A Love and Hate
by Zahra J. Saleh
January 06, 2010
I was five years old when I learned about the strong but strange feelings between man and seas or oceans.
My grandfather`s house where my parents got married in 1954 was a beautiful house beside the sea. I lived there at the age of eight years.
In this period, I witnessed something abstract that relates to seas, oceans and human beings that was love and hate.
My grand-father`s journeys took place from the North East of Somalia, located in the triangle between the Red Sea coast, and the Indian Ocean.
His journey was from 1910 – 1945, when there were no sophisticated ships, but Dhows or Sailboats sails by cotton cloth only.
It was dark days and he was in search of food and clothes in exchange for leather and livestock. There was no communication, no weather forecasting and no maps to read.
Lucky us, with the sophisticated radars and similar equipment available today!
Having in mind my family`s history with seas and oceans, one day I asked my aunt, my father`s older sister, why her name was “Gayebow”. Her name means in our language “absent”. My aunt was born when her father was away for a sea trip and her mother was not sure whether her husband would return alive.
My father inherited his father`s business at age of 18 years and traveled the same routes of his father by sea. But the only differences between the two men`s journeys were the modernization of sea equipments.
My father has traveled by small boats with engines or similar facilities unlike my grand-father who traveled with sailboat with cotton cloths.
Similarly, my mother also took the post of my grand-mother which was, waiting for her husband to return safely. History repeats it self! My mother used to wait my father to return for many months too.
So my imaginations and my thoughts about this topic are from both my immediate family and again my native people. But what I was not sure was if people from other parts of the world share with us this feeling?
Somalia, my country, has the third longest coast in Africa. And both the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea go through it. Due to its strategic location, my familiarity to this long history about seas and oceans could be the case of my sense of binary thoughts of love and hate of it.
But what is strange is that despite my profile and long history of exposure to the sea, I still have worries and scares about it. A fear that has grown up with me.
I started swimming at the age of 25 years. And I decided to block my system from the panic so I decided to walk beside a beach near my residence.
So how about the other societies? Do they share with us these feelings for seas and oceans?
I began to ask with people from different parts of the world but were sea lovers asking how they feel about it.
It was Saturday morning, my day off when I wore my walking-suite at 6 a.m. to accomplish my enquiry about the seas and occasions.
I originated from Mrs. Alliege, a Brazilian lady who was walking beside the beach with her two dogs. The color of one dog was black and white, while the other dog`s color was brown only.
My ice break conversation with her was how I admired about the beauty of her dogs.
She was a thin and a petite lady. Her English was not very fluent but her beautiful smile covered it up. So I first asked her how she was enjoying walking beside the beach. Then she replied to me to immediately and said "Waw-waw, it is fantastic and very pleasant."
She also added that apart from being a regular swimmer in the sea, she also loves the noise of the sea.
From there I continue walking beside the sea to get more stories for my topic till I met Mrs Najla, an Egyptian lady who was accompanied by her husband and two kids.
An Egyptian lady with blue eyes and blonde hair! At the beginning I thought she was Russian. I smiled to her and she smiled back to me too.
Then I greeted her with Islamic greetings.
Najla was born in Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt and she was very well comprehensible about the benefits of the Sea.
For her being an Alexandrian lady, who had a long history with sea and oceans due to Alexandria`s location of the Mediterranean Sea, it was very easy for her to express her feelings towards the oceans and sea.
Najla said: “I should be in love with sea because my city, Alexandria, has been visited by many kings and queens in the past and that information is available in our libraries”.
Her other supplementary towards her love for sea was because it gives her give a peace of mind and clears vision according to her.
I moved for enquiry from Alexandria to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.
Ayaath, a mother of few months old baby and a young lady too, was sitting with wooden chair beside the beach with a man who was much older then her but was her husband.
I greeted them with “Hi and good morning”. The couple was so knowledgeable and they told me another version about sea which was not familiar to me.
The young lady`s experience about the sea was spectacular like the most of Sudanese.
And she said: “The sea is pleasure and relief object as well. It is clean and clear so its appearance reflects our brain.”
Her husband added: “The Sea is Majesty and this title was allocated by the “Almighty”.
Furthermore, the husband said that the only perfect man who never committed any type of sin will marry lady-angles after his death. And these ladies are living in the sea now. And that is the reason why mostly woman go to cry beside the beach when they are upset he concluded.
Mrs Dinesha, a Sri Lankan, who works in a hotel but I met in beach has a different friendship with the sea.
And that is for her for decision makings according to her. She said that whenever she is in critical point, she runs to the beach or anywhere close to the sea to enable her to make final decision about difficult issues relating to her.
But said again: “Seas and oceans can be unfriendly too and that is when I look back to the Tsunami that took place in my country where thousand of people got killed in 2005.”
And this confirms again the title of this story which is “love and hate” of the sea by mankind.
So from there I went back again the fears of my people, Somalis towards oceans and seas.
I visited Port that locates the 3rd largest of United Arab Emirates where an elderly Somali man was sitting beside a boat. Sailors were loading the boat from United Arab Emirates to Somalia.
Sailing trip from UAE to Somali usually takes 7 days only.
The elderly Somali man was a former captain for sailboat.
So I asked “what was his opinion of the feeling between the man and sea?” Then his mood turned to memorize about his past journeys in the sea.
He told me that he started to sail at age of 14 years after his uncle took him a sea trip from Somalia to Yemen.
“And during the early days of exploration and traveling by sailboats or small boats, sailors used to stay awake and spend sleepless days and nights to complete building of one sailboat. And the performances of sailboat-builders were assessed according to their skills of building beautiful boats,” he said.
There were no borders, no a visa requirements, no tickets, no airplanes and we used sail a boat made of wooden hulls and cotton cloth. The capacity of the boat was 100 ton to sustain them the food, water and fish for long journeys. A few crewmen used to travel with boats for help as well.
"In another version of this interesting history was that they used to identify people`s trustworthiness by his gentleness etc. That was only banking system available at that time accordingly to this old man.
Also the top man or the hero was the wise and brave man who was capable to grab a sailboat with animals and commodities along crewmen, and travels from one country to another and again brings them back home safely”.
While I was reading the impression on this old men`s face, it was hard and great adventure to be a sailor at age 14 years.
In conclusion, the story of this elderly Somali captain is characteristic evidence of the love and hate of people and me towards to the sea and oceans, because the old man felt relived after we ended our conversation and smiled at me with good bye
Zahra J. Saleh
Zahra.raho.hotmail.com or zahrasaleh3.gmail.com
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