The folklore of the five
wilayats of the Dhahirah Governorate reflects the
character of the local inhabitants. They are
famous for their courage and love of entertainment
and song. The folklore of the Dhahirah also echoes
some of the Governorate's customs and traditions.
"Al Ayyalah" is the leading traditional song and
dance form in the Dhahirah Governorate. Its rhythm is
produced on four types of instruments:
1. The flat "Kaser" drum, both sides of which are
covered with cowhide. It is struck on one of its
sides with a stout stick;
2. The "Rahmani" drum, which is struck on both
sides with the palm of the hand;
3. The "Daff", "Taar" or "Samaa". It is a
tambourine covered on one side with sheepskin and
is struck with the open palm;
4. The "Taasah" or the "Sahhaal". This consists of
two flat, brass cups which are shaken to produce a
In some parts of the Dhahirah Governorate the "Taasah"
is not used in the "al Ayyalah".
The dance consists of rows of men with performers
between the rows. Each man in the rows takes his
neighbour's wrist in one hand, while in the other
hand he holds a stick, which he waves in time to
the triple beat - either from side to side or up
and down. Simultaneously, and in time with the
beat, he moves his head repeatedly up and down.
His feet are not moved, though he moves his knees
slightly in harmony with the movements of his head
and the stick.
The performers between the rows comprise a number
of men carrying guns, swords, khanjars and sticks.
The men with the swords throw their swords up in
the air and catch them skilfully when they fall.
Some of the men with the guns do likewise, though
the usual practice is to hold the gun in both
hands and describe a complete circle with it in
the air. The men with the sticks perform a similar
movement. All rotate in short, sedate jumps in
time with the beat, mingling with the musicians,
who are sometimes more than fifteen in number
"Al Razha" is a display of swordsmanship and
In the old days it was used as a communal means of
expression of the people's demands to the Walis,
and also as a way of declaring war, mustering the
warriors, announcing victory and mediating between
disputing parties. It begins with a roll of drums
to assemble the men. Then each tribe's poet
improvises verses on the subject which has led to
Men also gather for "al Razha" for the sake o1
entertainment or so that their skilled swordsmen
can display their prowess with sword and shield
and the tribal poets can show off their mastery of
love poetry, panegyric, satire, stories and
conundrums - the literary equivalent of swordplay.
The name "Razha" is taken from the verb "yarzah"
(to feel a burden), meaning that the performer
feels the burden of his sword. It also implies
that he is required to bear this burden without
faltering, so that when he jumps up into the air
he lands firmly on his feet.
The tradition of throwing the sword up into the
air and catching it by its hilt - regardless of
its weight or sharpness - enables "al Razha's"
performers to show off their skills to one
There are different types of "al Razha", which
vary according to the movements of the performers,
the type and speed of the dominant rhythm, the
metre of the verse and its style of delivery, and
the subject improvised by the poet. The names of
the different types of “al Razha” refer to the
poetry recited, the movements of the performers or
the area from which it originates. One of the best
known types is “al Razha al Mashubah”, in which
the verse is either love-poetry or panegyric.
in the case of “Razha al Harbiyat” the potery
deals with an aspect or the aim of war through
satire, or its sanctions a raid, tells of a
previous victory or resolves a dispute.
in “Razhat al Hawwamah” one of the rows – usually
the row representing the host group or
tribe-begins by remaining in its place, while the
other row circles the area. While it is doing so,
its position becomes – for a time- parallel with
that of “fixed row”. It then continues on its way
unit it is facing the “fixed row”, which then
begins a similar circling movement.
"Al Razha al Khalidaiyah", is named after Wadi
Bani Khalid in the Sharqiyah North Governorate.
In "Razhat al Nahiyah", the group forms a single
line, which then divides into two. Each half
stands facing the other half.
When two tribes meet for "al Razha", each tribe
brings its own drums with it. The drums are
usually passed on from one generation to the next.
