Emiratis tell KT how proud they are about UAE's heritage

Filed on November 23, 2019 | Last updated on November 23, 2019 at 07.16 am


Emiratis of various age groups tell Khaleej Times about the pride they feel in the legacy of their ancestors.

The UAE, as we see now, is a developed nation with modern amenities. When the nation celebrates its 48th National Day, the theme has been aptly set as 'Legacy of Our Ancestors', reminding the young generation of the rich culture and heritage of the country. Emiratis of various age groups tell Khaleej Times about the pride they feel in the legacy of their ancestors, which formed the great values that makes the UAE exceptional.

Elderly Emiratis said they felt excited about the theme as many of them still follow their ancestors' footsteps and practise the heritage ways of living. Camel racing, marine sports, traditional cuisine and games, yolla dance and many others are part of this heritage. According to the youth, despite the modernity and globalisation, they are sticking to the legacy of the ancestors and are preserving the heritage.

Practising traditional marine sports

Ahmed Ibrahim Al Baloushi, an elderly Emirati, said that he still remembers Al Arish (Bedouin settlement), which was built of palm fronds.

"I always remember my schooldays and friends of Al Fareej (neighbourhood). We used to come together to play traditional games and life was very active in all aspects. One of the most beautiful memories still stuck in my mind, is the harvest season of the palm plantations.

"As Emiratis, we will not forget the legacy of our ancestors. Despite the challenges of globalisation, we are proud of our heritage and are making efforts to revive and pass it to the coming generations.

"To preserve our heritage, I became director of the Fujairah Marine Sports Club. We managed to preserve and promote the traditional games that we inherited from our ancestors, such as sailing, boat racing and diving. However, we are not using "Shasha" - boat made of palms - anymore. 

"The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the UAE, and his brothers, the Rulers of the Emirates, came to us as a blessing from God to build a strong state to the children of the Union, and to the Arab and Islamic nations."

A museum of marine heritage

Abdullah Mohamed Suleiman, a 75-year-old Emirati, said that despite the tremendous changes in the lifestyle, he is still proud of preserving the marine heritage and its history to pass it to the next generations. He had established a marine heritage museum containing old fishing gears and the names and photographs of ancient divers and fishermen. He recently mummified a shark - locally known as Al Thiba - which was caught while trying to attack a group of fishermen in the UAE.

"I completely emptied the flesh of the shark from the inside and filled it with hay, salt and some herbs to stop the bad smell. I inherited the love of the sea from a young age. My father taught me how the sea has been generous to us for centuries."
He urged the young generation to preserve the maritime heritage through participating in boat racing events using a rowing boat known as Aler. "The rowing race is a heritage sport practised by our ancestors. It requires not only physical strength, but also strong bond and cooperation between the teammates."

Preserving the heritage of traditional meals

Jamila Al Ali, 80-year-old Emirati woman, has been cooking and serving the traditional meal, known as Al Sahnah, for 30 years in her little house. She sells it to the younger generation in different flavours, with an aim to preserve the traditional meals through generations. Al Ali even teaches the preparation of Al Sahnah to the housewives and young girls for free.

"Al Sahnah is one of the traditional dishes in the UAE. It uses a method known as Awal to storing fish at a time when there was no electricity and refrigerators."
Mama Jamila, as she likes to be called, noted that she adds some spices to change the original and traditional taste to be more acceptable for younger people and children.

Recalling the proud moment of declaration of the Union

Three elderly Emiratis, Hamad Al Ketbi, 80, Rashid Al Zaabi, 75, and BuHuamid Al Muhairi, 79, recalled the morning of December 2, 1971, when leaders from six desert sheikhdoms gathered in Dubai and put their signatures on a document to announce the birth of the new nation. They said it was the most joyful moment they ever had in their life. "It was a historical and gracious moment for us to see the new country's flag fly for the first time on top of each and every location in the country," they added.

Youth follow the legacy of ancestors

It's not only the elderly Emiratis, who are proud of the rich heritage and legacy of the nation. Aisha Al Ajill, 28, said: "Ancestral legacy is the identity of every citizen in the UAE. We breathe in this legacy, which is an inspiration for our present and future. We try hard not to allow the modernisation to distort that legacy. Through our cultural heritage, we have been able to achieve the excellence by adopting values of our founding fathers."

Mariam Sajwani, another young Emirati, said that the balance between both traditional and modern values and practices is a good way to preserve the national identity and at the same time integrate with the multicultural society of the UAE.

"Traditions should not be tampered with because they have been inherited from our great ancestors. But we have to find ways to modify them in order to adjust with the new world," she added.

'We achieved a lot in a few years'

Sharjah-based 74-year-old Emirati, Obaid Al Zabbahi, shared a glimpse of the Emirati social history, saying that the population of the UAE belonged to two groups - Bedouin and urban.

"For both the groups, family was the core of the tribe where women were not politically or socially elevated to the role of men. However, she was a man's partner in the burdens of life and had a great role in everyday family life.

"Pearl diving was the main occupation of the Emiratis for almost two centuries. But when the oil exploration began, it waned slowly. There was very little farming in the country besides some palm trees. There were large numbers of camels, goats and a few cows.

"There were no harbours or docks to accommodate large ships, but small vessels (dhows) and fishing boats used to dock here, using anchors built of stone. There were no facilities or services such as roads, telephone, electricity, postal, banking or medical services. The water used for drinking, cooking and washing was distributed on the back of donkeys, and the number of cars was very few. "By the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, many foreigners came to the country to work in oil exploration and other areas including medical field.

"Today, the Emiratis and the residents of the UAE are living luxurious lives, thanks to the founders of the Union and the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE. We are proud of what we have achieved in a few years.

"Despite all the achievements that helped the population of the UAE move from hardship of living to the modern life what we enjoy now, the Emiratis still preserve the culture and tradition," Al Zabbahi said.

Afkar Abdullah

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