The bus picks me and my brother Mohammed, who we nicknamed Hamoudi, (as it is commonly done to the name Mohammed in the Arabic world, the most popular name in the world), every day in the morning. As our apartment is on the beach, we wait under its breeze and the mountain view on the other side. I remember the serenity of those mornings when whoever left of the fishermen that are still tidying their boats after the dawn’s auction at the fishermen’s market, are making the settle sounds in the distance along the seagulls.
As I reflect back on my memories of the school bus, I wish that our seating was not assigned. We had a bus supervisor, an old Egyptian woman, with a tight scarf and thick glasses, that was mean and ultra-serious. We took the bus about 3 years and didn’t have a chance to make new friends due to the assigned seating, and no talking policy. We talked anyways, but in a low voice, otherwise, we would risk our ears being pulled, the favorite torture method of that teacher. We took that 30 minutes road from Khorfakkan to Fujairah so many times, that we memorized everything. The number of signs on our way, the number of villages we passed through, their names, and how many cars we can spot in them, the Bedouin tents at the bottom of the mountains, always with luxury cars parked next to them. We got to a point where we would pick a color, and count everything that we passed through that had that color. We would get ecstatic if we were allowed to change our seats and sit next to someone else, especially my friends Islam and Firas.
Islam is an Egyptian boy from Alexandria, with a super kind father and mother from Egypt. We met in grade 2 but became friends after a fight on the bus that broke out between me and him. Boys tend to become friends after they fight. It is kind of a settlement of the alpha dominance within a group. Once it gets violent and they realize they are equal, they become friends. I scratched his face by accident with a silver bracelet I was wearing while swinging at him. Remember, we were 7 years old. It showed on his face during all the years I have known him, and he used to call it the deposit of friendship. I and Islam became lifelong friends. You will hear his name often from here out.
I also met Firas in 2nd grade. He is a tall, big built, Syrian boy, father from Homos and mother from Halab (Aleppo). We also became friends after a fight. Both Islam and Firas lived in Khorfakkan, so we took the bus together every morning and afternoon. Here is how I fought with Firas and got to become friends. After the first trip, I wanted to secure a better seat on the way back, so I ran to the bus after school and reserved a seat next to the window all the way on the back. It happened to be Firas’s morning seat. I left my bag on it to reserve it and stepped out. He walked in, removed my bag, and sat on it. I walked in and told him to move his a#$. He wouldn’t. The conversation got heated, and with a large audience, I found myself swinging at Firas. After few minutes of fighting to no avail, the supervisor came, so we had to break it off. Firas continued to sit on that golden seat. The bus moved. Everyone is quiet. In few minutes, Firas taps me on my shoulder and offers me the seat. He has one of the kindest hearts. We became lifelong friends. He lives now in Mississauga, and we do visit occasionally.
I, Firas, and Islam became friends. We lived the next few years in Khorfakan finding adventures together and discovering the corners of this beautiful village. The most common area and perhaps the only area to go out to was the corniche (the corniche is a French name given to a street that faces the beach or a boardwalk at the beach). Along the beautiful cost of the Gulf of Oman, the corniche had restaurants lined up along it, and open areas for children to play.
There were no playgrounds and the open area we’re not done yet it seeming that it was supposed to be completed with planted grass and palm trees but that never happened during our time there. Since Friday is the only day off in UAE (being an Islamic country), people go out on Thursday nights. I and my friends would go out to the corniche on Thursday nights walking and figuring out what we’re gonna do that night. We went with the flow; if there were guys playing soccer we played soccer. We were spontaneous. There were absolutely no activities for children in Khorfakan nor is any playground or sports program to accommodate them. We would meet at the mosque and then we would leave to play with our bicycles or with a soccer ball or find out what to do between the houses.
The Emirates school I went to in the city of Fujairah was an Islamic Elementary little private school. It was a new school and it’s focused on a strong curriculum including Islamic studies and 40 and language was recently established so when I went into it in great too I was basically The highest class in the school we grew up here after year being the oldest children in the school so much responsibility was put on us as a role model’s and as the students who would implement any programs or activities the school came up with.
When the school was first designed and they designed a little prayer area next to every class from the prayer area has a green rug and it was very well lit with large mosaic windows that let the sun in with the spectrum of color that added to the spirituality of such a place. As the school expanded, they converted these prayer areas into other classrooms, and we would pray in another area in the school.
The Emirates School was modern compared to the building of that time. It had a great auditorium, library, a large area in the middle where students would assemble every morning in the Taboor, which literally meant a line of people. Every class would line up from shortest to tallest with their first-hour teacher in front of them, and the school would start with a recitation of Quran, the national anthem, wise word of the day, perhaps a hadeeth (oral tradition of prophet Mohamed), and a word by the Principal.
Most of the teachers were religious, well-educated, middle-class Egyptian women. The expression used in Egypt to describe an older sister is “Abla”. We called the teachers Abla’s. The term is Turkish meaning an older sister. As the Ottoman Empire ruled the Islamic WOrld, Turkish words are common in the Arabic slang.
The school took pride in its Islamic teachings. Our religion class at the elementary level was taught by an Islamic Sheik (scholar) who came to teach us from the Mosque. Sometimes, the bus would take us to the Mosque to learn Qu
ran there. The Sheik was also from Egypt. I feel now that they were all sympathizer if not members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but that is not something strange given that the Muslim Brotherhood was basically the default organization of any Islamic activism in the Islamic world then. Actually all the Islamic movements afterward, Sunni and Shia, have stemmed, by a way or another, from the Muslim Brotherhood.