Two drums are used - the "Kaser" and the
'Rahmani". Both are struck on both sides with a
thin stick. The drums of the row that is singing
are silent until the row has been provided with
the words and music of the verse. The two drummers
move between the rows until the verse is finished.
Their drums then fall silent. The drums of the
other side are beaten when the new verse begins.
This new verse is usually in reply to the previous
verse. Verses are then recited and sung
alternately by the two rows until "al Razha" has
achieved its objectives.
"Al Hambal" is a "singing procession" of men going
to or coming from the venue of "al Razha".
It is called "al Masirah" (procession) because it
involves movement from one place to another. It is
also called "Zamil al Rijal" (men's song and
"Al Hambal" has a brisk, double beat.
The "Kaser" and "Rahmani" drummers lead the
procession. They may be accompanied by the
"Burgham" (a type of wind instrument) player, who
plays a series of staccato notes to summon the
people to "al Hambal".
The drummers at the head of the procession either
face forwards (like the other members of the
procession), or face the procession and walk
The members of the procession form themselves into
short parallel rows, one behind the other, with a
reasonable space between each row to allow each
individual to carry his gun or sword in a forward
inclined position, in a display of boldness and
"Al Hambal" may consist solely of men, without
women. However, if the event to which the
procession is heading is one in which women would
participate - such as greetings on the birth of a
child - the women will join in the procession,
with their children, behind the last row of men.
"Al 'Aazi" is a poetry recital without song or
music. The poem is recited by a poet or
The poet leads his group holding his sword and
shield and walks forward delivering his "fakhr"
(boast) or panegyric. He shakes his sword at each
pause in his delivery, causing its blade to
Behind the poet is a group of men who circle the
area within the two rows of the "Razha". These
rows arrange themselves in a square around the
poet and his followers, who repeat a series of
short, traditional, one-word exclamations such as
"Wa salimt" ("May you be safe"). In the old days
rifles would also be fired. Today, guns are still
ranged audibly on the around in time with the
exclamation, which - generally - follows the first
couplet of the verse delivered by the poet.
Another exclamation is "Al mulku lillah yidoom"
("Sovereignty remains with Allah"). The performers
elongate the letter "alif" as an expression of
reverence and to emphasise the meaning of the
words. This is also repeated at the end of the
In some parts of the Sultanate the poet concludes
his verse with an expression of "fakhr" (boasting)
or praise of his family, friends or tribe.
There are three types of "'Aazi" poetry. In the
first "al Alfiyah” every verse starts with a
letter of the alphabet, in sequence, beginning
with the letter "alit (hence the name "alfiyah").
The last verse begins with the letter “ya”.
However, some poets find themselves unable to
recite a complete poem with verses beginning with
all the letters of the alphabet, so in practice
the system varies somewhat.
The second type of "'Aazi" poetry is called "al
Adadiyah" (numbered), because the first three
verses -atthe very least- begin with a number. The
poet says "Firstly", and recites a verse, after
which he says "Secondly", and recites another
verse, and so on. The length of the poem depends
on the ability and skills of the poet.
The third type of "'Aazi" poetry is called "al
Mutlaq" (unrestricted), because the verses are not
subject to any "alphabetical" or "numerical"
systems or rules.
In "al'Aazi" the poem usually begins with
"Bismillah" (In the Name of Allah) and ends with
blessings and peace upon the Messenger of Allah.
These days "al 'Aazi" poetry is mainly used to
praise His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and the
achievements of his reign.
"Al 'Aazi" may be preceded or followed by what is
called "al Ta'aweetah" - or "al Ta'yiytah". This
occurs particularly in the Wilayats of Yanqul and
Ibri in the Dhahirah Governorate.
"Al Ta'aweetah", which is a form of panegyric,
begins with the word "sood" - from "siyaadah"
(dominion) and "su'dad" (power, sovereignty) -
followed by the name of the person the poet wishes
to praise. Then the poet speaks about his Wilayat,
his country and its Sultan, and various aspects of
local history. The chorus repeats the word "sood"
and the poet recites the names of those being
praised. The performance ends with the words "wal
Muslimeen takabbar" spoken by the poet.
