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.