x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Self-made Emirati who sees no reason to learn how to read in his 70s

If Eissa Nasser can care for the men of his pearling fleet without a book, he says, why should he learn to read? Especially now when he is surrounded by modern comforts.

Eissa Nasser says his education came from days spent at sea and by listening to his elders recite the Quran.
Eissa Nasser says his education came from days spent at sea and by listening to his elders recite the Quran.

ABU DHABI // Eissa Nasser sees no reason to learn how to read.

In his 70s, he reasons, he is too old to be learning new tricks.

"I will not study," he said. "I have a lot of money and, thanks to God, the office is in my head."

If he can care for the men of his pearling fleet without a book, he says, why should he learn to read? Especially now when he is surrounded by modern comforts.

"Sixty years ago, there were no schools in the UAE," he says.

Instead, his education came from days spent at sea and by listening to his elders recite the Quran.

"Many people knew the Quran and I learnt the Quran. I sat with them and I heard them and I returned their words to keep them and, after that, I knew the Quran."

At sea, Mr Nasser used the stars and winds to guide him across treacherous seas from Ras Al Khaimah to Bahrain.

In a modern society, he relies on his five sons, three daughters and a trusted driver from Pakistan.

His children help him navigate through government paperwork and bills and guide him on overseas travel.

Mr Nasser says he does not need a BlackBerry or a newspaper to get the latest news, either: entertainment and the day's events are found through poetry and stories told at the majlis, just as it was in his childhood.

A group of about 20 men continues to gather each evening at his majlis in Abu Dhabi.

The men of his majlis agree that literacy is certainly necessary today, adding that they are grateful for national opportunities in formal education.

"If he went back to 20 years of age, he would learn," said Mr Nasser's friend, Mohammed Al Zaabi.

But Mr Nasser has zero interest in taking courses now. "When the money comes, we must study?" he asks. "Before [national] unity I didn't learn, after unity I did not learn.

"I think with my head."

azacharias@thenational.ae