"Al Tareq" belongs to the beduin tradition. The
singers sit either on a camel or on the ground.
Two singers take part. One of them begins, and
then the other takes over at the end of the
couplet and produces a version that is identical
in words and music to the first singer's.
The tune remains constant throughout the poem and
is almost invariably the same from one singer to
another and from one Wilayat to another.
"Al Tareq" can have a wide variety of themes; the
most common are love poetry, nostalgia or praise
of the singer's camel.
"Al Tareq" is generally sung from a slow-moving
camel. Hence its rhythm differs from that of "al
Taghrood", which is sung from trotting camels.
The name (and style) of "al Tareq" varies from one
Governorate of the Sultanate to another. In the Dhahirah Governorate it is called "al Radha".
"Al Taghrood" is sung either on camel-back or on
horseback to stimulate enthusiasm in either the
animal or its rider. The camel "Taghrood" is
called "Razhat al Bedu" or "Razfat al Bedu". It
has a single, unchanging tune which does not vary
from one place to another and is sung by a group
of men. The vowels are lengthened in a melodic
form that corresponds to the movement of the
"Al Taghrood" is also called "shallat al Rukkaab"
or "Hambal al Rukkab". The meaning of both these
terms is the same - that is, "Masirat Al Rijaal"
(men's procession). The specifically camel
"Taghrood" has many names, including "al
Ghairood", "al Ghaarood", "al Taghreedah", "al
Taghreed", "al Gharroodah", "al Gharood" and "al
Originally "al Taghrood" would be sung by a group
of camel-riders heading for, or victoriously
leaving, a battle. The bedouin also used to sing
it for entertainment in their desert camps.
The horse "Taghrood" is a song in which the singer
praises his horse. It is interspersed with shouts
to animate the animal.
The horse "Taghrood" is usually sung by horsemen
to arouse their horses before they take part in a
race. Its verses include themes like courage and
coming to the aid of the weak.
Memories and love are generally the themes of this
type of song. In the old days a bedouin man would
sing it to himself to while away the time on a
long camel journey. Nowadays the singer sings it
seated on the ground with one of his cheeks
resting on his open hand and his eyes closed,
surrounded by bedouin. He may be accompanied by
another bedouin singer, who takes over the poem
and the tune at the end of the couplet and echoes
it in precisely the same form that it was
Apart from being devoted to nostalgia and love,
this type of poetry occasionally takes praise for
the camel as its theme. It is sometimes called "al
Nuha" ("Lament") because of its sorrowful
In the Wilayat of Buraimi it is called "Walad al
Arab" (son of the Arabs) to indicate that it is of
bedouin origin. In the other Wilayats of the
Dhahirah Governorate it is called "Bint al 'Arab"
(daughter of the Arabs) for the same reason.
Dance with Wind Instrument
There is a type of entertainment in the Wilayat of
Dhank in which one or more women perform skilful
solo dances to the music of a double "Mizmaar"
(reed pipe) and a group of singers playing a large
variety of drums, including the "Kaser", the
"Rannah", the "Rahmani" and the long "Rahmani".
The music consists of a single phrase which only
changes very slightly to conform to the verse. The
piper plays a musical phrase, which is echoed in
verse by the group of singers.
The rhythm is a simple double beat. The dance
consists of two steps with a slight bending of the
knees and an energetic toss of the arms. When
there is more than one solo dancer, each dancer
dances freely as the mood takes her, her movements
only being dictated by the beat of the drums.
Some elderly men may be attracted by the music and
join in the dancing in a spirit of merriment and
In this type of Dhahirah folklore it is customary
to throw money on to the head of the woman who is
Al Wailah (Women's Dance)
"Al Wailah" is a form that is found specifically
in the Wilayat of Ibri in the Dhahirah Governorate. the
performers (all of whom are women) sing and move
their bodies in unison in time with the beat.
