from House to House | بيت لبيت

Shamma Al Bastaki

House to House

a big rock of
salt was crushed into
tiny crystals that’s what
we used to salt

our food these rocks
were sold in the
old souq but of
course they got them

from the sea we
ate fish a lot
of fried fish loomy
ruwaid rice spiced for

lunch breakfast was eggs
there wasn’t that much
there weren’t many options
cheese ma cheese no

one chose really no
one had really cheese
would spoil quick just
a little we had

جبن ما جبن
 محد كان ياكل



my mother Maria and
my aunt used to
teach Quran in the
house they were the

teachers of the freej
the mothers of the
tongues they used to
have 30 to 40

students at a time
sometimes more sometimes less
mashallah our house was
always filled with heads

every day they would
come every day they
all still remember her
Abdulshakoor was her student

and when he would
see me anywhere still
even today he always
points at me like

this and says “the
mother of this one
taught me everything”
“أم هذا علمتني كل شيء”

they were all young
kids they started when
they were young kids
when they were young

صغار من صغرهم
سبع سنين ايون عند أمي
seven years old they
came to my mother

and when they finished
the Quran a bit
older now they celebrated
wore flower garlands around

their heads and the
girls wore lots of
gold boys and girls
we all learned together

celebrated together we walked
from house to house
a group in a

line the first person
would read the rest
would repeat house to
house house to house

in Eid we would
go to the tujjar’s
house byoot el tujjar
mathalan bait Mohammad Abbas

we would have breakfast
there everyone gathered there
all everyone Marars Bastakis
some would come from

Deira too and do
you know what their
breakfast was? rice and
meat—rice and meat?
yes rice and meat

twenty big plates or
so and harees too
then what was their
lunch?—also the same

يوم العيد لازم جيه
But Eid day has
to be like this
and so we went

from house to house
and house to house
من بيت لبيت من
بيت لبيت من بيت

from house to house
they go like this
and not one person
two persons

 مب نفر


سبعين أو ثمانين

no seventy or eighty
persons all like the
crowd of a football
match مثل مباراة

they gave us kids
eediya of course eediya
made us happy الصغارية
عطوهم آنة آنتين ثلاث

one ana two ana
three anas when I
grew a little bigger

they gave me a
rubiah sometimes and I
went and exchanged it
for anas sixteen anas

so I could feel
like I had more
coins in my hands
the night of Eid

we would pray isha
then take the abra
to deira where the
dukkan was and we

opened the dukkan from
the evening until dawn
نسير نفتح الدكان لين قبل الفجر

there were no lamps
la kahraba ma kahraba
we had this other
thing—like a fanoos?

—no— fanar?—no—like
gas—no—like candles
no wait wait let
me find a picture

on my phone ding
ding dong ding twing
hush rush swiff foo
this see this we

would connect this to
this and then they
lit a flame inside
fire inside this so

this would transform
into something like a
glob bulb gloob globe

Clay II


big very big I
thought our house was
the rooms were big
the hoash the yard

but now everything became
my wedding was
in that house when
I took my kids

I told them my
wedding was here they
were surprised ya3ni they were
like how ya3ni how


كيف يعني كيف يعني
صغر المكان
even the rooms are
now we used
to see them as big
maybe now because I
see so many buildings
I am used to
so many big things 
even the bathroom became
how did we
shower in that bathroom!


what did your bathroom
look like where did
you get water how
did you shower did

some bathrooms had showers
maybe 1 maybe 2
but regular ones had
no showers only places

for wuduu the WC

                                                                                 قضاء الحاجة كان برع                                                                                                      

was behind the house
in the حوي  but
far a bit we
had a WC down

and up on the
roof and the bi’ir
was on that side
one was down one


was like this I
remember [Shahrazad’s sister: but
no but I remember
too] [Shahrazad: el baadgeer]
[Shahrazad’s sister: el baarjeel
[Shahrazad: el el baarjeel
baadgeer ya3ni baarjeel ysamoona
the name comes from
baad which means wind
and geer which means
what catches the wind
the holes the openings


you know there were
four openings from every
side in summer they
would open them in

winter they would close
them—with what did
they close them—they
closed them with wood

like this a triangle
wood to close it
in winter in summer
they take the wood out

for the wind to
come to them [no

don’t drink that with soya milk please but it’s ok you can keep it I’ll have this one do you want no I want an empty glass for me please make it with soya milk for me do you want orange juice Shamma لا I’m fine do you have watermelon juice yeah ok I’ll have some watermelon juice thank you what else do you want to know]

yes! yes yes yes
this was before petrol