Qatar’s kulfi sweets unveiled in study

Researchers have found inexplicable symbols in Qatar’s Middle East desert.

Known as kulfi or “gourd cakes”, the half-moon shaped or triangular shaped sweets and wasps nests appear in the desert not once but eight times.

“The 3D model of the kulfi and the featured outlines were fabricated in very precise detail,” said Imperial College London researchers in a study published in the International Journal of Cultural Research.

They found signs of a human past in kulfi designs. Photograph: Imperial College London

The kulfi, usually coloured white with the surface shaped like a kalashnikov, is usually found in small villages clustered around the holy cities of the Peninsula. The production of gourds in the desert in Qatar has been traced back more than 1,200 years.

The 2.8 metre shape of kulfi jars and the curved tube shape of gourds means that they may have been handmade, said the researchers. The shapes are suggestive of patterns found on the Arabian carpet: “For example, a symbol of a star surrounded by a triangle may be a trademark of the fasil [basil] store,” said the team, which included Hanna Alexandrovitch of Imperial College London.

“In the past, these kulfi would have been adorned with distinctive imagery including snake or lizard heads or snakes wrapped around the object, or a carved figure,” Alexandrovitch said. “However, it is only now we are able to depict the missing element, namely a human element.”

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