The women form themselves into groups, each woman
placing her right arm round her neighbour's
shoulders. Each group moves in unison like a
To begin with, each woman shakes a silver rattle
which she holds in her free hand, to mark and
emphasise the simple rhythm. Then, when the leader
of the group has given her silver rattle a long
shake, the groups of women exchange places,
following a traditional predetermined series of
movements, and form circles. The silver rattle is
shaken continuously while the groups of women are
In the Wilayat of Ibri "al Wailah" is accompanied
by a number of "Kaser" or "Rahmani" drums.
The women form two rows. In front of each row is a
group of drummers. The drummers lead their rows
women round the open area where the performance
takes place. At the end of the "movement" the two
rows exchange places. The dance continues to the
accompaniment of singing and drumming.
Al Talmees "Qranqashooh"
This is a children's celebration to mark the night
of the middle of Ramadhan. The children tour the
streets of their area, visiting the houses and
singing for halwa. The song has a simple, double
rhythm and consists of the words "Qranqashooh.
Qranqashooh. Give us some halwa".
To mark the beat the children use seashells from
the Batinah coast.
The name "Qrangashooh" is onomatopoeic and is
taken from the sound of the rough outer surfaces
of the shells rubbing together.
In some places the celebration is calle
'Qranqahooh". This is a mispronunciation of the
In the Witayats of the Dakhiliyah Governorate the
children Sing the same song, but they mark the
beat by striking two pieces of rock together. In
the Dakhiliyah Regic 'Qranqashooh" is called "Tawq
Tawq", from the sound of the two pieces of rock
being repeatedly struck together.
The words of the "Qranqashooh" (or "Qrangahoof Dr
"Tawq Tawq") songs are the same words that have
been sung by generations of children. The form the
take is determined by the reception the children
receive from the occupants of the houses where
they beg fc halwa. If they get a positive
response, the children sir a poem in which they
praise the people of the hour and wish them well.
If the occupants do not give them anything, the
children revile them and wish them ill.
In the Wilayats of the Dhahirah Governorate
"Qranqashooh" is also called "al Talmees"
(begging), because the children beg halwa from the
occupants of the houses they visit.
In the Wilayat of Al Khabourah "Qranqashooh" is
called "al Ra'aboob" after the type of seashell
that the children use to mark the rhythm.
Al Razha Al Kabirah
It is called "Kabirah" (big), because it is the
"Razha" of the top swordsmen and the leading
poets, who "duel" with verse, stories and
conundrums.In the old days it was the "Razha" of
war and peace, and the "Razha" of mediation
between disputing parties. These days it is the
"Razha" of greetings and praise for His Majesty
Sultan Qaboos and the achievements of his reign.
"Al Razha Al Kabirah" has a slow, sedate, triple
rhythm in harmony with the movements of the
The poet provides the words of the verse to one of
the two opposing rows, after the word "Lal" has
been repeatedly sung using the same tune and the
same sedate rhythm as the metre of the poem. As
soon as the drums start to play - the drums of the
side whose turn it is to sing the verse -the
display of prowess with sword and shield begins.
Swordsmanship has its own firm traditions and
rules. The seniors precede the juniors in order of
performance. In addition, both performers in a
duel must be of a similar standard, so that a poor
swordsman does not challenge a skilled one (or
vice versa). Each swordsman's objective is to
strike the thumb of his opponent's left hand - the
hand holding the shield - so that he drops his
When the two duellists have "achieved their
objectives" in the duel they stop. If one side or
the other is a clear winner, a third person
intervenes and separates the two combatants'
swords by slicing his sword through the air,
bringing the duel to an immediate halt.
In these cases the rule is that the person who
decides the result of the duel, or stops it by
slicing his sword through the air, should be one
of the senior men; that is to say, senior in years
or status, or both.