Traditions and lifestyle: Shehhuh tribe of the Northern Emirates

  • Ras al Khaimah - Men share a communal evening meal of goat and camel meat, Arabic rice and Hasho (a mix of beans and raisins) at a wedding in the village of al Mahboobi in al Rams. Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah - Rashid Salim al Shehhi, centre,  takes part in a drum circle during a wedding for members of the Shehhi tribe in the village of al Mahboobi in al Rams.  Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah - Men move in a circle while twirling or Razfa their canes during a traditional Arabic dance called the Razif at a wedding celebration for two grooms of the Shehhi tribe in the village of al Mahboobi in al Rams.   Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah - Saif al Nar, left,  (his name means sword of fire) began practicing the Nadbah at age six and is now a full Nadeeb (Nadbah caller) leading friends and elders in the Shehhuh war cry used as a greeting of peace.  Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah -  82-year-old Ali Rashid Al Dhuhoori, at his place of work in the village of Wadi Shaam.  Ali is the village headstone maker and each day he climbs his mountain to access the rock which he then cuts for the tombs.  Randi Sokoloff / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah - Brothers Mohammed Al Shehhi, left, and Abdulla Al Shehhi, perform the the The Mzafin (confrontation) during the sword dance at Khatt town.  Jaime Puebla / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah - Mohammed Al Shehhi  balances a sword on his hand Jaime Puebla / The National
  • Fujairah -  Rashid Al Hufayti (left) and Hassan Al Hufayti check inside the remains of a house of the WAMM village in Dibba. Jaime Puebla / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah - Rashid Saeed in his home in the village of Janas in the Hajar Mountains  Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah -  The house of Badriya Mohammed. Jaime Puebla / The National?
  • Ras al Khaimah - Waleed Bin Shaiban al Hebsi, left, and his brother Mana, unfurl a 40-meter UAE flag on Jebel Janas overlooking their father's home in Wadi Qada'a.  Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah -  Brothers, left to right, Ali, Saeed and Abdullah Al Qaishi with sweets and other foods to celebrate Eid with family and friends in the home near Rams.  Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah - Aisha Al Dabdoob, 74, is a traditional medicine woman, who is famous among her patients for being able to cure people with her songs.  Antonie Robertson / The National
  • Ras Al Khaimah - Brothers Mohammed Al Shehhi, left, and Abdulla Al Shehhi, perform the the The Mzafin (confrontation) during the sword dance at Khatt town.  Jaime Puebla / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah, UAE - Mohammed Abdulla Amin, right, uses a hack saw to saw a pattern on an ax handle he is making while his father-in-law Charchambi Mohammed watches inside Amin's home.  Mr. Amin has since died. Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah - A traditional Shehhuh ax made by Mohammed Abdulla Amin. Jeff Topping / The National
  • Ras al Khaimah - The village of Janas in the Hajar Mountains, residents say the village has been populated for almost 500 years. Jeff Topping / The National?

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.

*Anna Zacharias

 

                             
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