x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

What rock art means to UAE locals

A few surviving mountain tribes believe the meaning of the rock art is much less complicated than some experts argue.

The few surviving mountain tribes, who have inhabited the area for centuries, believe the meaning of the rock art is much less complicated than some experts argue.

"They are mostly wusum [tribal markings] where areas belonging to particular tribes were marked in a certain way as a message to other mountain tribes," said Mohammed al Shehhi, 72, a member of the al Shuhouh, a prominent tribe.

Mr al Shehhi uses several of the petroglyphs as landmarks to find his own ancestral home in the RAK mountains whenever he and his family hike there.

"It is simple," he said. "It is not a coincidence they are often found near burial sites or tombs. They are clearly connected to the tribes."

And if they are ever proven to not be wusum, Mr al Shehhi has an additional explanation.

"They could have been drawn by our ancestors as an artistic expression of what they saw or felt, or they were documenting their history and surroundings, the same way we do now with our cameras and books," he said.

"Experts always try to complicate it. If a camel was drawn on a rock, then most likely the meaning of the drawing was a camel, perhaps a beloved pet."

rghazal@thenational.ae