Then and now: Deira Gold Souq. Image Credit: Gulf News

Ajman: Leading the progress of the UAE since it was established in 1971 was late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who played a major role in visualising the concept of the federation and unity here, said Mohammad Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaiba, a prominent Emirati figure from Ajman.

Al Shaiba, born in 1923 in Ajman, is a member of the second generation of people who settled in the Arabian Gulf Coast.

Al Shaiba, who looks many years younger than his age, attributes this to keeping himself away from troubles, loans and to reading and educating himself.

"I kept myself away from troubles all my life, I never borrowed or lent money and I read a lot," said Al Shaiba, who was the director of Ajman medical district from 1975 until he retired in 2004.

Al Shaiba told Gulf News that he spent most of his time in the library in his guest room with his friends.

"My main interest is the library, which I established many years ago in memory of my father who was attracted by education and reading. He travelled to different parts of the world in order to learn. After my father's death many years ago I decided to turn his home in to public library," he said.

He said ‘Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaiba Library' is now a scientific centre that provides comprehensive knowledge of the sayings — Hadith Sharif — and the actions — Sunna — of the Prophet in addition to a large collection of publications on different subjects which helped many students with their doctorate and masters programmes.

Pearl diving

"I'm from the second generation of people who settled in the Arabian Gulf Coast… my age could be 88 years or more," he said.

"At the time of my youth, the Trucial Coast was poor and undeveloped, with economy largely based upon fishing and pearl diving along the coast," he said.

"Our life was going on well and there was no poverty. Some people used to earn around Rs300 in every diving trip for pearl.

"It those days my family and many others here used to live in the area called ‘Al Hiour' in the mountains. In early 1930s the economic recession in Europe affected the pearl market, turned our life to poverty and misery until the Second World War," he said.

Al Shaiba remembered that in 1941 the coast used to get support from the United Nations which used to offer people wheat and flour to survive. "Poverty turned courageous and powerful men into beggars to feed their families. People died because of starvation," he said.

Shortly after that, people started to do some kind of business such as trading with Iran by selling tea, sugar and textiles they brought from India, he said.

No vehicles

"Our means of transportation was camels when we go to Oman to buy dates to sell it here. There were no vehicles. The first car brought here was by the late ruler of Sharjah," he said.

"I remember when the late Sharjah ruler brought from India a radio so that we could listen to the news. The radio was charged with the car battery. We used to wonder how a man was able to fit inside this small box [radio]," he said.

He said by the end of 1945 life started to get better in the Trucial States or, as people used to call it, Al Mutasaliha area.

"During my childhood, we faced many tribal wars when tribes called Al Manaseer and Al Awamir used to invade our lands and we used to invade their lands too," he said.

He said that after the Second World War the market settled down which helped people to travel abroad in search of good job opportunities, especially with oil companies.

"I went to Kuwait in mid-1950s were I worked in different kinds of jobs. I settled in Fahaheel area in Kuwait and worked in the health sector. My salary was about Dh100 and my father used to send me sometimes money from Ajman.

"I got married at the age of 18 to my first wife from Kuwait.

"When I returned to the UAE in late 1960s I married my second wife here with whom I live," said Al Shaiba, who is the father and grandfather of more than 180 children.

Al Shaiba said the idea of the federation came to life in February 1967 when the late Shaikh Zayed met at the ‘As'sameeh' area, half way between Abu Dhabi and Dubai with the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum and they decided to establish a federation between the two emirates, and invited the other five Trucial States to join. They also invited Qatar and Bahrain.

"Shaikh Zayed was generous and used to help other states even before the federation," he said.