Fujairah: Most UAE residents had not heard of the village of Rul Dhadna till early on Monday when a horrific tragedy made national headlines.
Driving on the east coast road, I had passed the village several times, but never bothered to stop, except once when I sat by the tranquil beach facing the settlement.
I didn’t even know the name of the place when the contrast of the black rocks against the azure sea compelled me to pull over and take in the view.
There, watching the gentle waves rolling on to the shore I made a friend, Ashraf, an expatriate guarding one of the many beach houses owned by rich city folk just outside the hamlet.
It was from Ashraf that I first heard the name Rul Dhadna. I might have seen the signboard several times, but that’s when the name actually registered.
Ashraf has been working in the place for 40 years since the time the east coast road was nothing more than a dirt track.
Over the years, the dirt track has transformed into a four-lane highway, some new houses have popped up and more are under construction, but the village like many in the vicinity hasn’t lost its old world charm.
As you drive along the scenic east coast, nobody would blame you for missing the village nestled between mountains and date orchards.
Like most villages that dot the coast, the inhabitants of Rul Dhadna are rooted to the land, either working for the land (UAE Armed Forces), or on it (farming).
Several of Emirati martyrs belong to this region.
Full of vigour and zeal, the folks in this part of the country possess a kind of rustic hardiness that resembles the rugged mountains surrounding them.
And unlike their urban counterparts, they still hold on to the heritage and culture of the region, which goes far beyond the kandora, agal and ghotra. Their language is much less influenced by urbanisation.
The villages and towns along the east coast seem to be the last frontier, where people more or less maintain their traditional way of life. Though, not entirely untouched by globalisation and urbanisation, thanks to smartphones and the internet, they seem to have struck a healthy balance.
For years, nothing of any significance happened in this quiet hamlet of not more than a few hundred inhabitants till Monday when residents woke up to the tragic news of seven children perishing in a fire.
The tragedy will be etched in the memories of many for some time.
At least that will be the case with me. Every time I drive past this village in the future, the memory of seven little bodies wrapped in shrouds will haunt me.
What will help me bear the trauma is the fortitude and steadfastness of the villagers, whose big hearts help them absorb their invisible tears.
Those steady eyes emit a light of dignity that doesn’t diminish under any circumstances, however harsh.
That to me is the real essence of the bedouin way of life — that all is not lost even when you have lost everything — and that there is enough reason to thank Allah Almighty and hold on to hope.
Hope is your most precious possession when you are surrounded by sand and barren mountains.
That is the lesson I carried in my overwhelmed heart as I drove away from Rul Dhadna with the setting sun behind me painting a somber picture of the hamlet in mourning.