08/07/2009 10:36 PM
Dubai: The subject of neighbourhood (freej) still cheers people up when they recall its unforgettable heyday.
Shaikha Al Mazrouei, Amnah Bint Musabeh and Athijah Bint Mohammad, members of an older generation of Emiratis, said "Your paper brought up a very precious subject to us.
"We as Emiratis call it freej (neighbourhood) which brings back the most beautiful memories to us. It was a true big family and a true spontaneous mutual love and care that combined all neighbours under one umbrella called freej.
"We used to share almost everything. For instance, the daily conversations over coffee or tea which used to take place in the morning and afternoon as well and we used to exchange the daily dishes of food, our children also used to study together. Not to mention the several visits in the same day, we even sleep in our neighbour's house occasionally.
"We wish all that beautiful time comes back," the ladies said.
Asked if there's any difference between today's and yesterday's social visits, they reply, "It's huge difference. We do still have a strong link with our neighbours but unlike the way it used to be in the past.
"As a matter of fact, the rhythm of life has a tremendous change; nowadays people don't find it appropriate to go to them without prior appointment and that due to the long working hours and other daily obligations as well."
They add, "However, some neighbourhoods still maintain a strong daily relation especially in Ramadan, which we are receiving soon."
This unity and cooperation within the freej was portrayed in many neighbours' actions until it became part of their traditional lifestyle.
One of the things that gained importance within the years, and is still practised (mostly in Ramadan) today, is sending food to neighbours.
If a lady cooks a dish, or buys some food, she takes no delight in what she cooked until she sends some to her neighbours. She always cooks for more than the household in case a neighbour decides to pass by, or to send to other homes.
If the son of a neighbour is planning to get married, every single neighbour in the freej comes together to help relieve the costs of the marriage preparations. They each pay what they can.
In times of grief, neighbours play a big role in supporting the grieving family by sending food or sometimes taking care of the kids during mourning days, and they also take turns in visiting the family of the deceased.
Ramadan is the time to see true neighbourly love and appreciation. Neighbours exchange dishes before Maghreb prayers. In Eid, neighbours celebrate together like one family. They will gather in the house of the eldest in the neighbourhood to chat and have breakfast. They then go in groups to visit the other houses.