Dear Ali: The storms this week with all the rain made me wonder why people were so happy, despite all the damage it caused. WI, Abu Dhabi
Dear WI: For many countries, rain is associated with bad weather, but here it's the opposite – it's a good thing and is considered to bring blessings.
In Islam, we have a prayer every time it rains – “Allahuma ijaalhou sayban nafe’an” – which means: “Oh Allah, may it be a beneficial rain.”
It’s also believed that Allah will accept our wishes and prayers, and hence many share prayers and positive wishes in the hope that God will accept them.
In the past, rain was a great source for a good harvest season and sweet water. It was also believed that after rain, there would be certain goods, such as a type of fruit called fakeha, which is close to a potato in shape and best harvested after heavy rain with lots of thunder and lightning. Many people don’t know this, but back in the day, it was believed that with rain, more pearls would be produced, which means more people would have a better life after finding and selling them.
Whether it’s light or heavy rain, we pray that the rain won’t stop, but we all know that unfortunately this rain will not last for long, and we may not see any rain for many months. We have not seen rain like this for more than 27 years. That’s why you will continue to see people feeling blessed and happy.
Dear Ali: I know that many Emiratis own farms. In my country, having a farm is a great source of fresh organic food. What does having a farm mean for Emiratis? Do they cultivate any fruit and vegetables? PS, Belgium
Dear PS: Your observation is correct. Many Emirati families own a farm outside of the city. It's a part of our heritage. Most of the farms were built by our grandfathers, who used to live there. Later, when families started getting houses and moved to the cities, farms became, for most of us, a place to escape the busy city life and return to nature. But many still serve as a farm for our main tree, the nakhla, which is the date-palm tree.
On the farm, we usually have a small- or medium-sized house, and today even a villa with a sitting area – or majlis – in the hall, plus bedrooms, kitchen and toilets for the family, as well as various options of outdoor settings.
Outside, you can find a big water tank usually built in a square shape. It's used to water the plants, but some people enjoy swimming in it, too. Other people breed fish there.
On the farm, we usually plant palm trees and other plants, such as tomatoes, watermelons, cabbages, mangoes, guavas and various green vegetables.
You can always see lots of hens on the farms, and always more goats than sheep. Sometimes we keep horses there, too, but not camels. If a family owns camels, they would keep them in an aazba, which is an open farm in the desert.