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Event pays tribute to elderly Emiratis

FUJAIRAH // Fond memories of close-knit families and a lifetime of hard work to eke out a living in the harsh natural environment of the Northern Emirates came flooding back to a group of elderly Emiratis on Tuesday.

About 50 senior citizens from Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman gathered for an event to celebrate their generation’s accomplishments and for students to show their gratitude to their elders as part of the Year of Giving.

As the grandfathers and grandmothers chatted, the conversation soon moved on to the days gone by.

“We can’t compare the past and the present. We used to work so hard to provide food and water for our children and family but nowadays these daily essentials can be easily provided,” said Fatima Al Kaabi, 65, a mother of seven and a grandmother of 12.

“We used to walk for miles to bring fresh water from streams and wells, carrying it on our shoulders and heads, singing old traditional songs on the way to entertain one other. It was tough but we were happy and grateful.”

Ms Al Kaabi was delighted to travel to Fujairah Cultural Village from her home on the east coast to share memories with other elders.

“Husbands and wives used to help each other and take care of the children. If the wife got sick, the husband used to cover all her duties besides his own responsibilities. Now there are maids who take care of such things,” she said.

“The current generation is living a luxurious lifestyle compared to us and have everything in hand, so they have plenty of time to be more creative and innovative, and to serve the country in their own way while remembering the accomplishments of their ancestors and learning from them.”

The old folk, including residents from the Ajman Elderly Nursing Home, were entertained by traditional dances performed by students from nearby schools and displays of arts and crafts.

“Hearing the traditional songs and watching the dances took me back to the times when we used to sing while waiting for the catch at sea,” said Ali Hassan, 69, from Ras Al Khaimah.

“I used to be a fisherman and then I joined the military. In the past we all worked together to provide the basics for the family.

“Women used to do farming, cooking, sewing clothes while we took care of the livestock, helped them in farming and went to sea for fishing.”

Umm Khalifa, 62, from Ajman, said she missed the family ties and relationships with neighbours that were stronger in the past. “We used to share everything with the people around us and support one another. These ties still exist but not like the old days,” said mother of 10, adding that Emiratis had a healthier diet and more active life in the past.

“We used to walk a lot, do the household duties and be always active as well as eating healthy food that we made using the natural resources that we had and used to take care of.”

Tuesday’s event was organised by the Fujairah Welfare Association along with the Ajman Elderly Nursing Home.

Ali Al Abduli, the association’s manager, said the event, held under the slogan “We can’t manage without you”, was part of a dozen initiatives that would take place in Fujairah this year.

“We organised this in collaboration with the elderly home in Ajman to show our gratitude to our elders and entertain them with traditional folklore,” he said.

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The National