x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Stories with ageless messages come to Qasr Al Hosn festival

Two storytellers bring the tales their children have been reared on, full of rich UAE colour, to Qasr Al Hosn's anniversary celebrations

Meera Khalifa al Hamiri, one of the story tellers at the Qasr Al Hosn festival, imparts ageless messages to children through her stories. Ravindranath K / The National
Meera Khalifa al Hamiri, one of the story tellers at the Qasr Al Hosn festival, imparts ageless messages to children through her stories. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Mira Al Hamiri has been telling her stories to her seven children in Sharjah for the past 25 years.

But yesterday, the Emirati mother had a much bigger audience - visitors to the Qasr Al Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi.

"I have four boys and three girls between the ages of 10 and 30, and a lot of nephews who gather around me at home while I tell them my stories," said Ms Al Hamiri, 45.

"Children like these stories and they're quite open to learn about their culture and country."

In her story, a girl named Fatima lives with her father Abdelaziz, stepmother and their two daughters.

Once, Abdelaziz went to sea and never came back.

Fatima was left with a wicked stepmother who forced her to do all of the domestic chores. Every day, Fatima would go to the sea's edge to speak to her long-lost father, asking him to help her.

One day, a fish appeared in the water and told her to pray to God to grant her wish of seeing her father again.

He led her to an underwater house where she was reunited with him.

"This story teaches children to be patient if they ever wish for something to happen," said Ms Al Hamiri. "Patience is a virtue and it's important for them to learn that at a young age."

Working in a museum, the Emirati mother has long been passionate about her country's culture and heritage.

She has also taken part in other cultural festivals as a storyteller. "I'm very much into the UAE's culture, I love it," Ms Al Hamiri said. "This is the reason why I participated in the festival."

With four stories to tell, she hopes to be able to get the message across to as many children as possible.

"It's vital for our kids to know about their culture and learn more about it," she said. "That's what I aim to do."

Moza bin Hadiba is the festival's second storyteller. The 47-year-old Emirati's life has been very different to what today's children are used to.

"We used to gather and listen to stories while growing up," Ms bin Hadiba said. "Nowadays, kids are just really busy with technology. I am trying to change that."

Originally from Ajman, the mother of five tells the story of a young girl named Aisha, who lives with her parents.

Before her mother died, she handed a ring to Aisha to keep on her rooftop.

"It's for the next woman who marries your father," said Aisha's mother.

Her divorced neighbour soon took the mother's place and married Aisha's father. Soon after, she began mistreating Aisha.

A snake came to find the girl and asked her to marry him. When she did, she found out the snake was really a son of the wealthiest sheikh in town. He took good care of her and sent another snake to kill her stepmother.

"The moral of the story is that there is nothing quite like a mother and that, no matter what, she will always be there for you," said Ms bin Hadiba.

"The mother has a huge importance in people's lives and she is different to anyone else because she holds a special place in children's hearts."

She hopes her stories' lessons will spread to others through word of mouth.

"There are a lot of morals in these stories and I hope that, through hearing them, adults will be able to teach their own children," Ms bin Hadiba said. "They have a lot of significant messages that we want to raise our children on."

She uses her stories as a tool to teach her children life lessons as well as about traditional Bedouin clothing and lifestyle.

"I teach them everything, from how to make traditional clothes to the importance of old Emirati culture and how we used to live," Ms bin Hadiba said.

"I also give lectures in schools about things I learnt from my mother, grandmother and my own experience.

"I like teaching the new generation about it all. Stories are important to teach children the morals of life."