Memories of an Emirati childhood

Memories of an Emirati childhood
An Emirati girl wears a traditional outfit, worn in her village by elderly women, during the al-Gharbia Watersports festival poses near al-Mirfa beach, outside Abu Dhabi, on May 2, 2015. -AFP FILE PHOTO

Dubai - Khaleej Times talks to an Emirati woman about the importance of tradition as UAE marks 44th National Day.


Nivriti Butalia

Published: Thu 3 Dec 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 5 Dec 2015, 7:48 AM

Mozah Salem is a busy woman. She works in Dubai, raises her family, attends conferences, and gives talks. Privacy is important to her. She doesn't want her work mentioned, or her full family name, and photographs are not agreed to. She concedes though in a chat with Khaleej Times, and articulates some of her fondest memories for our readers as the nation celebrates its National Day.
"My grandmother would tell us stories up to this date about her past, activities of the earlier days, she would also recite an old poem sometimes. Furthermore, Arabic is very well practiced in my family, although my siblings and I went to English schools and universities, we still speak Arabic (Emirati dialect) at home.
"I enjoy writing, travelling, and exploring cultures whether related to food, language, music, or clothes," she tells Khaleej Times.
Talking about her family tradition of going for lunch to her grandmum's in Fujairah, she said: "It has been a ritual ever since I was young; my cousins, aunties, and my own family would all meet at my grandmother's house every Friday for lunch. My grandmother would cook us some of her signature traditional Emirati food such as "machboos" or "biryani." After lunch, at around 4pm my cousins and I would go for a walk around the neighbourhood and play with some other kids, or even walk to the supermarket. Yes, it was that safe for us to walk alone! We stayed out till maghrib (late evening) prayer, and would return to the house after that. Then we watched TV with the rest of the family."
Explaining about the traditional Emirati dress, Salem said: "Personally, I wear the Emirati traditional dress very frequently. I wear the mukhawara; that is basically a long dress with some embroidery. It comes in different colours and designs. For winter we wear a cotton mukhawara and in summer we wear silk. Besides, I love wearing some old jewellery; it has its own law of attraction to me. I feel the pride when wearing it. I wear three bracelets known as heyool and earrings kawashi. I do wear necklaces but not very often. Other than the "mukhawara" other girls might wear a jalabiya. Despite the different changes in styles and trends in fashion, my family always encourages us to wear our national customs; it has its own sense of belonging."
All the females in my family wear the mukhawara and jalabiya. Both my grandmothers still wear jewellery such as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces on a daily basis, they don't remove it. Gold is very much preferred over pearls, although some do wear it. As far as I have seen in my family, females prefer gold jewellery. My grandmothers wear the "burqaa" which covers part of their face when they go out or when there is a male present. I love applying henna on my hands. I do it every now and then and of course during Eid or a wedding.
My mom used to tell me that she applied make up on when she was in her early 20s although makeup was available before then. They would only apply eyeliner "kohl" inside the eye and some lipstick. It was all about natural beauty.
Traditions kept alive
Despite the multicultural fast paced life, Salem said that she was fortunate to have come from a traditional family and still practises their traditions. "Culture is something precious to us and it has passed on generations, and I want to pass the same culture to my kids as well. Besides the gathering at my grandmother's we would also meet during Eid. We would visit our family members during the first day of Eid. The second day of Eid my family from other emirates would come visit us. Because of the long holidays we would rotate the visits and sleepovers at different family members houses, for example, one night we would sleep over at my grandmother's, other nights my cousins would come sleep over at our house, and other nights at my aunties. That is the beauty of family life and of keeping our traditions alive.
It has also been a tradition that we have our Eid lunch at my grandmothers. All kinds of Emirati food will be on the table, not only because its Eid, but also because we would get visits from extended family members and neighbours to celebrate this occasion. At night we would later visit my grandmother from my dad's side.
During any holidays the whole family would meet up and go on a road trip or camping in the desert.

A United Arab Emirates woman paints henna on a Lebanese woman's hand during a tourist festival held in downtown Beirut May 20, 2005. The UAE tourist festival is held in Beirut to encourage tourists to travel between the two countries. REUTERS
A United Arab Emirates woman paints henna on a Lebanese woman's hand during a tourist festival held in downtown Beirut May 20, 2005. The UAE tourist festival is held in Beirut to encourage tourists to travel between the two countries. REUTERS

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