May 16, 2013
The people of the Ru’us Al Jibal carry a culture crafted by the isolation and hardship of the Hajar mountains.
Although the Shehhi speaking community have started moved to luxurious housing further from the mountains, this heritage has not been abandoned or forgotten in the move to modernity.
Modern Shehhi culture embraces the future to keep its past. Fujairah’s Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition is a mountain version of Pop Idol, where entrants compete in a sword dancing contest to win SMS votes and impress a panel of judges. Its contestants are not nostalgic old men but teenagers.
In new neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the desert and on gravel plains, many haven chose to build mansions that honour the mountains they came from, painting stone-inspired design onto their homes.
National Day celebrations have become one of the biggest annual events for Shehhuh communities. A walk up the mountains to hang UAE flags from cliffs has become a modern-day tradition. Villages will often pool together tens of thousands of dirhams and take pride in the fact that they design and decorate villages themselves.
The Shehhuh continue to celebrate weddings in wadis, where thousands of men and women congregate to celebrate by drumming, dancing and eating copious amounts of biryani cooked onsight.
Old villages on mountain summits have undergone a recent revival. People often employ workers to build and live year round in their ancestral winter homes. The government has supported this by building more roads and offering helicopter delivery services to bring generators and construction supplies to old villages, like this one on Jebel Janas.