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Where Tradition Thrives



From Gulf News November 4th 2002 

A lot has changed, but a lot remains unchanged too – especially in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah, untouched by the hands of time and fast food.

Bedouins still grind wheat and bake bread – an age-old tradition handed down by their ancestors who believe a healthy diet gave them a  long life.Even today, Bedouins do not rush to the market to buy their staple food. They go through the onerous task of grinding wheat, a job for the whole family, and baking their own bread.  

Sixty-year-old Mohammed bin Ali bin Tourki bin Rowaished, a UAE national who lives in the mountains, said some houses have traditional grinders. He said that some families have their own grinders, but many borrow from others. Many grinders have been in the family for years and years. The grinders called ‘raha’ are made of a special stone, which is rare in the UAE. Nationals have found similar stones in Yemen and Iran and brought them to UAE. Rahas are available in some markets, but Nationals prefer the self-made ones.

Bread is a staple food, but making it this way is a slow and labour intensive process. The work starts for the family when they plant the wheat on their farms. They usually wait for the rain and once the land dries, they throw the seed on the soil. These families work hard on the land, especially when they have to remove weeds and wild grass. After a couple of months, they harvest the wheat and store the produce. The wheat is usually stored in plastic containers called ‘mann

The entire family, even the younger members, helps to grind the wheat. Each house has four to five manns with ground wheat. Mohammed said there are no bakeries in the mountainous areas. ‘Bakeries will not do well here, because people will not buy bread from them’

Families  bake bread like Jareesh, Sokhone, Aseed and Quors in their houses.

‘Every house in the mountains has a huge ‘tanour’ where the women bake the bread. Before the Fajr prayers, women finish baking in order to offer bread to guests, who drop in unexpectedly early in the morning. National families never offer old bread as it is considered a disgrace.’

Home made bread ahs a fresh and wonderful aroma that you never find in bread baked in commercial bakeries.

‘Nationals smell the bread before eating and so they will not touch bread made in big bakeries. The bread is eaten with natural honey because people believe this will give them a long and healthy life.’

‘Our ancestors believed that home-made bread and natural honey is the most healthy food and people can live as long as 100 -110 years. Even today, we follow the lifestyle of our ancestors because we believe they led a healthy life. We will pass this on to the future generations’