Everyday Stuff from Ancient Arabia
Four years in the United Arab Emirates and I haven’t been in a museum. I always assume that museums prohibit photography, and when a certain place puts that restriction I lose interest. But that’s my assumption; maybe photography is allowed in museums here after all.
Surprisingly, my first encounter with the local ancient stuff happened at the most unexpected place—at this resort.
Okay, so there’s nothing ancient about that resort; in fact, this was build early last year. But within the walls of this resort lay an amazing collection of authentic, traditional antiquity.
Here, you can find this …
Oops. Wrong picture.
That belongs to the Abu Dhabi Police, on standby 24-hours a day, in case of an emergency—since the nearest hospital would be a good 5-hour drive away, on roads like these. So Masood wanted me to take a photograph of him standing next to that thing.
“No way!” I told him. “That’s the property of the police, therefore, we’re not allowed to photograph it.”
“Who said we can’t take pictures?” he asked.
“I know so,” I replied confidently, “because it’s the universal law. In fact, see that security guy over there? It looks like he’s already suspicious of our activities.”
“We’re on top of this dune,” he said. “He can’t even see us from down there.”
A minute of complete silence ensued.
“I’m going down there to have my picture taken,” he announced.
“But you can’t!” I gasped. “We’ll get arrested!”
“Are you coming?” he asked.
“Of course not!” I replied in horror. “I won’t have anything to do with such illegal activities.”
So we climbed down from the top of a dune—where we had been photographing the surroundings at sunrise—and Masood walked straight towards the security guy while I stayed behind, pretending to be busy making video of a palm tree and carefully watching him from the corner of my eye at the same time.
I saw him casually walk over to the security guy, shake his hand, have some sort of a conversation, and then hand over the camera! I was several feet away and couldn’t eavesdrop. But few minutes later, I saw Masood posing in front of the helicopter and the security guy taking his pictures from several angles!
Upon witnessing this rather peaceful turn of events—but mainly because a decade had passed and my husband still hasn’t finished his photo shoot—I decided to walk up to them. They were chatting and laughing like old friends from high school! They asked whether I’d like to have my picture taken as well. I refused, of course.
I think Masood makes a better photographer, since he isn’t shy in situation where one needs to ask permission. I’ve lost several good photo opportunities due to my lack of confidence to go and ask.
Fortunately, I was free to photograph these old pots and pans …
The first pottery found in the Emirates was imported. It came from southern Iraq and belongs to a style known as ‘Ubaid. ‘Ubaid pottery was made of a greenish-buff fabric (the native alluvial clay of southern Iraq) painted with a thick black pigment.
Stone vessels, as well, particularly good for holding fatty or oily substances, began to be made in the area by about 2500 B.C. Most of these were manufactured from steatite or chlorite, a soft mineral found in certain parts of the Hajar mountains.
By about 2200 B.C. the first tools made of bronze. Rich in copper ore, the Hajar mountains of the interior of the U.A.E. and Oman provided the raw material for an extensive metallurgical industry which flourished until the late Islamic era when foreign imports finally made it no longer economically viable.
The picture below—something that grinds or chops areca nuts—is dedicated to all you paan lovers out there …
The vessel shown in the picture below reminds me of Ali Baba and the forty thieves, and this part of the story in particular:
The chief of the thieves pretends to be an oil merchant in need of Ali Baba’s hospitality, bringing with him mules loaded with thirty-eight oil jars, one filled with oil, the other thirty-seven hiding the other remaining thieves. Once Ali Baba is asleep, the thieves plan to kill him.
One room of the resort is a library that contains paintings, books, journals, and weapons—both old and new.
The lanterns in this last picture aren’t antique, but I think their display on the steps is a good idea. I took this picture while sitting on one of the steps waiting for Masood to finish his maghrib prayers.
And yeah, I think I need to start visiting museums and learn more about the history of this country.