x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mosque in Wadi Qor set for busy Eid

The mosque in Naslah village is tucked into the easternmost corner of the country and remains empty for most of the year. But that will change next week as people return for Eid.

Worshippers come from far afield and descend on the mosque as part of their Eid celebrations.
Worshippers come from far afield and descend on the mosque as part of their Eid celebrations.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // In the valley of Wadi Qor, Fatema Al Dahmani is waiting for the mosque in Naslah to fill up with worshippers. This might take a few days.

Tucked into the easternmost corner of the country, the wadi and its mosque are almost empty for most of the year.

This will change next week, when Ms Al Dahmani's relatives arrive by the lorryload to spend Eid in the mosque and village where they first learnt the Quran.

"Most of our relatives are living in Abu Dhabi now," said Ms Al Dahmani, 26, a social worker graduate of UAE University. "But they come back here for this holiday."

Ms Al Dahmani and her 13 siblings wait all year for Eid.

At most mountain villages, men commute weekly to their work in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and return at weekends.

The village of Naslah, however, is so far from major cities that many have left for good.

Prospects for the future looked bright when its mosque was built in the late 1970s.

At that time, the village was a collection of palm and clay houses, so prosperous in agriculture that the mosque could not hold all the farmers and herders who worked at the village.

A new mosque and 40 modern houses were built after a visit by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, the former Ruler of Dubai for whom the mosque is named.

The white mosque and the wadi remain much unchanged since then. Its minaret of delicate latticework rises in contrast to the purple and red mountains that surround it.

The original mosque of clay and slanted stone sits on a mound opposite, beside a two-storey fort - the only remains of the original village.

The new mosque changed life.

"It had bathrooms and doors," said Fatima's uncle Saeed Khalfan.

"A microphone," said her mother, Maryam Khalfan. "It had a microphone. Before we could not pray together and now the whole neighbourhood can hear when it is prayer time. Before we didn't know the hour."

Not only did the mosque make it easier for women to follow prayers from inside their homes, it also gave people a way to tell time.

Ms Khalfan, who is about 60, recalls her father would judge the time for prayer by the shadow of a stick or even his foot.

"They used their feet to know the time but I don't remember exactly how," she said, balancing on one leg.

Morning prayer was marked by the rooster. Then, as now, everyone marked the days until Eid. It took a year to fatten two goats and three months to make new clothing for Eid.

"But you could buy so much for Dh10 and there was such happiness," Ms Khalfan said. "The heart was all one."

It was only the donkeys who suffered, she said. They carried the rice, oil, tahini, coffee, tea and rocks of salt on their backs on an eight-hour journey from the market on the Batinah coast over the mountains of Wadi Helu.

"We went to Oman by camel and the people who didn't have money had donkeys," said Ms Khalfan.

"There were lots of donkeys. Those poor donkeys."

Clothing, all of it blue cloth from India, was bought in Dubai, which was a one-week journey by camel.

Later, Ms Khalfan's family would pay five rupees each for the Dubai "taxi", which was a Bedford lorry that could make the journey in just one day.

Parcels of dates, mangoes and lemons sold at the city markets helped cover some costs.

Roads did not arrive at Naslah until about 2005. Saloon cars were parked at a village a half-hour's drive through the wadi.

Naslah was a famed mountain pass from the plains to the coast with "non stop traffic" until modern road networks saw it decline in importance.

Wadis with roads prospered. Wadi Helu shrunk into obscurity. The wadi once famed for its clay, dates and tobacco was quickly forgotten. The wadi's greatest resource, its sweet water, began to run dry. Farming families migrated to cities and the mosque gradually grew empty.

That is, except for the Eid holidays, when a chorus of prayers returns to the Naslah mosque.

azacharias@thenational.ae