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08 May 2012 The 20th Heritage Festival Bicycles + Yemen
The 20th Heritage Festival, held under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad, will continue for five days at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Sanabis. It was opened by Supreme Council for Youth and Sport Chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee President Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa in the presence of Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa. It is being organised by the Culture Ministry and is held under the theme Handicrafts and Folklore, which presents how Bahrain's heritage and creativity was preserved through generations. 

The festival version of this year is characterized by an exhibition of bicycles, which are very light weight frame, dropped (curved) handlebars, narrow seat and very narrow tires.  Called by Bahrainis "Alluha" these road bikes were used as a means of transport and daily businesses in almost every Bahraini household. The youth in Bahrain used to decorate these bicycles, which had lights attached to a dynamo in the back wheel. The most dominating colours were black and dark blue. Until today, these "Alluha" style bicycles are still used, reminding pedestrians of the traditional non-motorized means of transport in Bahrain. 

The participation of the Republic of Yemen in the Arab Heritage Pavilion of the festival was remarkably acclaimed given the number of visitors who enjoyed the traditional and popular Yemeni fashion show. The majority of crafts in Yemen are utilitarian items – woven floor coverings, blankets, woven reed objects, decorative metal doors, jewelry, hand guided machine embroidery on clothing, as well as elaborate rock and gypsum geometric designs which embellish houses in many regions of the country. Sirwal leggings, gargoosh (the small head covering worn by the majority of girl children and by some women in the northern parts of the country), ras maghmukh, and waist belts worn with the jambia, called a hizam, are the main hand embroidered articles in general use and still being hand embroidered today. The hand guided sewing machine has made its mark on fashion and both urban and rural women wear clothing heavily embellished with this type of adornment. Traditional Yemeni clothing for men may consist of a 'thobe', locally called a 'zenneh', which is a long, often white, garment. It is worn with a 'jambia' (dagger) and often a western-style coat. Others wear a 'ma'awaz', which is a long woven piece of cloth wrapped around the waist and a shirt on top. Instead of a 'ma'awaz', people in the south often wear a 'futa', an Indonesian-style sarong which is stitched together at the ends, unlike the 'ma'awaz'. A 'shawl' or 'smadeh' may be wrapped around their heads or simply put over their shoulders. 

 Geographical and social isolation within Yemen gave rise to the numerous regional traditional dress styles currently seen through the country. Similar, if not the same, factors contributed to each region creating their own production centers for unique utilitarian household objects usually not sold outside of these geographic centers. Since movement between towns was limited each region created embellished utilitarian items unique to their vicinity. 

Like most Yemeni crafts, basket weaving is regionally distinctive with different villages creating varying and individual designs. These baskets generally remain in the vicinity of their place of production with the exception of the Tihamah work which is used and sold in many areas of the country.
May be too much to say that poetry gave rise to music in the Yemen, but many poetic genres are intimately linked with the musical forms, and they have contributed much to the structure of Yemeni music. Certainly the metres often dictate the rhythmic patterns of the songs, and it is the special rhythmic quality of Yemeni music, above all else, which sets it apart and makes it so difficult for non-Yemeni musicians to master.
Poetry aligned with specific melodies and rhythm makes up the ‘corpus’ of Yemeni vocal music. The interpreter of the most formal of the sung poetry and, in a sense the guardian of the musical heritage, is the nashad. He sings, not in the melismatic vocal style which one associates with the Middle East, but in a sustained and high-pitched voice, often in a responsorial manner, with chorus (or several choruses) answering in alternating and changing refrains. This antiphonic form, though highly structured, complex and undoubtedly very old, is by no means restrictive. It accommodates melodic variation and improvisation and allows, even encourages, group participation. The effect on the listener, I can attest, is mesmerising.
Different poetic/musical genres require different settings, and one would hear the zamil at large tribal meetings, the razfah and balah at wedding celebrations, the dan at more intimate social gatherings and the qasidah in any number of situations. The madih and the mawlid (hymns of praise to honour the Prophet) are heard on appropriate religious occasions, but are perhaps more correctly described as recitations.
Bahraini writers and heritage researchers, Mr. Rachid al-Jowder and Youssef Al Nashba participated in the literary café and poetry lounge activities, through round table discussion on Bahraini heritage, old folk tales, customs and traditions in Bahrain and GCC in general.  Indeed, folktales are oral narratives that do not have a singular, identifiable author. Expanded and shaped by the tongues of tellers over time, and passed down from one generation to the next, folktales often reflect the values and customs of the culture from which they come. Because folktale plots are generally concerned with life's universal themes, they also transcend their culture of origin to reveal the commonality of human experience. This ancient form of narrative communication for both education and entertainment, not only offers a window into other cultures, but also can be a revealing mirror of the comedy and pathos of our lives.

The 20th festival (Folk Tales, Land, Sea and City) dedicated a children's area featuring  a story corner where youngsters are told tales of the past, a basket weaving zone, a puppet show and a fashion show where young girls and boys modelled traditional Bahraini costumes. During the week-long event, there will be many theatre shows, music and poetry recitals, and literature discussions, all of which focus on upholding Bahrain's rich culture and heritage. 

Participation in the 43rd Fine Arts Exhibition Bahrain Map