The lute (العود) is a string musical instrument that is very important in Middle Eastern music. It has a distinctive shape. See pictures!
Oud has developed over a long period of time. Some date it back to the times of Ancient Egypt, based on some images and artefacts of an instrument that looks like the lute, but the oldest pictorial record of a lute dates back to the over 5000 years ago.
Lutes are made almost entirely of wood. The soundboard is a teardrop-shaped thin flat plate of resonant wood. The back or the shell is assembled from thin strips of hardwood (maple, cherry, ebony, rosewood, gran, wood and/or other tonewoods) called ribs. The neck is made of light wood, with a veneer of hardwood (usually ebony) to provide durability for the fretboard beneath the strings.
The bridge, sometimes made of a fruitwood, is attached to the soundboard typically at 1/5 to 1/7 the belly length. The frets are made of loops of gut tied around the neck. They fray with use, and must be replaced from time to time. Strings were historically made of animal gut, usually from the small intestine of sheep (sometimes in combination with metal) and are still made of gut or a synthetic substitute, with metal windings on the lower-pitched strings. Modern manufacturers make both gut and nylon strings, and both are in common use.
The lute’s strings are arranged in courses, of two strings each, though the highest-pitched course usually consists of only a single string, called the chanterelle. In later Baroque lutes two upper courses are single. The courses are numbered sequentially, counting from the highest pitched, so that the chanterelle is the first course, the next pair of strings is the second course, etc. Thus an 8-course Renaissance lute will usually have 15 strings, and a 13-course Baroque lute will have 24.