Friday, February 11, 2011

The Old Man of Wadi Al Qoor



Always a healing hand on his people

Al Ka'abi recalls how the benevolent Ruler sat beside him on the bare floor and urged him to ask for anything he wanted so that it could be provided

Mohammad Salem Khamis Al Ka’abi
  • Mohammad Salem Khamis Al Ka’abi at his residence in Wadi Al Qoor, Ras Al Khaimah. Al Ka’abi has several pictures of Shaikh Mohammad. "There are no words to describe the generosity and care he [Shaikh Mohammad] shows towards his people," Al Ka’abi said.
  • Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Ras Al Khaimah: Despite being almost 100 years old, Mohammad Salem Khamis Al Ka'abi clearly recalls the moments when a man whom he failed to recognise at first sat down on the bare ground and chatted with him.

The brief chat, according to Al Ka'abi, changed his life forever.

The surprise visitor was none other than His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

He was on an inspection tour of the Eastern Region in 2008 when he came across Al Ka'abi sitting on the ground in front of his house. Shaikh Mohammad stopped his car and went up to him.

"He sat next to me on the sandy ground, but I did not recognise him at first because the sun's glare was coming directly into my eyes," said the physically challenged elderly man, who lives in the remote area of Wadi Al Qoor, during an interview with Gulf News whose correspondent visited him on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Shaikh Mohammad's accession as Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

"When he sat with me, he [Shaikh Mohammad] asked me whether I recognised him. I said no because I could not see his face clearly. Then he said ‘I am Mohammad Bin Rashid'. Then I realised that I was actually meeting Shaikh Mohammad, the son of Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed," recalled Al Ka'abi, who currently lives alone after the death of his wife a couple of months ago.

New villa

"Shaikh Mohammad visited me here again before Ramadan to offer his condolences. He also asked me if I needed anything," he said.

Gulf News had spoken to Aliba, Al Ka'abi's wife, in an earlier interview in 2008. She had said: "God has created this man [Shaikh Mohammad] to look after his people. We never imagined we would see him in this remote area... This man has honoured us in a way real fathers and mothers would be honoured." In the living room of his new villa, Al Ka'abi, dressed in a dark grey kandoora and white gotra with grey stripes, sat down under several pictures of Shaikh Mohammad hanging on the wall and others placed on a table near him. The historic picture of him sitting on the ground with Shaikh Mohammad was placed prominently among them.

"I don't feel comfortable if I don't see these pictures everyday. I feel he is with me when I see them. Sometimes I even talk to the pictures [when I feel lonely]," he said with a glow in his eyes.

Shaikh Mohammad had granted Al Ka'abi a new villa and had ordered complete maintenance of the old man's house and the home of his orphaned grandsons. "Give me an order father, whatever you want, just name it, said Shaikh Mohammad," Al Ka'abi recalled.

"I just hope for a long and happy life," replied Al Ka'abi. Shaikh Mohammad looked around and saw the old man's house had cracks in the walls. "Here we will build for you a very comfortable home," Shaikh Mohammad had reportedly told him.

Al Ka'abi has three sons and a daughter. Four other sons have died, three of them in road accidents. One of his sons lives in Ajman and the other two live in Hatta. Salem, Al Ka'abi's son who lives in Hatta, came visiting as he does daily. "We cherish that fond visit of Shaikh Mohammad, which has left a great impact on my father and everyone in this area," he said.

"May Allah bless the soul of Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed, who had given me the old house, and may Allah grant Shaikh Mohammad long life and success in every endeavour. There are no words to describe the generosity and care he shows towards his people," Al Ka'abi said.

Ali Saeed Al Niyadi, who oversees the area of Wadi Al Qoor, told Gulf News, that Al Ka'abi has always been a lovable person in the neighbourhood. "He is a clean man and wishes well for everyone. People here love him and respect him greatly," he said.