Fatima Al Ahmed
Born 1955: Al Jazeera Al Hamra
Fatima discussed the pearl diving profession at Al Jazeera Al Hamra. It was an important job and the men used to set sail and travel for two or three months. The “nokatha” was the captain of the ship and he gave the money “qawath” to the divers. This was before the emergence of the Japanese cultured pearls. She also added the other professions were the trade of pearls and wood in India and the trade of fish. Fish was the main source of protein for Al Jazeera people. She also explained the transformation of the building. First the people occupied either tents or houses made of palm tree leaves and “khoos”. Then they used clay to be replaced later by bricks. Al Jazeera Al Hamra was ruled by princes e.g. Prince Abdullah Bin Hassan and Prince Mahzim Mohammed.
She also talked about her life and how they used to play “giheif” and other various games on the beach. Fatima lived nearly 48 years at Al Jazeera Al Hamra. In her childhood she used to live with her mother, grandmother and two uncles with their wives in two rooms. The man and his wife along with their kids occupied one room. The house was divided for several families. Fatima also stated that her uncles’ farms were the family’s main source of income.
Most of the days they ate fish and they had beef about once a month. Their day ends after the Isha’ prayer because electricity was not yet available. During Ramadan, the women gather in groups of ten or twelve to eat “iftar” in the house. As for men, they would gather in the alleys and have their food. When Eid comes, the people would wake up at dawn and go to the “musala”. Then they would return and have breakfast. The breakfast had many local dishes such as: hirees, khibees, balaleet, mhala, etc. After they ate, it would be time for visitors.
Women’s clothes were known to be striped sultani and bu risha. The sheila was made of tulle and “d’mat freed”. The girls were not idle; they worked hard and did the house chores such as cooking and cleaning.
Then Fatima talked about school. It was divided into two sections, one for boys and one for girls. At break, they would get together. The students would walk to school and it was only up to the fifth grade. Those who wanted to continue their education would have to go to Ras Al Khaimah.
The water was brought from wells located in the deserts. It would be carried in leather pouches called “jirba”, which were carried by donkeys. Later, the water would be brought by barrels or in tankers. Those who were more fortunate would dig a well on their premises. The late sixties witnessed the arrival of water pipes and electricity. Everything changed. The peninsula lit up and its citizens were happy with the change. They brought fridges, air conditioners, light bulbs and televisions.
Fatima saw the picture of the Masjid and said it’s called “Al Simaikh”. The Minaret appears the way it is because it is easy to be built in that shape. The “Blushians” were famous for building. The houses were of good quality because the bricks used were compacted and had no holes. They used molds of wood and then poured cement in them.
She also mentioned in the 1950s the cars made an appearance in Al Jazeera Al Hamra. Furthermore, Fatima said that the souq had a unique scent to it. It had a variety of shops such as Abdulla’s store that supplied flour and oil. Another example is Germin’s store, which sold fabrics, sweets and spices.
Fatima said it is hard to identify the houses from pictures but said that if she were on locations it would be much easier. However, she did recognize Abdullah Al Ahmed’s house as it got special attention from the media. Many TV series where filmed in it as well as a music video for the singer Ahlam. Around twenty people lived in that house. Their source of income was the selling of rice in the store and selling imported fabrics from Dubai.
During the winter, Fatima would reside at Al Jazeera Al Hamra and would go to “Ain Khat” for the summer for four months where she would stay in the family’s house.
Interview and translation by Asma Al Ahmed and Lamya Alshamsi.
Summer 2012, Ras Al Khaimah.
Abdulrahim Mohammed Al Ahmed
Born: Year Unknown, Al Jazeera Al Hamra
Abdulrahim said that Al Jazeera Al Hamra was an actual island and not a peninsula in the 1950s. During the 1960s, around 1965, a bridge was made connecting the island to the mainland. Before the bridge, the people waited until the tide was low so they could cross over with their cars, which were mostly Land Rovers and Jeeps. The dwellers of the island worked in trade, agriculture or fishing. In the 1950s, they were also in the pearl business. Abdulrahim’s family lived on the island since the 1940s and worked in trade.
From his memories of school, there was only one school on the island and classes were separated according to gender. The Khalid bin Al Walid section was for the boys and the Zainab section for the girls. Nevertheless, They boys and girls shared one courtyard for recess.
In early 1960s, curriculum-based education was introduced and a new school was built under the name “Khalid Bin Al Walid”. At that time, most students would leave school before entering high school and seek a job—mainly with the police or the military.
