Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hesitant Hatta grows up fast

Older shops along the Hatta-Oman road have been affected by the opening of a mall in the village. Paulo Vecina / The National

DUBAI // Snug in its ring of protective mountains, Hatta has long been a haven of tradition, a village largely overlooked by the busy progress in Dubai and the nearby border region of Oman.

But with the rest of the UAE in a state of furious transformation, Hatta could not hold out forever. Now, the area’s old-fashioned house covered in white plaster, set out around untidy courtyards and alleyways, are being cleared away and the residents given spacious modern villas in orderly suburbs on the slopes.

New hospitals, schools, and a multi-storey mall have added a neon and concrete skyline to a once-uncluttered landscape.

The fruits of traditional practices such as date farming and animal husbandry have come under -pressure from mass-produced imports that line supermarket shelves.
The village’s location close to the tranquil Hatta Pools and rugged Hajar mountains have also made it a booming tourist destination.

For some, this is a double-edged sword. While many of the changes are inevitable and welcome, others risk destroying Hatta’s character, which is appreciated by residents and visitors alike.

One resident, Omar Obdi, 19, said government housing projects had improved the standard of living and given the younger generation the chance to make lives for themselves in the village.

“Hatta was unchanged for hundreds of years and the elders like to retain the traditional way of life. But the younger generation has new ideas and they are demanding modern amenities and job -opportunities so that they can stay in the village. A growing population needs more services and the Government has recognised this.”

However, Mr Obdi admitted too much modernisation could threaten Hatta’s popularity with tourists.

“With the new houses and amenities there is an incentive to stay in the community but if they build too many it will change the nature of Hatta and the tourists will go.”

Most Hatta residents have government jobs, in local offices of the health department and the military. However, many come from families that have been market traders for generations. Some still ply their trade in the village square or in the small shops that have sprung up around the main road.

Wahab Abdul Ratif, owner of an electronics store, said such traders were feeling the squeeze of the new competition, but that an increasingly profitable Omani market was keeping them in business.

“There are larger shops in Hatta now, with the mall offering a greater range of products and international brands. This has been popular with local residents and this has affected custom at the smaller stores.

“However, business is still good in the street markets, especially in electronics, because many people come over from Oman to get cheaper prices on goods.”

Hatta has also become a commuter satellite of Dubai as some dwellers of the city try to escape sky-high rents. While a three-bedroom flat in Dubai Marina costs about Dh11,000 (US$3,000) a month, a similar place to live in Hatta costs only around Dh1,500.

While such commuters represent only a small percentage of the population, residents fear their numbers could increase when a new road from Abu Dhabi is completed.
The opening of fast-food delivery outlets 18 months ago and a local taxi service last month suggest Hatta is indeed changing.

Haitham Layous, the manager of the Hatta Fort Hotel, one of the community’s main gathering places, described the rising standard of living as positive, but sounded a note of caution.

“The appeal of the village is its tranquillity. We have found that most of our guests come here to -escape the city and to find out more about traditional ways of life and the history of the UAE. Guided tours of the heritage village are very popular, as are trips to local sites such as the Hatta Pools and wadis.”

Mr Layous added that the area is seeing more “adventure tourism”.

“One of the current trends in the tourist industry is that people are demanding activities and adventures. We greet lots of groups who have lunch with us and then head into the mountains.”

Lewis Godinho, the hotel’s recreation manager and a local history expert, said the village had doubled in size over the past six years and that the community had become less isolated.

“Years ago you would only see one or two buses pass through the village a day. Now there is a permanent bus station and an hourly service to Dubai, Ajman and Fujairah. Locals used to farm dates and tobacco or sell goat meat at the market. This is less common now as people can work farther afield. But residents have an easier, more comfortable life now with new houses, a park and jogging track. A new school will welcome students in September.”

Driving through the narrow streets of the old district, Mr Godinho pointed to his old house, a crumbling shack, smaller than the garages of the villas on the new estates: “This will be cleared soon, they are building 300 more houses by 2011.”

He spoke with an emotion in his voice that suggested regret for something lost: a simpler life, age-old traditions and pride in his village’s independence.

Kalau saya Nasharudin, saya masuk United Malay National Organisation (Baru)

Seorang ahli Parlimen menulis di Facebook:

Apabila Nik Aziz marah dan cadangkan agar Timbalan Pres PAS Nasharuddin masuk UMNO, jelaslah yang Murshidul Am PAS ni tidak begitu demokratik orangnya.

Nik Aziz kata
"Isu kerajaan perpaduan bukannya datang daripada PAS, ia adalah lontaran (idea) peribadi. Perkara itu tidak pernah dibincangkan dalam kertas sebagai agenda PAS mahupun dalam kertas Pakatan Rakyat.

