The mandoos or wooden chest inlaid with copper was essential in every Emirati house, and Al Maskary family has been making them for generations.
Wood has been the passion of Al Maskary family for generations. In the family home in Abu Dhabi, a large carpentry workshop was set up decades ago and ever since, the sound of chisel, wood saws and wood polishing has never stopped.
“This is where we make the wooden chests for our Royal Mandoos shop,” says Yahya Al Maskary, General Manager of Royal Mandoos company.
A father of grown up children, Yahya learnt the craft of mandoos making from his father, who is still the master carpenter of the family.
By 1990s, only a handful of Emirati women were taking up jobs that put them in contact with men. One of them was a friend of Sheikha Fatima, Hessa Al Khaledi, UAE’s first woman civil engineer. With Sheikh Zayed’s approval, Sheikha Fatima asked Hessa to recruit the country’s first female soldiers, along with the blessings of the religious authorities.
Heraclius the Byzantine has gathered a huge army: there are 200,000 amassed against the Muslims led by Khalid ibn Al Walid on the banks of Al Yarmuk river on the Syrian front. The battle is terrible and, eventually, starts to go bad for the Muslims. More and more withdrew, when, out of nowhere, a tall, imposing knight, enveloped all in black, with gleaming gray eyes, gallops into the fray, sword flying. Heads roll. The Muslims stop their retreat in awe at the reckless courage of this Arab warrior, penetrating the lines of the Byzantines, rushing right into their centre.
Three horsemen charge in behind the knight. One of them has slashed the head of a Greek and holds it high. Inspired, the Muslims turn to fight again. As one body, they raise their swords and follow the black knight into the smoky battle and soon the Byzantines have fallen or run away.
When the battle ends, Khalid walks up to the knight, asking who he is. The knight’s captains close in like a shield.
Robert Padbrugge, who visited Muscat in 1672 as a representative of the Dutch East Indies Company, mentioned in his journal the rock carvings discovered on a gravestone in Ruus Al Jibal – now known as Musandam – believed to pre-date the Wahhabi revival in the 1700s. These carvings are thought to be the first historical evidence of the Arabian dagger, also known as khanjar in UAE and Oman or jambiyah in Yemen.
“As the rain was slowing down and the clouds were fading away, we did drive to the mouth of the Snake Canyon and despite the questionable weather and the late hour – 2 PM – a few of us ventured in…”
It is the peak of the outdoors season in Arabia, and where or how to spend the weekend will not remain without an answer for long if you have a cool friend like Yousef.
A little while back he popped the question if we want to join him into the Snake Canyon for an adventure trip. Forget about how fit you are! Just bring waterproof shoes, quick drying sporty – or comfy – clothes and your love for nature! And so we did.
It is said that Christopher Columbus, upon seeing three manatees, expressed his disappointment for the ugliness of “those sirens”.
Indeed, dugongs and their relatives, the manatees, have been taken for mermaids since mythological times all the way from the Arabian Gulf to the cold Irish seas.
In Western and Eastern folklore, these creatures are said to have fooled lonely sailors into mistaking them for mermaids. Since ancient times the Japanese believe dugongs are the keepers of balance between sea and human beings. According to stories and legends, they warned coastal villagers of impending tsunamis, but if fishermen showed no respect for the sea and abused its creatures, dugongs placed heavy curses upon them.
“For hours, my father can go on reciting poetry about camels, which he learnt from his father or he composed himself while sitting under the stars, in the desert”
Obaid Al Mansouri points to a spot just above his right ankle as he remembers an old scorpion bite. He was a young boy when it happened and his father quickly made a small cut just above the bite and sucked out the poised blood. To this day, Obaid carries a razor blade with him anytime he goes to the desert.
“Last night could have been worse,” he says.
‘From “a square fort of but little apparent strength”, as it was once described by a British resident, Qasr Al Hosn became “an imposing castle” in the eyes of American missionary, Rev. Samuel Zwemer, who visited Abu Dhabi in 1901’
A slow, coming of age smile takes over Obaid Al Mansouri’s face as he remembers the happy days of his early childhood.
“Yes, there was a time when I went with my father to see Sheikh Zayed in the old palace. I think I was about five years old,” says the Emirati, now in his 60s.
“In those days it was pretty much the only building in Abu Dhabi; the rest were palm frond huts and some mud houses. Qasr Al Hosn was also the only building to have electricity, from a generator, so I loved going there.”
Long ago, before the days of black gold, air conditioning and running water, men and even teenage boys used to spend the long and steamy summers on board of dhows diving for pearls to earn a small income. While they were gone, for up to six months a year, their families used to travel with camel caravans from their coastal homes to the deserts of Al Ain or Liwa. It was cooler there. They would take with them the now famous maleh — fish preserved in salt that would keep for up to a year.
Back then, this was just staple food, but with the increasing interest in Emirati cuisine, the humble maleh is now brought into the attention of renown, even Michelin star chefs.
“My favourite, favourite, favourite dish is Tahta Maleh and that’s because in the past we didn’t have refrigerators or any kind of cold storage spaces, so we came up with this idea of preserving the fish with salt,” says chef Khulood Atiq.