Image copyright AFP Image caption Researchers in Qatar have been trying to document the hand of the Arab Spring
There have been complaints of symbols carved into areas of the remote desert in Qatar.
Qatar has a large population of tribes from tribes abroad living in the country, and researchers worry they are being used as symbols for the actions of groups and individuals.
In the last six months, people from these tribes have reportedly come to present the symbols to the country’s leaders.
So far, the country’s leaders are not discussing how they can use the drawings.
Searching for the right way
According to some of those present at the meeting in the Qatari capital Doha last month, the symbols are very difficult to translate.
Researchers have said they fear the drawings will be misused, as they could easily be confused with Arabic slang.
Image copyright AFP Image caption The region has a large population of tribes from tribes abroad living in Qatar
Qatar has a history of displaying symbolic rituals.
From warrior texts to poetry, the Qatari people are generally very proud of their culture.
In the last few decades, there have been attempts to stamp out these traditions, seen as being against Saudi Arabia and the more conservative Arab society.
This included a government campaign for Qataris to “learn the correct way to wear their colours”, limiting which colours Qatari citizens could choose from.
This tendency towards relaxing the codes of behavior has sometimes caused tensions.
Image copyright AFP Image caption A text including the Arabic word for “bear” is carved into a wall in a south Doha area
The pictures that emerged of the hand drawings show two or three well-defined designs carved into the desert floor.
They depict animals, such as bears and wolves, as well as Arabic sayings and prayers.
The symbols don’t appear to be associated with specific religious groups.
According to some witnesses, the government sent out pamphlets at the meeting about the alleged nature of the markings.
Image copyright AFP Image caption The panels are made of sandstone blocks and it is thought they were placed before they were covered in sand and covered in vegetation
Qatar’s culture ministry has responded to the complaints but has not revealed its position.
The Arabic language has a hierarchical system where Arabs are different from each other, and non-Aramatis refer to Arabs as ‘atarap’ (us and you).
This particularly favours those living abroad – many of those present at the meeting are from foreign tribes.
Using or tracing the symbols could quickly become confused with Arabic slang – used to describe different kinds of non-Aramatis, such as tribes.
On the one hand, Arabic says a lot about who everyone is and what they believe, so what could be the point in using the symbols as symbols?
But on the other hand, could those symbols provide some kind of Islamic cover for anonymous actions which a Qatari government could not publicly discuss?
Image copyright AFP Image caption The symbols appear to be most noticeable in the remote Samab district
Qatar’s culture ministry has been trying to classify these pictures so that they can be identified.
But judging by the pictures, this could be very difficult.
It is a difficult picture to work out where the symbols are coming from.
While they are not Islamic, the diagrams could easily be misinterpreted.
The picture below shows the symbols created by scholar Khalil al-Mughrabi.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Cultural specialists from Qatar are trying to search for the correct way to identify these symbols
They show that they appear to be more pronounced on the days of the week it is more common for people to sleep.
And they appear to be more prevalent in desert regions where activity during the daytime is much less than in the city.
But these are no pictures that clearly identify where they were carved.
Both the number and the name of the ancient Persian god of the desert show in these ancient numbers.
Image copyright AFP Image caption The cultures of Qatar and Iran go back 4,500 years
Where did the symbols come from?
A Middle Eastern expert who has been studying these symbols in the Qatari desert for years thinks they were carved in ancient times.
He also thinks they may have come from Iran, one of the most interesting sides of the story.
During a long, complex history in that region, the Persian civilization, and its people, split into multiple languages.
Islam also arrived in the area, with Mohammad as its prophet.
Ancient Persia is a short hop across the Persian Gulf from Qatar.
The Persian city-state is seen as Iran’s historical territory.