"Kalau benar Nasharuddin nak setuju (dengan kerajaan perpaduan) lebih baik dia masuk Umno, letak jawatan timbalan (presiden PAS) dan di Bachok.

"Apa buat sampah, menyusahkan," menteri besar Kelantan dipetik berkata selepas mempengerusikan mesyuarat exco kerajaan negeri di Kota Bharu hari ini.

Nik Aziz diminta mengulas kenyataan Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak semalam yang yakin terhadap keikhlasan PAS berhubung cadangan tersebut seperti yang dicetuskan oleh Presiden PAS Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang baru-baru ini.

Nampaknya marah Tok Guru sudah sampai tahap kemuncak. Kalau sudah dianggap sampah, itu sudah tahap paling hina (sebelum turun ke tahap najis...). Hanya satu jalan sahaja, terima cabaran Nik Aziz dan buktikan kejantanan ketuanan Melayu.

Apalagi wahai Nasharudin, United Malay National Organisation sudah menawarkan keahlian, segeralah menyertai seperti ramai yang lain sebelum ini dan halalkan segala kebobrokan, penyelewengan, rasuah, pembunuhan Memali dan lain-lain semenjak 50 tahun lalu. Sama-samalah berada dalam TONG TAIK.

Jawatan Menteri mungkin sudah menunggu. Kalau tidak tentunya, habuan lain, jawatan-jawatan, gelaran tinggi termasuk datuk dsbnya juga menanti untuk dinikmati bersama.

Tetapi sebelum itu, sila letak jawatan Ahli parlimen Bachok dan kita lawan semula apabila enta berada bawah United Malay National Organisation.

Thousands of languages becoming extinct soon...

With thousands of languages becoming extinct, the message from experts is, use it or lose it

Imagine if the language you speak everyday became extinct.

It’s impossible for most of us to even begin to comprehend.

But it’s something thousands of international communities will have to face up to this century.

Language experts estimate as many as half the world’s languages are endangered and by the year 2050 will be extinct.

They say the major reason for language loss is because communities are switching to larger politically and economically more powerful languages like English, Spanish and Mandarin.

In the UAE, with the influx of expat workers and the switch to a more western lifestyle, it’s a sad fact that Arabic is becoming less and less widely spoken. In fact the chosen language of business in this Arabic country is English.

Rami, a Palestinian who lives in Dubai says nowadays he speaks English more than Arabic.

“I speak Arabic with my parents the most but I don’t see them often and with Arabic friends my age, I tend to talk more in English.

“We jump from Arabic to English lots of times while we’re talking. I don’t know why. It’s just how things are now. Maybe it’s the fashion or influences from popular American culture,” he says.

But Doctor Rahman Haleem, an Arabic language teacher from Zayed University and the university’s Associate Director Institute for Community Engagement, believes Arabic will never become extinct.

“The Quran is Arabic and it will never change. It’s carried the language for the last 1,400 years and will carry it for a long long time to come,” he says.

“But the usage of the Arabic language has become less fashionable, that’s what we’re seeing now. People are finding it easier to talk to each other in English or mimic what they see on television.

“That is a genuine risk for the popularity of speaking the language but the language itself will never die.”

Doctor Haleem says it’s essential Arabs continue speaking their mother tongue.

“It’s important because it’s the language of the Quran and since the vast majority of Arabs are Muslim they can’t really read the Quran in any another language than Arabic and enjoy it as much.”

While Doctor Haleem may be positive that the Arabic language will never die thanks to the Quran, Sinead May from Ireland fears that her native language, Gaelic, won’t be so lucky.

“Gaelic is dying as a spoken language in Ireland. There are still people who speak it fluently but they are in the minority,” she says.

“In school, we learn some Gaelic, but very few people continue to learn the language, so they quickly forget what they learnt in school. “It’s a real shame, because it’s a beautiful language, with a deep history linked to music, poetry and literature. English is more useful to us as an international language, but it’s sad more people don’t speak our native language too.”

Doctor Haleem says people should try their best to continue speaking the language of their country or community.

He adds: “It’s your identity, it’s your language and heritage. Without it, who are you?”

Dying to be spoken
Peter K Austin is a linguistic expert and author of 11 books on minority communities and endangered languages. Here’s his list of the ten most endangered languages in the world:

* Jeru (or Great Andamanese) - Spoken by fewer than 20 people on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.

* N|u (also called Khomani) - This is a Khoisan language spoken by fewer than ten elderly people whose traditional lands are located in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa.

* Ainu - The Ainu language is spoken by a small number of old people on the island of Hokkaido in the far north of Japan.

