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Monday 05 August ,2019

National Archives documents memories of Emirati pilgrims in the past.

In the Company of Allah, the Merciful: a Journey of Hardships and Devotion.

National Archives documents memories of Emirati pilgrims in the past.

National Archives Oral History Section interviews elderly Emirati citizens to document their memories of the Hajj journey in the past.  The pilgrimage to the Holy Land is one of the canons of Islam.  Older Emiratis narrate their memories of pilgrimage and detail hardships they went through in order to meet their Islamic duty of performing Hajj.  In old days, the pilgrimage journey took months.  During the long trip to Mecca and Medina, pilgrims suffered severe physical hardships.  They had to endure severe weather conditions and lack of food and water, as the caravan went through the tough desert terrain.

Senior citizen from Al Ain Khalaf Sa'eed Al Thahiri narrates his memories during an interview:  We went to Hajj mounting camels from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.  The trip to the holy land lasted two months.  We had to be cautious and take turns to protect the caravan against bandits.

Ali Ahmad Shaheen from al Thafra tells the story of a pilgrim; When we arrived to Mecca we were met by a "mutawaa" (a person who volunteers to lead the pilgrims rituals), who asked where we were coming from and how long it took the caravan to reach the Holy Land.  The pilgrims told him that it took exactly two months.  They were then asked. "In your homeland, do you help the needy and neighbors, and welcome guests?"  The pilgrims said in deed this is innate among us.  The "mutawaa" would then say, you have performed your Hajj (a person who gives the poor and relives the needy is rewarded by Allah at home, as if they performed Hajj).

In another interview, Khalid Abdullah Sleiman Al Hanani from Abu Dhabi recites:  "We would ride camels to the Holy Land.  Those who want to go to Hajj would make a group and rides with owners of camels.  We did not have cars back then.  There were very few airplanes.  Only rich people travelled on airplanes."

Narrator Klaithem Kshaish Mubarak Al Shamsi from Al Ain talked about hardships: "My father told me it took ninety days to reach the Holy Land.  Some of the devout people who traveled to perform Hajj would not make it and pass away during the journey."  She describes that her father himself was not able to perform pilgrimage.  However, he was able to talk about it to his children.  He describes the scene when people are getting ready to take the trip to the Holy Land.  They would gather foodstuffs that would remain good to eat in the hot desert, such as dry bread (Rgag), small dried fish (sehna), and water and butter.  If the group does not own a compass, they would use a desert guide.

Fatimah Salim Rashid Al Ketbi from Al Ain talked about the Hajj and she is grateful that she was able to do Hajj and Omra (lower Hajj) nine times and she went to the Holy Land on an airplane every time.

In Her book "Hajj; a Memorable Journey", Dr. Aisha Balkhair, NA Research Consultant, says that Sheikh Zayed, may he rest in Peace, empowered his people and the Islamic nation, to perform Hajj.  "Sheikh Zayed Memoires", published by National Archives, documented Zayed's humanitarian initiate to facilitate the Hajj trip for everybody, as part of his commitment to Islam.  In 1980, Sheikh Zayed sent 600 people to Hajj at his own expense.  Sheikh Zayed supported the Hajj trip to delegations from other Muslim countries.

In her book, Dr. Aisha shed light on Hajj in old days.  She said Emiratis has always paid special attention to Hajj as one of the five canons in Islam.  In old days, people received "barwa"; an official written order to dispense amounts of money written in the document, for performing Hajj.  Persons who receive a "barwa" seek support from Sheiks for foodstuffs such as rice, flour, coffee and sugar.  The state met all needs during the official Hajj season, including health services.

In "Their Memories are Our History" book, published by NA, documents narrative of Rashid Saif Rabi' Balhamyah Al Thahiri described a race of Camels called "Al Hayah".  "…we depend on camels a lot and care for them.  Our camels today descend from our ancestors, and they will go to our children.  The whole race descend from "Al Hayah" (Al Hajjah).  It was called that because my grandfather rode this camel to Hajj twice with sheikh Mhaimeed Al Salmeen Al Mansouri.  Our camels now descend from it.

The journey from Al Ain to Mecca mounting camels lasted for four month; two months to Mecca and two months back.

"Their Memories are our history" book confirms what narrator Hajj Se'ed Ahmad Naser Bin Loutah; "…I went to Mecca for Hajj when I was sixteen.  I remember it was during the rule of King Abdulazeez Bin Abdelrahman Al S'oud.  We left Al Hasa going to Riyadh, then to Mecca, and finally to Medinah.  On the return trip, we headed to Shaqra then to Riyadh.  In Riyad we completed the trip in two big cars that was provided to us by the government.  When we reached Al Hasa we went to Al Ajeer mounting donkeis.  In Ajeer we took a steam boat (launch) to Bahrain.  In Bahrain, we took another launch to our homeland.  The trip lasted for three months.  Hajj Se'ed mentioned that he went to Hajj with his father.  There were many clerks around King Abdulazziz's Palace.  They helped Beduins to write their petitions to the King.  Mr. Lutah says "…we went to one of the clerks to get our petition written down.  He asked what your needs are.  My father told him he would dictate his needs and he just needed the clerk to write down.  The clerk was astonished to hear that from a Bedouin.  My father dictated the text and the clerk was doing the writing.  The clerk was looking at my father the whole time.  At the end, the clerk asked my father; what university did you graduate from?  My father laughed.  This proves that we had a good education system.

In the same book, narrator Obaid Rashid Obaid Ahmad Bin Sandal Al Ali talks about his trip from Sharjah to Kuwait back in the fifties.  He accompanied his mother from Kuwait to hajj riding a car.  He said the trip lasted for a month.

Obaid said in order to travel to Kuwait in 1955; he obtained a passport from Sheikh Saqer Bin Sultan Bin Saqer Al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah (1924-1951).  Those days passports used to be an important document that contained personal data such as date of birth, and confirmed that the bearer is from Sharjah.    A statement on the passport would ask all governments to allow the bearer to pass through their borders and provide all necessary.

Memories of senior citizens give details about past life.  Emiratis consolidated efforts to the devout Muslims and enabled many people to perform Hajj.  Camels were essential as transportation to Hajj.  Palm trees provided essential foodstuffs.