x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Business is business, even in a RAK fishing village

Memories keep villagers in Rams tied to the old town.

Plans are under way to redevelop the now very delapitated neigbourhood of Rams. ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National
Plans are under way to redevelop the now very delapitated neigbourhood of Rams. ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Some years ago, Ebrahim Ali and his brother built a brick wall dividing the house in which they were born.

Mr Ali's half is much as it was when he was a child, 60 years earlier. It has the same star-shaped bricks, carved wooden doors and palm-mat ceilings. The ropes that hang from the ceiling once held his cradle.

His brother's side has concrete, painted walls and is now rented to a Yemeni family.

Mr Ali points to at a room at his brother's half of the house.

"That is the room I went to with my wife when we were married," he says.

There is regret in his voice, but not for the past. He thinks he has missed a business opportunity by not renting his side of the house.

"I don't have electricity on this side so I can't rent it," Mr Ali says. "I just use it as storage."

Little by little Mr Ali has begun to modernise his half of the house. He has removed the Zanzibari wood beams and started to put concrete over the seashell-flecked walls.

He takes a hard line when talking about the government plans to survey the area.

"Whatever the plan is going to be they have to consider how much a dirham was at that time … and the hard work to get that money," Mr Ali says.

But he is not without sentiment. He remembers throwing mud on to the roof with neighbours to help the annual "renovations".

Mr Ali remembers the Quran teachers Afra, Aisha and Amna, and his own favourite teacher, Ali Kalaib.

He remembers the smell of roasted beans from Obaid Harenky's coffee shop and prayers at the four mosques that surrounded the city.

And nothing could erase the memory of swimming across the harbour after dark each year in the sardine season.

"If you weren't scared you didn't see anything," Mr Ali says. "If you had speculations about those old stories, anything you see is a djinn or a headless camel or [the djinn] Umm Dawais."

Mr Ali wants to honour these memories by keeping Emiratis in the area.

"A lot of people want to have more places for their children to have housing rather than have their children farther," he says.

And although he does not have much feeling for his old home, he wants the historical parts of the town - the old souq, round tower, square tower and two-storey clay and stone house of the emir Al Saleh Al Tenaiji - preserved "so the generations after remember that this is the area".

For his part, Mr Ali still hosts a majlis each day at the village edge by the harbour.

There, he and six men meet under the banyan tree his father planted in 1985, saying "salam" to cars that drive past honking hellos.

"My favourite memory is the people," Mr Ali says.