x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

My Life: Summer is a season of memories

A look ahead to Ramadan in the summertime

In this serialized feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE

Summer is almost here. Yup, it's that time of the year when many Emirati families start repeating the most famous, nagging question on every head of the household and, in most cases here in the UAE, that's Mr Father. The question is: "Where are you going to take us this summer?" Some will wish to go to London, others will choose Germany and maybe a few will decide on visiting some countries in Asia.

I couldn't stop smiling when I was holding my two little ones, Abdulrahman and Salamah, and thinking: "Boy, I have to thank God that they are not teens yet, as they will definitely be asking me the same question that I and my sisters asked my parents many times during the summers." But we were very modest; we never asked for any European destination - believe me, we didn't! All we wished for during the summer was to visit Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The reason is simple: we had cousins in almost every single Gulf country. And we knew how much fun it was when you were around your cousins; trust me when I say, many of the Gulfians really do appreciate their cousins. In our case, our cousins came from different countries in the Gulf, so they had a slightly different Arabic dialect, accent and lifestyle; we all might have looked the same but our way of seeing things had always been different, but we never found it difficult to agree on many things, as well.

I still remember how, when I was 8 or 9 years old, our aunts and uncles who lived in the UAE or in a different Gulf country would all chat on the phone with my mother, and I would hear her say: "Okay, brother, you guys come here for five days, then we will visit them in Oman for a week, then I'll travel with you all to Kuwait. Then I'll pass by Bahrain and then back to the UAE."

And at this moment, my sisters and I would look at each other and make our own assumption of what was going to happen, meaning, it would be a "travelling summer" for us and we wouldn't play the host as we did the last year.

Things were so simple and smooth, and everyone was really happy. We never had the big fuss of travelling to London or Munich or New York, and I think it was all because my mother was simply afraid of flying! She is still like that, by the way; she would travel to many countries by car or ship instead of airplane. I'm not kidding, she believes that it's more safe! And I think it's more dangerous to travel from Abu Dhabi all the way to Kuwait city by car. I would go to Qatar on a short 45-minute flight and come back the same day, while she would travel for hours just to reach there in a car. So you see how my father decided to basically give us the freedom to enjoy our summer holiday anywhere we wanted in the Gulf, and both our parents never had to worry since we were always being taken care of by our aunts and uncles and, of course, some of our older cousins.

The summer is coming soon, and I can see many of my Emirati friends are trying to plan or talk about where to go during the summer. But this year we have a guest who will be visiting us during the summer that may change many people's minds about where and when to go and how to organize their holidays; can you guess the guest? It's the great holy month of Ramadan, for which I can't wait to arrive! Can you imagine? Fifty degrees Celsius and we are going to be fasting! Wouldn't that be an awesome experience to go through? And, as we believe in Islam, the more sacrifice we experience during this holy month, the more credit and deeds by God we earn.

And before you think it's crazy and really tough, believe me when I say, there was a time when I was a child with my sisters, visiting our cousins in a different Gulf country and it was during the holy month of Ramadan - which was also during summer - we would fast, play and enjoy our time, the whole day. Yes, we would sleep also, but then play again during the afternoon until we hear the "Allah Akbar" (God is great) call to the prayer. We would all enter our homes and break our fast, enjoying a delicious Gulf homemade meal by our aunts and uncles while having an amazing time with our cousins.

Memories lie in the beautiful moments we spend among those we love; in fact, I'm at the end of this story and I want to spend time with my family ASAP this weekend. God bless you all and your families.

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