DIVING was the passion and fishing the profession of many a people of the UAE as well as the Arab region in the years gone by. The same old interest has evolved into an industry and has become a part of the identity of the nation.
Now, pearls from the ocean of traditional marine knowledge are poured into the hearts of the budding generation by a unique effort. The knowledge is shared to the younger generation of the UAE in a spectacular and academic way, a Diving Encyclopedia!
Juma Khalifa Thalith Al Humairi, an enthusiastic Emirati is the brain behind the masterpiece. He wanted to build a bridge between the old and young generations through a synthesis of marine knowledge.
Al Humairi has specialised in under water photography and vediography. So, he dreamt of keeping the thread of the traditional knowledge from the past alive, through a detailed and pictorial glossary of the local diving terms and words.
The first-of-its-kind marine reference book has been unveiled at the heritage village in Bur Dubai on Wednesday, under the patronage of Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairman of the Culture and Arts Authority for the Government of Dubai.
The encyclopedia is the result of co-operation between the Dubai Schools Agency of Dubai Government's knowledge and human development authority (KHDA) and Emirates diving association (EDA), according to a spokesperson of the KHDA.
"The encyclopedia aims to enhance the sense of national identity among young Emiratis. Various social groups and environmental bodies have welcomed this book as a step in the right direction to spread awareness of this age-old tradition," she added.
Juma Khalifa Thalith Al Humairi said: "I took six years to compile the book by collecting all the terminology related to marine life and culture, through constant communications with the people who are engaged in diving, fishing and hunting pearls. About 1,055 topics and 2,050 pictures have been covered in the book. 95 per cent of the terms are used in common across the Gulf countries, and five per cent are specially in the UAE."
"I hope it will provide a link of heritage to the younger generation. And plans are underway to use the encyclopaedia as an educational material within the national curriculum, so 79 public schools will be receiving the copies of the book. It will raise awareness of our heritage and the traditions of our ancestors," he pointed out.
According to him, it's a simple way to pass information through generations. It's a vehicle for the younger generation to connect with their roots and learn from the hardships of their ancestors.
"Teachers in Dubai's public schools helped me with the research. I travelled across the GCC countries in search of maximum information linked with the marine world. So, I feel the encyclopaedia will be a means to bring together the interests of all seafaring Arab nations," said Al Humairi.
"We share a love for the sea and the book will help us understand each other better. A lesson in history helps too foster a better understanding of the present and hopefully leads to a brighter future," he noted.
According to Dr Abdulla Al Karam, chairman of the board of directors and director general at KHDA, the book is bound to be of interest to everyone and not just students. He welcomed the effort to enhance the knowledge and education of the community in aspects of the country's history.
Fatma Al Marri, CEO of Dubai schools, said: "Teaching the encyclopaedia as part of the curriculum is a positive method to reinforce the sense of national identity."
BY PMA RASHEED