* Thao - Sun Moon Lake of central Taiwan is the home of the Thao language, now spoken by a handful of old people while the remainder of the community speaks Taiwanese Chinese (Minnan).

* Yuchi - Spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75.

* ORO WIN - The Oro Win live in western Rondonia State in Brazil and were first contacted by outsiders in 1963. The group was almost exterminated after two attacks by outsiders and today the community consists of just 50 people, only five of whom still speak the language.

* Kusunda - The Kusunda are a former group of hunter-gatherers from western Nepal who have intermarried with their settled neighbours. It was thought that the language was extinct but in 2004 scholars at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu located eight people who still speak the language.

* Ter Sami - Spoken by just ten elderly people located on the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

* Guugu Yimidhirr - an Australian Aboriginal language spoken at Hopevale near Cooktown in northern Queensland by around 200 people.

* Ket - The last surviving member of a family of languages spoken along the Yenesei River in eastern Siberia. Today there are around 600 speakers but no children are learning it since parents prefer to speak to them in Russian.

Saudi has no Women Rights?

Somehow, those who claimed to be the best Muslims are really bad examples. I was shocked to read the Arab News (below) : Police free woman locked up by husband for three years

It gives the impression that women have no rights in Islam as Saudi claimed to be the guardian of two holy mosques and protector of Islam.

Sisters-in-Islam will have a field day and Islam as always, gets the bad name under the pretext of abuse of human rights, women rights etc.

It was reported that a female “foreign legal resident” and her eight-month old child were rescued from an abandoned house in Jeddah where she alleges they’d been imprisoned for the last three years. Her captor? The son of her sponsor, a man with whom she’d been entered into a temporary marriage.

You’ll recall my entry, Temporary marriages with Indonesian women on rise, about an alarming increase in the number of Indonesian women unknowingly entering into temporary marriages with Saudi guys.

The news reported that, the 'husband' was arrested – but as per normal Saudi procedures involving the 'locals',who knows for what or for how long. Locals have sometimes or most of the times, immunity. Bizarre but it is true.

The unfortunate 'wife' and the child were taken to the hospital and then relocated to a women’s shelter.

It seems fine but as I mentioned, things may go “Saudi” ways.

It is normal somehow that as per described by a blogger:-
In order to press charges, the woman must “prove” her relationship with the man who kept her locked away in an abandoned house for the last three years. If she can’t prove any relationship…well, too bad for her…no matter what happened within the house of horrors.

And things get even worse.

If she can’t prove the relationship, the woman’s sponsor – the father of her alleged abuser and captor, grandfather of her baby, and her (temporary) father-in-law – now holds the power to make the whole thing go away. All he has to do is refuse to re-sponsor the woman and she will be deported.

And her child? Well since the child was conceived in a temporary marriage, the father doesn’t actually have any responsibilities – that’s all part of the sweet deal the Saudi guys broker in this prostitution scheme. No strings attached sex and all.

If the woman presses for paternity – in effect getting the father (who just so happens to be her abuser and captor) to put the child on his family card through legal action, then the father automatically gains custody of the baby!

Let’s recap.

A woman is abused and kept prisoner for three years.

In order to press charges against the man who imprisoned her, impregnated her and, according to authorities physically abused her (duh), the woman must get the man’s agreement that they were in a relationship.

If she does get that confirmation from her captor, then he gets permanent custody of her child.

If she doesn’t get the green light from the guy, his father, who just so happens to be her sponsor, can have her deported.

No matter what happens, this woman loses.

Yeah – that’s what happens when women have no rights.

Police free woman locked up by husband for three years
Arab News

JEDDAH: Police rescued a woman from false imprisonment who they say has been locked by her husband in an abandoned house for three years, the daily Al-Watan reported yesterday.

The woman was found with an eight-month-old child. Police were tipped off by a passerby who heard the woman screaming for help inside the house.

The woman was identified only as a foreign legal resident. She reportedly told her rescuers that she has been married under a no-obligation marriage (misyar) to the son of her sponsor.

Jeddah police told the daily the man was arrested. The name of the culprit was not disclosed. The case has been transferred for further investigation.

The woman was taken to Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital where she was examined. The report said the woman had signs of physical abuse.

Omar Al-Khuli, an official at an unnamed family shelter, said the woman must prove her relationship to the man.

For the child to be considered a Saudi citizen (eligible for social benefits and education), the woman must now file a lawsuit to get the man who allegedly imprisoned her to place the child on his family ID card.

Doing so would also allow the man to claim custody of the child. The woman can be deported when her iqama expires unless her sponsor or the courts intervene.