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Delma Island - from a barren land to a charming oasis

posted on 10/09/2006: 5793 views

The Sharjah-based Arabic daily, "Al Khaleej", on Friday ran an extensive feature on Delma Island of Abu Dhabi. The island, which is located at about 160 kilometres west of the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, is about 10 kilometre long from north to south and 5 kilometre long from east to west.

Being a volcanic island, Delma's terrain is a combination of mountains hills, valleys and plains. It is home to about 6000 people. The island has been inhabited for the past thousands of years, thanks to the numerous water wells and springs which provide fresh water for the inhabitants and enabled them to lead stable life.

Like pearl diving and fishing in the Gulf waters, selling of fresh water also provided a source of income for the people who used to transport fresh water from the island to other parts of the emirate to earn a living.

The feature, titled: "Delma Island - from a barren land to a charming oasis", the paper said: "Delma had won the great attention of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - may his soul rest in perfect peace - Sheikh Zayed remained committed to the island, through his frequent visit to personally oversee its development through the setting up of farms, the building of houses and the provision of health and educational services for the people of the island."

"The island has been transformed from a barren land that it used to be to a charming garden with green vegetation covering every inch of its surface in the form of farms, various fruit trees and afforestation projects, while the island also boasts of schools of all levels," the report added.

The report pointed out that Delma, which serves as a bridge linking the east with the west, through its natural harbour, had contributed significantly with its people engaging in trade, particularly, pearl trading and animal husbandry. The vast majority of the inhabitants were Arab nomads, who used to move frequently from Delma to Liwa.

They were religious people who congregate to perform their religious rituals in mosques, which also served as schools where they learn the holy Quran reading and writing and arithmetic from tutors, locally referred to as "Mutawwa". Some of those legendary mosques still stand today. They include the Mohammed bin Jasim Al Mreikhi's Mosque.

Al Mreikhi, a popular name in Delma and the Gulf region in general, was one of the prominent natives of the island, a successful businessman who made fortunes from his business of pearl trading.

Delma Island has rich history and civilisation, thanks to its strategic location. Archaeological discoveries made on the island, showed its civilisation dated back to seven thousand years. The archaeological building structures that continue to defy time on the island also tell a story of its civilisation over the years and the role the island played as an important port in the Gulf region.

The 19th century, which represents the golden age of the island, saw Delma becoming one of the most significant pearl production centres.

Delma has an airport which facilitates smooth movement to and from the island. A big town hall has been built on the island to serve as a venue for celebrating various ceremonies. The move aimed at helping the youth beat down the cost of celebrating their marriage and other fanfares.

In the early seventies of the last century, the late UAE Founder and Leader, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan ordered the building of a municipality premise from where the affairs of the island are being run.

According to Yusuf Ali Bu-hindi, an official from the municipality, the island had been popular from time immemorial as a bustling harbour where pearl divers and traders from all the Gulf region thronged for business. He pointed out that the achievements so far recorded by the island reflects the skilful hand and good taste of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who personally, used to supervise the execution of projects on the island. He said the late UAE founder and leader used to provide for farmers all they needed to ensure self sufficiency in vegetables and fruit, adding that Sheikh Zayed also gave fishermen on the island similar care and provided housing facilities for all the islanders.

"In continuation of the development programme for the Island and its people an air transport service was added to the Island transport system to link Delma with the UAE capital through a daily flight, Bu-hindi noted.

The report said all the developments that are seen today on the Island, including the modern and highly reputable education institutes which enrol every year thousands of students, would never have been a reality but for this country's wise leadership who chose to focus on the building of the country's human resources by enlightening their mind and training their hands so that they can shoulder their national duties and responsibilities.

"The march for formal education on Delma began in the early months of 1972 with the ministry of education renting a low cost house that was used as a formal school where all subjects of study were taught by qualified teachers. Thirty students were enrolled for a start and soon the number surged astronomically in the 1973/74 academic year during which the first government school was opened with the number of students reaching 100," the paper wrote in the report.

Regarding the education of women, the Abu Dhabi Women's Association opened a literacy education centre where women are taught reading and writing skills, the memorisation of the holy Quran and various training courses, including handicrafts, tailoring and home economics.

Commenting on the issue, Abdullah Hassan Al Hossani, Deputy Board Chairman of Delma Cooperative Society, said Delma is one of the best islands in the region. It was a great attraction and destination for pearl divers and traders due to its great popularity in pearl business and a pearl diving spots and a number of archaeological treasure.

Mohammed Ali Hassan Al Hammadi, Assistant Director of Al Diyar Basic Education School, said Delma had witnessed a great deal of development in all areas. "The area of the Island has increased and so is the population... Schools have been built and farms distributed.

Many low cost houses, villas have also been built and health services are being provided," he said.

He pointed out that Sheikh Zayed used to give special attention to education and agriculture on the Island. "Now the Island boasts of a number of educated people in all areas of specialisation. It has from its own people doctors, engineers, flight captains, etc. Sheikh Zayed has also led the Island to many achievements, including the linking of the Island with an international highway and the building of an airport to facilitate the smooth movement of people and goods and to open the Island's door wide for people to come and see for themselves the rich things the Island is endowed with," he said.

Delma also boasts of all the services facilities and utilities, including banking services, telecommunication, postal services, police station and offices for immigration, labour and social services.

Khamis Al Qubeisi, another prominent personality from the Island, cited some of the factors of stability on the Island as including the fresh water and the fertile land in addition to the pearl diving spots which abound around the Island. "The Island is also a natural harbour for ships and travellers. Its territorial waters are also rich in fisheries," Al Qubeisi said, adding that the Island is blessed with various sources of revenue, including trade, agriculture, animal husbandry, pearl diving, fishing and ship building," he said. "This is in addition to Delma's strategic location, as a link between the east and the west, which enable the Island to serve as a hub for exchanging of goods between the islanders and others in the region," he added.

Fatima Al Hossani, Director of the Omaima Basic and Secondary School in Delma said life has totally changed in Delma. "Our ancestors and parents used to depend on pearl diving and trading, as well as on fishing to make a living, but today the Island has developed in all areas," She noted.

Aisha Malallah, Deputy Director of the Labour Office in Delma, said the people of Delma have special regards for the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. "His great concern and care for Delma and its people led to this comprehensive development on the Island which was achieved in a record time," she said.

The people of Delma praised the vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for visiting the Island at the beginning of the 2006/2007 academic year.

Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied during the visit by Minister for Presidential Affairs, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The people of the Island said they feel the special care they always enjoy from the UAE leadership is continuing unabated. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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