Abdulrahim also talked about his house and said about three families lived in it. All the families were part of the extended family. His house contained bedrooms, living rooms and one kitchen. Their food consisted of fish and rice. They scarcely had beef. The entire household would eat together. During summer at Khat they would mostly eat “Malih” which is salted dried fish made from Kingfish or tuna. Other families spent their summers in Shamil or Oman and only the guards of the fort would stay at Al Jazeera Al Hamra.
When Abdulrahim was young he used to play a game called the “Ring.” In which a wheel (usually one from a bike) would be pushed with a rod. He also used to ride a bicycle and go fishing. He also played a game with a toy called “al zaboot”, which had a nail set in a wooden cone and wrapped in string—resembling the shape of a yo-yo. They would place a coin on the ground and try to hit it.
Until he was eight years old, Abdulrahim visited a lady who taught Quran. He would normally go before school for his Quran lessons, but in the winter, he would study in the afternoon. In school he was taught science, math, Arabic and Islamic studies.
Black and white television arrived in the 1970s and Abdulrahim’s family had one in their courtyard. The TV was powered by a generator. There was a channel broadcast from Damam that played Tom and Jerry as well as Egyptian plays and movies. The neighbors would come over and watch with them. Before electricity they had motors to generate power and they used lanterns.
The family’s source of income was the trade of food supplies and back at the house and the trade of fabrics and sewing of Al Badlah. Al Badlah is a piece of embroidery attached to the end of the pants for girls. The embroidery is done with strings of silver and cotton and it’s called “Tally”.
In 1968 a gym was built. At that time Abdulrahim was about 14 years old. The gym was located at the beginning of Al Jazeera Al Hamra. It was called “Nadi Nisr”. Abdulrahim used to play table tennis and volleyball.
Abdulrahim left Al Jazeera Al Hamra in 1969 to go to Dubai, where he joined the Institute if Teachers and worked as a teacher in a primary school for two years. In 1974, he headed back to Al Jazeera Al Hamra and saw many changes such as: the bridge connecting the island to the mainland; a paved street from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah; water and electricity became available to Al Jazeera Al Hamra residents; and the government built houses and a hospital. These were the results of the newly formed country and similar changes were happening across the Emirates.
Abdulrahim taught at the Khalid Bin Walid school until 1978 in order to attend the United Arab Emirates University. In 1981 he received his degree from the College of Education at the University. After that he went back to Al Jazeera Al Hamra, he taught one more year in his old school. He also noted that when he returned the quantity government-built houses had increased. Abdulrahim was then transferred to the “Khazan” area where he worked as a principal in a primary school from 1982 until 1998. In 1989 he moved from Al Jazeera to “Khuzam” and got married. After he retired he worked in trade. In 1983, his family that had remained on Al Jazeera Al Hamra moved to the houses built by the government in the newly formed area.
Before 1971, the water was brought in tankers from the wells in “Khat” and “Nakheel“. They called the tankers “fawza”. The water was then poured in metallic barrels. After the unity, water pipes were extended to the houses.
He also talked about how the houses were built from coral, cement and block. These houses were very sturdy and durable. With the construction of the bridge, the island became very accessible. At the beginning of the 1980s, the water between the island and the mainland was filled with sand and houses were built on top the newly created area. The island has become a part of Ras Al Khaimah. It became a modern city with a resort, factories (ceramics, glass and boats), towers and a shopping mall.
The thing Abdulrahim misses the most is the close proximity of the extended family how closely tied the members were. Now, when the children grow up they leave the house once they get married and call instead of visit. He also misses how the neighbours and friends visited each other and kept in touch. Before, when he would go to the masjid, they could easily notice who didn’t come or who was sick and visit that person.
After he saw the pictures he identified the masjid as “Simeikh” and the market. He also recalls playing “zaboot” next to Abdulla’s store. Then he said the collection of pictures is missing pictures of Barajeel (wind towers) and offered to take some. In the market, the line on the right is newer than the one on the left. The fort had guards of the sheikh and close by is the where the Eid prayer was held. He also recognized Abdulla Al Ahmed’s house, who is the husband of his cousin. After he saw the map, he located the harbor, his house, the traditional coffee shop, the fort, Eid prayer area, market and the government built houses.
Interview and translation by Asma Al Ahmed and Lamya Alshamsi.
Summer 2012, Ras Al Khaimah.