, a pillar of national identity, and a valuable part of Arab heritage.

 

Decoder

What is Alheda’a?

Alheda’a is a combination of sounds, gestures, and sometimes musical instruments used by camel herders across Arabia to communicate with their camels. A folk art passed down through generations, these rhythmic expressions, inspired by poetry, form a unique vocabulary that camels seem to understand and obey.


Djibouti PM receives Saudi deputy foreign minister

Djibouti’s Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed receives Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji on Thursday. (SPA)
Djibouti’s Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed receives Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 44 min 7 sec ago
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Djibouti PM receives Saudi deputy foreign minister

Djibouti’s Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed receives Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji on Thursday. (SPA)
  • During the meeting with Mohamed, Al-Khuraiji reviewed relations between Djibouti and Saudi Arabia
  • Topics of common interest were also discussed

RIYADH: Djibouti’s Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed received the Kingdom’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji on Thursday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, the officials reviewed relations between the two countries and discussed topics of common interest.

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji meets with Djibouti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mahmoud Ali Youssef on Thursday. (SPA)Caption

Al-Khuraiji was also received by Djibouti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mahmoud Ali Youssef on Thursday.

The minister is in the country to attend the second consultative meeting on enhancing the coordination of peace initiatives and efforts in Sudan.

Al-Khuraiji later met with Minister of State at the UAE Foreign Ministry Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan Al-Nahyan on the sidelines of the meeting. 

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji meets with Minister of State at the UAE Foreign Ministry Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan Al-Nahyan. (SPA)

 


Chinese Embassy celebrates 97th anniversary of People’s Liberation Army

Chinese Embassy celebrates 97th anniversary of People’s Liberation Army
Updated 25 July 2024
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Chinese Embassy celebrates 97th anniversary of People’s Liberation Army

Chinese Embassy celebrates 97th anniversary of People’s Liberation Army

RIYADH: The Chinese Embassy in Saudi Arabia hosted a reception on Wednesday in Riyadh’s Cultural Palace to mark the 97th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.

“We would like to use this opportunity to celebrate not only our history, but also the history of military and security cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China,” said Zhu Je, the armed defense attache at the Chinese Embassy.

In an interview with Arab News, Zhu recalled Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman’s June visit to Beijing, where he met his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun.

Zhu described the meeting between the two ministers as “a milestone in the new era.”

He told Arab News: “This is the first time that he visited China to meet with the Chinese minister of defense and also the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

“The ministers decided to continue to deepen bilateral cooperation in defense and military areas, strengthen strategic communication between the leaderships, and to elevate the relationship to a higher level.”

The defense attache highlighted the importance of the meeting, in which Prince Khalid and his Chinese counterpart reviewed Saudi-Chinese relations and ways to strengthen ties.

The People’s Liberation Army anniversary reception welcomed defense officials and ambassadors based in the Kingdom.

Chinese Ambassador Chang Hua hosted the event alongside Zhu and welcomed guests to the reception.

Zhu delivered the opening remarks and highlighted the “strategic friendly cooperation” between the Kingdom and China’s defense ministries.

“China firmly supports Saudi Arabia to strengthen its strategic capacities for safeguarding its national security, and resolutely opposes any external interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs,” he said.

China aims to “facilitate the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the unity between Palestinian parties, to support Saudi Arabia’s efforts to maintain stability, restore peace and protect civilians in the region and in the world,” he added.

Zhu thanked the Kingdom for its support, saying: “I once again express our sincerest gratitude and respects to the leaders, government, armed forces, security forces and people of Saudi Arabia.”

He also praised the Saudi ministries of defense, interior and National Guard, as well as his embassy colleagues.


KSrelief celebrates Youth Skills Day at Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees

KSrelief celebrates Youth Skills Day at Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees
Updated 25 July 2024
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KSrelief celebrates Youth Skills Day at Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees

KSrelief celebrates Youth Skills Day at Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees

RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief’s Center for Community Service celebrated International Youth Skills Day at the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

The center held a special ceremony for the occasion, including various activities highlighting the skills of young people in the community and an awareness lecture to encourage women to develop their talents and capabilities, join training courses, and work with organizations to acquire new skills and experiences.


KSrelief provides shelter kits for thousands of displaced in Sudan

KSrelief provides shelter kits for thousands of displaced in Sudan
Updated 25 July 2024
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KSrelief provides shelter kits for thousands of displaced in Sudan

KSrelief provides shelter kits for thousands of displaced in Sudan
  • There were 400 shelter bags delivered in Blue Nile state, benefiting 2,300 people, and 590 were delivered in the Northern State, helping 3,240 individuals

RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief has distributed nearly 1,000 shelter kits across Sudan to families most in need, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Wednesday.
There were 400 shelter bags delivered in Blue Nile state, benefiting 2,300 people, and 590 were delivered in the Northern State, helping 3,240 individuals.
The assistance is part of the humanitarian and relief efforts provided by Saudi Arabia through KSrelief to support countries and people in need worldwide.


Saudi maths students scoop 10 awards at international competition

Saudi maths students scoop 10 awards at international competition
Updated 25 July 2024
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Saudi maths students scoop 10 awards at international competition

Saudi maths students scoop 10 awards at international competition
  • Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal Al-Hazaa said the victory was a source of pride for the entire nation

RIYADH: Saudi maths students scooped 10 awards, fending off strong competition from 38 countries, in the 36th annual Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Wednesday.

The Saudi team, represented by the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and the Education Ministry, won two silver medals, five bronze, and three certificates of commendation against 345 other students.

Youssef Bakheet from the educational directorate of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, and Muath Al-Qahtani from the Eastern Province, received the silver medals.

The bronze medals were awarded to Mohammed Al-Ghamdi and Ilyas Al-Faraj from the Eastern Province, Ahmed Al-Shahri from Riyadh, Fatima Bouali from Al-Ahsa and Ahmed Khalawi from Jeddah.

The certificates of commendation were awarded to Mohammed Hafez and Abdul Salam Al-Salmi from Madinah, as well as Youssef Khalawi from Jeddah.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal Al-Hazaa said the victory was a source of pride for the entire nation.

The participation at APMO was part of the Mawhiba program for international Olympiads, which is held in strategic partnership with the Education Ministry.

It is one of 20 programs and initiatives that offer advanced curricula and enrichment programs provided annually by Mawhiba and the ministry for talented students.