x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Ali Story: Dalma Island impresses

In this serialised feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE.

A few months ago, I was blessed to travel to a place in my country that I have always dreamed of visiting. This place is Dalma Island. I was very happy to be invited as a speaker to deliver various workshops for the people of Dalma Island under the patronage of the Family Development Foundation. Since I was young, I had always prayed to get the chance to visit all the places of my country, from west to east, from south to north.

I remember when I was really young and going to elementary school, I had this huge map of the UAE in my room. I would always put a star or marker on the places I had visited, and my father would come to my room and encourage me to find out more about these places. I would take notes, mentioning places such as Hili Archaeological Park in Al Ain. At the same time, he would ask me: "What do you remember from these places?"

I also remember that there were more marks and notes and pictures and memories from the east and mid-north than on the west part of the map. My mum also came to my room and looked at the map and asked, "Why don't you fill out things on the west side of your map?" My response was, "Oh, I don't know, Mum, but it looks like it's only desert and sea, no?" She led me really close to the map and said: "See, look at the map. You think because it's blue that there is no life under it or because it's yellow that it is empty?"

Then I looked at her and said, "Aha, you are right, but what exactly are you trying to tell me?"

She responded: "In this area, there is nature and there is beautiful scenery and life as much as the other side of the map. Come with me to my room and I shall show you something."

The minute she said "room" I forgot everything, because I really loved to be in my parents' room; it was always fascinating for me. I always felt secure and safe. I ran quickly to her room and waited for her.

When my mum entered the room she went to my favourite shelf in her closet where she kept all these unique keepsakes, albums and collections of things. She grabbed this album that was really beautiful because it was so big and it had a small music box in it. She set it in front of me and opened the first page of the album. It showed a collage of my mum's first trip to Sir Bani Yas Island, which back then was not open to the public except mainly for school visits.

My mum was a principal of a school that was one of the lucky ones to actually get a tour of the island. At that time, it took them almost four hours to get to the island, which included travelling by car or bus to reach the Jebel Dhanna Marine area before taking a boat all the way to the island. My mum kept a record of that trip, which enlightened her on the beauty of the UAE's Western Region; it was also the first time she saw dolphins jumping in the water.

So after I looked at these pictures, I got really excited and said: "You are right, Mum, it looks like there is much more to explore in the western part of the region and the islands and I hope some day I will fill the map with notes and marks of my visit to Sir Bani Yas Island."

Right then she looked at me quickly and said: "Make sure to visit Dalma Island, son."

I asked why. She said, "When you visit, you will know why."

And now after visiting Dalma Island and meeting our people there and speaking to the generation of elderly men and women, being invited to lunch and dinner at their open house majlises and observing their simple life and humble attitude, I finally get what my mum wanted me to experience: she almost knew that our city life was going to take us away from being attached to nature and simplicity, which I really experienced, and made me feel really blessed, when I visited Dalma Island.

artslife@thenational.ae

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