The oud is an ancient instrument, probably of Persian origin, refined during the Arab golden age into the instrument in its current form. It is likely that the earliest ouds were carved from a solid piece of wood, much like the Chinese Pipa and Japanese Biwa which are also descendants of the ancient Persian barbat. By the time of the Moorish period in Spain the body was in its characteristic staved wood vaulted back design. In fact, this staved wood may be the namesake for the oud as the word means wood or flexible stick, and the top was made of wood as opposed to the skin of the earlier lutes and the vaulted back that provided the model for the European lute and mandolin was constructed from many steam-bent "flexible sticks" unlike the Persian barbat, which was carved out of a single piece of wood and may have been the original model for the oud.Originally ouds were strung with gut strings (although it is possible for silk to have been employed near the Persian-Chinese border) but today nylon has all but replaced gut.
The oud is held similar to a guitar, but care must be taken to have the face vertical so that it is not visible to the player, and to support the weight with the thigh and right arm so that the left hand is free to move around the fingerboard. Note the idiosyncratic manner of holding the mizrab (Turkish) or Risha (feather, Arabic) or pick; although it seems awkward it is in reality easier than a conventional flatpick, and gives the right tonal shading to the plucked note.
The oud can be heard on the Alhambra version of Sister Awake. To introduce this song, Jeff Martin plays an ancient Egyptian folk song called Helwa Lisa. The oud can also be heard on The Halcyon Days