I learned everything from my mother. She taught me how to cook all kinds of food – stews, bread, fish… She taught me how to clean and wash, how to embroider clothes, how to make things. Every day we had to do work before we could play. We helped our mothers cooking, we had to go to the well to fetch water and carry it back on our heads. After we finished all that, we would sit and weave baskets and mats from palm leaves and we would sell them. We also embroidered clothes, such as the decorative cuffs of salwar (undertrousers) and kandoras. We made our own and we sold them too.
We did everything together as a community. We cleaned together, we fished together, we cooked the fish together, we made things together. We shared our food. After I had a child, I would leave it with a neighbour while I went to do some work. The children were not just the parents’ child, they were the neighbourhood’s child. After we finished our work we would sing songs together. We hardly did anything alone.
Life was much harder than now, but it was nice. It was a beautiful life. It was simple and everyone stuck together. Now everyone is scattered around and looking to his own affairs only. People don’t do things together like before.
Umm Ahmed, Khor Fakkan
My grandparents lived in Hamriya near the sea. During the Second World War, ships stopped coming from other countries like India and people were hungry. My grandfather caught fish and my grandmother cut the fish into pieces and distributed it to people.
They later moved inland to Dhaid and had a farm there. There were no stores or markets in Dhaid at that time and they would have to go to Sharjah by camel to stock up on things like sugar. It would take a whole day to get there and another day to come back.
They grew things on the farm and also bred camels and sold them. (Umm Salem, Dhaid)
When I was little. I used to go with my grandfather to his farm and he milked the camels. The milk was frothy and he joked that it was camel ice cream. We took the milk, put freshly made ragag (wafer thin bread) in it, poured honey over it and ate it. We thought it was delicious! (Sara, Dhaid)
My father was a very wealthy man. He started from nothing, but through his hard work and smartness, he built a successful business. By the time I was at college, he owned several tall apartment and office buildings, but he told us we had to work for ourselves. We lived at home with our mother but otherwise we had to manage on our starter salaries (around 7000 dhs). We bought our own cars and paid for everything by ourselves. He told us that one day we would have his wealth when he died. In the meantime, we had to make ourselves by ourselves just like he did. He wasn’t being mean. He wanted us to understand the value of things and to feel the satisfaction of being successful by ourselves. I really appreciate what he did. It made me a better person. (Mohammed, Dubai)
I was born at home in a small village. At that time there was no recording of births, so I don’t know exactly when I was born, around 1967. At that time, people would say something like ‘he was born in the year of the big rain’. (Ahmed, Ajman)