They may have had limited resources “but life in the mountains was one of absolute freedom,” reminisced Ras Al Khaimah resident Saeed Sabat Al Dhuhouri, as he offered a personal insight into a unique way of life at the recreated “Mountain Environment” set up at the 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD).
It is through the memories and experiences of former mountain dwellers and the recreated settings of summer and winter dwellings and occupations the people engaged in, that visitors at the ongoing cultural festival at the Heart of Sharjah can discover the way of life in the mountain ranges across the UAE in the past.
Al Dhuhouri explained that every family had a summer and winter home, made of roughly hewn rocks. Small openings in the summer houses ensured proper ventilation while in the winter homes, the interior rocky walls were plastered to retain the warmth. The entire setting has been recreated, and inside, one can find the simple belongings of the household – cooking utensils, incense burners, water pots, wooden chests containing clothes and jewellery, and large clay pots to store food grains.
When winter ended, it was customary to lock up and move to the summer house, said Al Dhuhouri, who still has four homes in the mountains.
A large pile of mud cakes sits atop a tannour-like oven which, he explained, was lit with straw and wood. Under the heat, the mud cakes would crumble to a powder and this cement-like material was used for construction purposes.
Close by was an ingeniously designed circular predator trap made of rocks. Through an opening at the top, a sheep was lowered inside while a tunnel-like opening on the side lured the animal into the trap. “As beautiful as the mountains were, they were also home to wild animals such as the Arabian leopard, lynx, wolf, fox and wild dogs.”
“We lived by the seasons, experiencing each season to the fullest,” Al Dhuhouri recalled wistfully. “It was a life where you were at complete peace; and where you gained knowledge from the environment around you.”
More on the way of life of UAE’s ancestors in the mountains as well as in the agricultural, desert and sea landscapes can be understood at the festival until 10th April, 2021. On weekends, SHD is open to visitors from 16:00 to midnight.