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.
In Liwa, the fresh dates season began in July!
Hamad Al Mansouri may have been uprooted from his native village in the Liwa oasis and making a living in UAE’s capital city now, but every opportunity he gets, Hamad returns to his ancestral home.
His new majlis, the traditional Arab guest receiving room, with big glass walls, overlooks his palm orchard. Stretching to the horizon, there are lines of tall palms, heavy at this time of year with bunches of ripening dates.
“From July the ratab season starts, you know, the fresh, half ripened dates, and we already started harvesting some of the dates,” said Hamad.
“We have about 2,000 palm trees of different dates varieties – Bou Maan, Dabbas, Khallas. Some of them we sell to dates companies, some we use for feeding camels and goats and the best we keep for us.”
This time 50 years ago, Mohammed Saber Al Mazrouei was going on his first, long distance fishing trip. He was only 12 years old back then, the youngest “sailor” on the dhow. It was a half a year journey that took him from his home in Abu Dhabi island across the Arab Sea and into the Indian Ocean.
Despite his age, Mohammed remembers being treated like an adult. The men would talk, joke and laugh with him. He felt important, worthy of their company, but, above all, he felt proud of his father’s trust in him.
A couple of hours before iftar – the fast breaking meal during Ramadan – workmen begin to gather on roundabouts or T-junctions in local residential areas, awaiting a free iftar – usually some rice with meat, a few dates, yogurt and salad. A man from the nearby house offering iftar meals comes and collects the workmen’s empty food containers, each marked with their names, and brings them back filled with food.
Not just in the UAE, but all over the Arab Gulf people share their food with anyone who needs it. Most manage a few daily free meals, others set up free iftar tents in front of their houses for dozens of needy folk. One Emirati family in Abu Dhabi hired several cooks to prepare over 5,000 iftar meals, which they distribute for free, daily, to fasting Muslims.
Charity and sharing food are very much in the spirit of Ramadan, a spirit that hasn’t lost its potency for centuries. Yet, the traditions of Ramadan across the Arab Gulf are ever changing, marked by consumerism and developing urban societies.