x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Year-round workers breathe life into farms

For many, the emirate's isolated villages are only occasional family retreats, but for some the area is a permanent home.

Wheat grown in the village is stored in a stone structure, while a Pakistani labourer, below, helps maintain the village's houses.
Wheat grown in the village is stored in a stone structure, while a Pakistani labourer, below, helps maintain the village's houses.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // For many, the emirate's isolated villages are only occasional family retreats, but for some the area is a permanent home. Mohammed Taher is one of many Pakistani workers rebuilding traditional mountain villages as holiday spots. These men also grow the crops and tend the goats. Every day, Mr Taher, 30, loads five donkeys with bags of cement and starts a two-hour trek to his mountain village where he works for Emirati families who visit on the weekends.

Khist Talab, about 40 years old, has lived more than a third of his life on a farm beside the new Jebel Jais road. He spent 10 winters rebuilding a farm and has lived there permanently for the past four years, caring for the goats and growing crops. "The farm owner is a good person and I'm happy with him," said Mr Talab. "When it's winter and raining season and the water flows, all the family comes and stays here."

"Normally they come after a week or month. They sit around the flood and bring their food with them and have their food. It's from his forefathers. It's been 25 or 30 years since they migrated to the [suburb of] Shabia. Before they used to live here and they had no other option." The farm is beside the Jebel Jais road, an area which is under construction as a Swiss-style mountain resort and would be the home of the UAE's first outdoor ski slope.

"The owners think it's not good because people are coming into the areas," said Mr Talab. "But for us it's good. We don't have to walk that far for everything." When Mr Talab began work here, the farm was a two-hour walk to the road. He carried the cement that built it on his back. "At that time there were no donkeys," he said. The new road brings regular visitors, curious about his mountain life "People come but they don't know my language. I give them food and use signs to show them that they can eat."

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