x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Eid traditions stand the test of time

The years have gone by, but Eid celebrations in the mountain villages of Ras Al Khaimah remain much the same.

Brothers Abdulla, 27, Saeed, 28, and Ali Al Qaishi, 26, sit before the Eid feast in their late father’s Dhaya village home in Ras Al Khaimah.
Brothers Abdulla, 27, Saeed, 28, and Ali Al Qaishi, 26, sit before the Eid feast in their late father’s Dhaya village home in Ras Al Khaimah.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Aisha Hassan associates Eid with sore feet.

As a child, Eid meant three days of walking over mountains to visit neighbours in far-flung villages.

"But what could we do?" asks Ms Hassan, 74. "It's Eid, and Eid is about family."

Thankfully, she is now driven door-to-door by her grandson.

In her village of Shaiban the streets are so packed with 4x4s it may have been faster to walk.

Even with sleepless nights, long days and paved roads there is hardly enough time for Ms Hassan to see all her relatives.

The first day is dedicated to seeing her immediate family, the second for extended family and the third for any friends she may have missed.

The children who have knocked at the door since Tuesday to collect money - a favourite Eid tradition - follow the same game plan.

While Ms Hassan prepared for Eid by placing her hands and feet in a henna paste, and sewing and cooking, her granddaughters spent thousands at beauty salons and in shopping centres to look their best at the year's biggest family reunion.

Ms Hassan applied incense and three types of perfume at the women's majlis while lamenting the excess of modernity.

"It's all different; Eid is completely changed," she says, waving her cane.

"It's exactly the same," says her cousin Saeed Abdulla, waving his cane back.

"It's the same as before because we are visiting each other."

The two are on either side of Ms Hassan's bedridden brother, in a majlis with portraits of him as a rifle-toting youth.

Ms Hassan spent hours in the women's majlis before she left in the afternoon for another Eid tradition, a visit to Sheikha Mahra, the wife of RAK's late ruler, Sheikh Saqr.

In times gone by, Eid in mountain villages often revolved around the village emir, or leader, who would supply the main meal.

At the house of Dhaya village's late emir, Ahmed Rashed, his six sons have carried on the tradition after his death.

For them, Eid is a continuation of their father's love for Dhaya village, which has grown from 55 houses in 1977 to 100.

"Usually all people living in a village are the same tribe so they are all the same family and, like one family, if there is any event we come together," says Mohamed Al Qaishi, 31.

"In all events, bad or good, we come together in this house. Bad or good, we have each other here."

Fewer people come to Mr Al Qaishi's home since his father died five years ago, but it is still packed and a room full of food is at the ready for any visitors, at any hour over the three days of Eid.

Mr Al Qaishi, the eldest of the six brothers, believes the emir system will end with his father's generation.

"Now people have a house, have all needs - they don't need an emir," he says. "Now people can go and ask the Government for help directly. But people knew my father and if they come here and ask me for help, I want to help them."

Even though fewer gather at his house, people are better connected by roads and BlackBerrys. Today, many will travel to in-laws in other villages but most of Dhaya's young men have stayed put.

Eid traditions have stayed the same. Mr Al Qaishi is confident that even if people eventually move to the city, the village will be preserved.

"Our parents and our cousins, they grew this tradition from inside themselves and we are still continuing it as it came to us," he says. "You cannot change something you have inside.

"You can cut an apple in five pieces or you can bite it like this but it is still the same taste."