Monday, 25 May 2009

The UAE Of Old Is Better Than UAE Today

I would not like to live in UAE now because it has been taken over completely by the western world and its influence.

When I lived in UAE it was such a wonderful place, non of the OTT glitz and greed of today.

The large apartment Omran rented for me cost just 6,000 dirhams a year (yes that does say six thousand) I dont even think you could rent a matchbox for that in Dubai now. And over the years the rent rose to at the max just £30,000 a year. Now I hear its hard to find anything under 70,000.
200 Dirhams would get you a trolley full of food from Choithrams plus an outfit or two from their clothing section.

Taxi's did not have meters and I remember a trip from Karama to the old Chicago Beach Hotel in Jumeriah where I used to go every day cost just 10 Dirhams. Also there were so many taxis they used to fight for your business, tooting their horns to get your attention, unlike today when you can wait ages to grab a cab.
The strip of road where Chicago Beach Hotel used to be is now full of glitzy hotels including the Burj Al Arab. But back in my day, there was virtually nothing along that road and Chicago Beach was one of the main hotels in that area.

Here is a pic of it back in its day and how remote the area was. The beach was virtually empty with the exception of some German tourists. It was to be many many years before the westerners got to hear of how great UAE was and make it one of the top tourist destinations (and in my honest opinion sadly ruin its real culture and heratige)

Of course there were western expats, mainly British to be honest, and mainly familes. Now I am told it is full of single people all out for the time of their lives, getting blind drunk and flouting the laws of the country. I thank god I left before seeing UAE turn into another Costa Del Sol (with glitz of course).

Some of my favorite things about UAE

BUKHOOR ...(wonderful scented wood or pastels burnt over coals..Omran's aunts used to make the most beautiful pastels whose fragrance beat anything sold in shops such as Rasasi

LOCAL DRESS...I adored the traditional Emiriati dress and used to wear it daily from my second year in UAE. I used to have such beautiful ones hand tailored for me, non of those cheap things bought from the souk..and I always bought my Abaya's from a lovely shop in City Center. I think the most I ever spent on an abaya was 1000 dirhams and I am wearing it in this awful photo of myself (looking like I have been on some illegal substance, with my best friends son Obaid)

Me in my favorite Emirati Dress, which was blue and silver silk with the most beautiful embroidery and crystals. I am in my friends Majlis on a trip to Karachi Pakistan in 2001

RASASI...My favorite perfume shop...wallah I loved this place and I always bought Denhyl Oud and my favorite perfume called Hayati
THE DESERT...I loved the desert, thanks to Omran and his friends/family haha, they were such bedu's at heart, they loved to go into the desert and write poetry, play oud, and just drive at night and watch the camels. I was taught how to drive in the desert, how to find mushrooms which hide under the sand and only a trained eye knows where to find the. O also taught me to know which plants in the desert can be eaten and which can not. My favorite thing was to sit under the moon in the desert and just listen to the sounds of the night. That is the one major thing I miss.
I get told all the time by people who have visited UAE that it has no soul. This is sad because when I was there UAE was bursting with soul. I remember the night I arrived, the airport was tiny, and hardly anyone got off my plane. It took virtually minutes to get through customs and outside the airport. It was empty virtually when I got outside the airport to look for O. Now the airport is huge, bustling and full of just about everyone.
In the old days, people had time for each other, greed and money hungry people just did not seem to exist. Life was simple, beautiful and I am so glad I experienced it.

How I Converted To Islam

I am by no means a perfect muslim, far from it actually. I find Islam very difficult, especially as I have been treated so terribly by men of the muslim faith who in all honesty made me start to turn away from everything I believed in and loved.
Slowly now I am trying to get back into my religion and I hope to overcome my past and start to follow Islam how I used to.
Right now I am not wearing Hijab (no judgements please), however I still dress modestly. I last wore Hijab in 2006.

Here are pics of me today and pics of me in Hijab

Me With and Without Hijab

Anyway, how I became a muslim is as follows.
The night I first arrived in UAE at the begining of the 1990's, I heared the call for prayer for the first time, it was the early morning prayer and I found the sound so beautiful. I stood on my balcony and all the hairs on my arms stood up and I began to gently cry, a happy cry not a sad one. I was very confused as to why I got this reaction but the feeling to cry and the hairs standing up every time I walked past a mosque at prayer time continued for most of my life in UAE.

I was surrounded by local friends and quickly became immersed into the rich culture and customs of the Emirates. Omran taught me a lot about his country and how to behave, act etc and I grew to love it. Everyone called me "The British Bedouin".

One evening I was watching Saudi TV and was watching a station that was showing prayers being said at Mecca. The sound of the Mulla reading the koran was so beautiful it made me cry, I must of cried for 2 hours straight and had no idea why. I thought I had gone crazy. Suddenly the phone rang and it was one of Omran's dear friends "Nabil Al Dowais (who has now sadly passed away). He heared me crying and said "LouLou Habibi, what is wrong, why are you crying" (LouLou was my name before I converted to Islam and changed it to Tahani).

I explained to Nabil that I was watching some religious guy on the TV reading Koran and it was making me cry happy tears and I did not know why.
Nabil laughed and said "Habibi, wallah you need to become a muslim, tonight is Laylat Al-Qadr
( لیلة القدر‎) and if you feel tears of joy then you are ment to be a muslim. He then continued to tell me about Laylat Al-Qadr that it is the anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

I was later given an English version of the Koran, so at Ramadan one year I sat and read the entire Koran page by page. At the end I knew that Islam was for me, but I still felt like I needed more time to be 100% sure it was what I wanted. I know how easily it is to rush into something you think you want but in the end its not really what is good for you.

Finally in October 1999 I asked Omran to arrange my conversion. My one and only British friend "Fay" wanted to convert also, so Omran spoke with our dear friend Sheikh Hamdan Al Sharqui from the Fujeriah royal family who arranged for us to visit his local court and together Fay and I converted to Islam side by side. We said our Shahada and chose our Islamic names.
I chose Tahani which means "Congratulations" and Fay chose Bedour which means "Many Moons".

The Shahada is as follows

Ash-Hadu Ana La Elaha Illa-Allah

Wa Ash-Hadu Ana Mohammadan Rasul-Allah


"I bear witness that there is no deity worthy to be worshiped but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger."

Here is a copy of our Islamic Conversion

Once I converted I ended my long relationship with Omran. I could no longer be with him because I needed to try to go forward with my Deen and find a suitable husband. Omran was heart broken and he never really stopped loving me. I honestly believe he loved me right up until the day he died on 21st June 2005, but I could not go forward with my religion until our relationship ended.

In January 2000 I moved in to live with an Emirati family who were friends of mine and Omran's on a huge farm in Al Awir. My friend Abdul Elah lived there with his second wife Kauser who was from a very important political family in Pakistan. Her father is Pir Pagara also known as the King Maker. I lived there for over a year and it gave me time to get my life back together.
So that is my story of my conversion.

My First Ever Post

This is my first ever post on my new blog.
I have so many memoirs of my life in the UAE that I thought this the best place to share them as when I feel like sharing.

Right now in my life I am raising my 5 year old daughter Imane alone and have been since I left her father in July 2004 and came back to the UK. I work for local government in Housing Management and our life is pottering along ok, considering the terrible situtation we came back to in 2004, I think I have done amazingly well to get our life so back on track.

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Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom
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