Tales rich in history, symbolism, people, unexplainable events and heart are common on the Arabian Peninsula. Interwoven with culture and heritage, Saudi Arabian folklore captures stories of people, places and time. The “Story Behind the Myth” article series will reveal the story (or stories) behind these legendary tales, beginning with “the one about two lovers and their mountains.”
Like any good myth, there is some dispute about what happened and when, and Dr. Laura Strachan, an anthropology professor at Prince Mohammad University in Dhahran, says there can often be similar, but slightly different, myths across a country.
Fun Fact: There’s another geological Saudi love story: Al Wahbah Crater is a remnant of volcanic activity about four hours northeast of Jeddah, and legend has it that this, too, was the result of two mountains in love. In fact, they were so in love that one mountain uprooted itself to be with the other, leaving only a sparkling depression (also known as a salt pan) in its place at the crater’s bottom.
Strachan suggests that perhaps these kinds of myths were used all over to explain phenomena like volcanic activity or the cones that emerge because of it. “When you think about it, you’ve got a nomadic population trying to explain why there are topographical features, why they are what they are,” she says. “They didn’t have the education to [understand] plate tectonics. Instead, it became the will of these lovers.”
The tale of Aja and Salma lives on today through tourism, literature, entertainment (it was featured in 2016 as one of three love stories serialized for TV by writer and TV host Dr. Mohsin Shaikh Al-Hassan) — and, like all good legends, word-of-mouth.
Hatim Al Tai