x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

The Ali Column: History helps tie past and present

How Abu Dhabi began and the inspiration of Qasr Al Hosn for the future of the country.

What a great surprise awaited a scout Bedouin, who was joined by a few more scouts while searching for food and water somewhere close to the coast of the land they used to refer to as Al Ghabra - the dusty land. They walked all the way from Liwa Oasis to get to the area where today we have Maqta Bridge and were simply amazed by the scene they saw - probably the best scene anyone could enjoy then, seemingly summoned by magic. Can you guess what it was?

It was the sight of greenery, some trees, and life - beautiful gazelles that were enjoying the vegetation surrounding them, which happened to be just across the water. So the next time you are in Abu Dhabi and close to Maqta Bridge - the area just before you cross the bridge to get to the island of Abu Dhabi - imagine you were one of those Bedouin scouts who were blessed to discover that scene. What would you do? Remember, no BlackBerry or iPhone existed back then to snap a picture and upload it to your Instagram account!

Almost everyone would agree that running after the animals to hunt them is the most logical action, especially taking into account the fact that the Bedouins were in search of food and water. Since they saw that the animals were surrounded by greenery, it was a good indication that there was a "fresh well or spring" on the island, which back then used to be called Melaiha, which translate to "the salty land".

As the legend goes, the four scouts went after these gazelles. One went on to chase them despite the gazelles being too fast and kept at it as this was all part of the plan of God - for those men to be part of a legacy. The gazelles eventually reached their herd, which happened to be based near a fresh spring water, which happens to be where Qasr Al Hosn is located today! What a coincidence, eh?

It's believed that the scout who went after the gazelles hunted one down and ate so much of its meat that he died. Remember, this is a legend! Apparently, people then starting referring to the island after the man who died from eating all that gazelle meat. Whenever we refer to things or actions and link them to a man or a woman we first add Abu or Um, which means "father of or mother of", and hence the name Abu Dhabi. The other classic story is that the island was blessed with lots of dhabis, which is a type of a gazelle.

I bring this up because the recent Qasr Al Hosn Festival was like a dream-come-true project. It is exactly the type of project we should create and introduce to people of the UAE - the Emiratis and the expat community - because such events bring our past into the present and help us enjoy it while reflecting on the past and how it shaped our current vision and mission in life. Some might have gone to Qasr Al Hosn to enjoy the cultural programmes or wonder what the walls of the fort have seen in the last 250 years. 250-year-old walls - to me these are the strongest and most powerful walls in our nation and we should cherish, appreciate and continues to showcase the story of this building to our younger generation, and to those who didn't know that Abu Dhabi and each emirate in the UAE is not 41 years old but much older and have a very rich histories that are worth sharing.