The Ali Story: Old friends reunited

Ali Al Saloom shares his experiences from growing up and living in the UAE.

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I received a message this week from a very old friend of mine who I went to school with back in the days when I used to live in my hometown of Baniyas.

I can't mention his name here for now and you will know the reason later on (so make sure to read the full story). My dear old friend asked me for my private number on Twitter and I greeted him and did share my number with him on Twitter, and was really so happy to get this chance to catch up with him. It had really been a long time. A few hours later, he called and I picked up.

Me: "Hello bro. It's you man, how have you been?"

Him: "I'm fine alhamdulilah, Ali, mashallah, been such a long time, so glad to catch up."

Me: "Me too bro. How is everything going with you and the family? What do you do now?"

Him: "Oh, I'm fine alhamduliah, everything is going well, family and everyone is doing well. You know most of us went into the oil and gas industries and we got stuck because that what happens when you get involved in those industries (laughing)."

I hear that a lot. It's nothing against my friends who work in the oil and gas industries, but hey, they make us rich in the country eh? At the same time, many of them just get tired from the routine, and the foreign trips to the various rigs and camps away from the cities.The conversation continued thus:

Me: "Oh bro, really missed you and all of our classmates. How are they doing? What's new?"

Him: "Oh well, I don't see all of them, Ali, but I know most are doing well. You know the usual thing. We catch up from time to time when we can, over a football match, or a funeral or a wedding, and of course the best time to be able to catch up with them all is during Friday prayer."

I laughed and said: "You're right. Isn't it amazing how Friday gatherings are such a blessing to us. We should honour Fridays from now on, because it's our only chance to meet everyone in the neighbourhood. I should really make it some Friday and catch up with you all in Baniyas."

He replied: "Yeah sure, either Baniyas or Abu Dhabi! We can always catch up of course!"

I said: "Yeah, sure. Let me invite you for lunch or dinner at home."

Eh? He said: "No, I called you so you be my guest, at home."

I said: "I'm not sure how soon I'll be in Baniyas."

He said: "Come to Baniyas. I also live in Abu Dhabi three days a week!"

I was thinking: "Why the three days!"

He replied: "Oh nothing, it's just that I have a wife here in Abu Dhabi and my first wife is in Baniyas."

Silence. Then I said: "Dude, you are married to two wives, mashalah. Really? God! Why is it most of my friends in Baniyas are married to two wives? Is this now the custom now, or what?"

He was like: "Oh no, Ali, you know..."

Silence again. I didn't want to give him a hard time. I just had a smile on my face and was happy and sorry for him at the same time. Why would a man handle two headaches? OK, just kidding, but hey it was really lovely catching up with my school classmates from my hometown. I had just had an amazing conversation who had brought back so many memories, which I hope to share with you some day.

I remember my father telling me once: "Son, no matter what happens, never give up your Friday prayers and gatherings. It's the best place to gather, and will remind you of your loved ones who will be there for you always."

I intend to go and pray at the mosque my friend told me about, which is opposite my old elementary school. I look forward to catching up with my home town classmates again, and I promise to share some of these memories.

Till then, for those who have two wives, may God be with you.