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Sunday 25 August ,2019

National Archives Documents “Al Maqidh” (Summer Residences) memories through Oral History

National Archives Documents “Al Maqidh” (Summer Residences) memories through Oral History

The National Archives is concerned with oral history, which documents the history and heritage of the UAE through oral accounts of Emirati senior citizens. In this context, it documented their stories of Al Maqidh trips to cooler places.

Al Maqidh trips used to be one of the important Emirati rituals to escape the heat of the summer through traveling to cooler resorts.  Urban residents in UAE used to travel with their families to mountains and oases, seeking cool weather, fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh spring water.

Memories of those days were a main area of interest in oral history interviews.  Mrs. Rafi'a Al Khmairi from Abu Dhabi narrated her story about her family's summer journey who says, “We used to spend winter months in Abu Dhabi where we lived.  As soon as it gets extremely hot during the summer season, I used to travel with my family, through the sea, to mountaintops in Ras Al Khaimah seeking cool air.  My family owned a huge boat (Jalbout) named “Al Hisan”, made of wood, and was utilized for different tasks.  When one of the grandparents passed away, we started going to Al Ain City during the summer, where my father owned a home near the Mosque of Sheikha Salama Bint Butti, may she rest in peace, currently in the Souk (market) area”.

Narrator and poem Salem Eid Obaid Al Muhairi from Al Ain remembers Al Maqidh saying “We used spend autumn in Al Ain.  My family travelled to inland oases during the summer when dates are ready to be picked, a season called Al Bishara (good omen), where the first produce is picked during hot summer seasons.  That is when people travelled to summer residences, to be close to their palm gardens, such as Al Hili, Al Masoudi and Al Qattara areas, and where they sought to live near the fresh water of the Aflaj, and ate dates, their main source of substance”.

Narrator Saeed Ahmad Rashid Matar Al Mansouri from Zayed City in Al Dhafra area told his story; “We used to spend the summer season in Al Hamra, a coastal area in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and traveled on camelbacks to Liwa area during the autumn.  During the winter, we traveled to Al Khatim area and to Al Taff area, located between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, in the north.  We lived on dates.  When it gets cold, men would go to Al Taff to get wood and sell it in Abu Dhabi, in order to buy food and supplies for three to four months”.

Narrator Hamdan Abdulla Sweidan Al Shamsi from Dubai says, “During the summer season we used either to go to Oman near Al Dhahira area, or stay in Dubai.  We lived in huts made of palm fronds.  Very few homes were made of mud”.

Narrator Hamdan Mohammed Saif Al Qawazia from Ras Al Khaimah talked about his family's summer trips:  “Summer residence was different from winter residence. We used to spend winter season near the sand areas, and we travelled to places closer to palm trees during the summer.  We lived in huts made of palm fronds.  We survived on dates and sold dates in Dubai to buy food.  We planted tobacco in the winter, and picked it during the summer to sell it in Dubai”.

In the book “Their Memory Our History”, published by the National Archives, Saeed Ahmed Nasser Bin Loutah from Dubai remembers Al Maqidh trips saying: “Pearling season took about four months and was major source of livelihood.  While men at sea, women picked and stored dates in Al Batinah, Oman, RAK and Sha'am. They went to areas in Oman such as Ghamdha and Khasab seeking fresh water”. 

“Women mainly prepared for summer journey, due to absence of men, who were pearling, and made agreements with camel owners who collect fees for transporting them.  Camel owners made good business during summer seasons because of high demand.  In some areas families traveled on ships instead of camels, because of the abundance of materials, supplies and gifts they brought with them on the journey back from Al Maqidh”.

Dr. Aisha Ali Ahmed Bin Sayyar from Sharjah was quoted in the book “Their Memory our History” as saying: “During hot summers, we went to summer resorts in RAK, where the weather is cooler; water is plenty, as well as palm gardens, almonds, lemon and some vegetables. My family took a boat to get to our farm in RAK, Al Za'abi boat used to transport people from Sharjah to RAK and bring them back at the end of the summer. Then they would use cars, mainly Land Rovers, which often were stuck in sand and people used handles to get them out.  They waited until the tide is low so they can drive along the coast and away from the sand”.

Mr. Obaid Rashid Ahmed Bin Sandal Al Ali says in (Their Memory our History): “Before men sailed for pearling, they would give down payments to women in the family to help prepare for the summer journey and pay camel owners who will carry them to Oman or Liwa. Travelers would use some of the money to buy gifts for farm owners. Thus, it was an integrated society”.

Life in the past was different from modern Emirati lives.  Emiratis ate what they picked and took shelter in summer residence, near fresh creek water. 

Narrator Sheikh Sultan Bin Ali Bin Saif Al Khateri from RAK said: “During the hot summers we traveled to Al Dhaid and Adhan, to pick dates and store it for the rest of the year.”

In the past, Al Ain oases were most famous. Rashid Saif Balhaimah Al Dhahiri from Bidaa Bint Saud in Al Ain described how Al Ain City was almost uninhabited; people preferred to live near farms and palm gardens. Half of the Bedouins spent the summer in the city, while the other half spent it in the countryside, and they exchanged roles according to need.  During the summer season families paid small amounts to others to care for their animals at home while they were staying in summer residence.

God has granted UAE many blessings, including modern air-conditioning; thus, summer traveling regressed. Since Al Maqidh's trips were full of challenges, and the UAE nationals resorted to such trips to escape the heat of the summer, they were associated with memories, tales and stories still engraved in the memory of the elderly Emirati citizens. In its turn, the National Archives is collecting the remaining stories and memories of Al Maqidh's trips in order to save them for future generation as part of our Memory of the Nation.