By Mudassir Raja/Staff Reporter
A Palestinian expatriate who moved to Qatar over 60 years ago to make a better living continues to cherish the fond memories and the love he received here.
Mohamed Ataya Abou Samhadaneh, who was born at Salama town in Palestine in 1939, in a recent interview with Gulf Times recollected his precious memories and how he started both his professional and family life in Qatar.
Sharing details about his earlier life, Mohamed, who worked in Qatar as a school teacher and later as a principal for over 40 years, said: “I am the eldest among my siblings. My family fled to Gaza as a result of the Israeli occupation in the year 1948. I completed my secondary school education in the year 1957. I could not pursue my higher studies due to the bad financial condition despite the fact that I got accepted in the medical school of the University of Cairo. I had to work as a teacher in an elementary school to make a living and support my family.”
Mohamed strongly felt that he needed to support his family and wanted to do something more. “Along with my job, I wanted to continue my studies. I decided to travel to Qatar along with some of my friends. Early 1959, I took my first train ride to Cairo. I was then a 20-year-old full of enthusiasm and ambitions. From Cairo, I took a plane to Beirut before reaching at Doha airport.”
Sharing what he saw and observed soon after reaching Qatar, Mohamed said: “I remember the airport being very small compared to both Cairo and Beirut airports. My friends received me at the airport. Doha was a small city at that time, and the streets were not even paved. The trip to the village of Abu Dhalouf (municipality of Al Shamal), where I was later hired as a teacher, was long and tiring. I stayed at the teachers’ residence. It was a big traditional house with a wide fence, built with mud and stones like all the other houses of the village. There was no electricity. I used ‘al fanous’ (lantern) for light using kerosene, and got water by water tankers and from wells.”
The newly arrived expatriate was amazed by the hospitable attitude of the locals. “Worthy of mentioning and praising were the residents of the village of Abu Dhalouf, from al-Mannai tribe. They invited me to their majlis and showed great warmth. Their friendliness and polite manners made me feel like I was at my home. I felt like I’ve always known them for a long time.”
Mohamed, who remained associated with education for 40 long years, served with different schools. “I was hired as a teacher in the village of Abu Dhalouf. In 1960, I moved to Al Ghariya School. I got married in 1961 and brought my wife from Palestine. That same year I moved back to Abu Dhalouf School. In 1962 I moved to Al Ruwais School where I worked as a school principal for two years before being transferred to Sumaisima School in Al Khor. In 1965, I worked as principal in Al Thakhira School. In 1966 I moved to Al Khor Elementary School and I stayed there until 1974 before I was hired as a vice-principal in Al Khor Secondary School, and in the same year I was promoted as the school principal.”
His work never stopped him from fulfilling his dream to pursue the university education. “In 1973 I received a bachelor’s degree in Arabic Language and Literature with a good standing from Beirut Arab University via distance learning. Then in 1980, I received a general diploma in education with a good standing from Qatar University.”
Mohamed continued his pedagogical work with different schools. “In 1989, I became a librarian in Al Tejara Secondary School in Doha where I remained until the end of my career on August 30, 2000. I then immigrated to Canada with my family where I still reside until today. I feel very happy and proud when I see many of former students holding important positions and being prominent personalities.”
Mohamed once again goes back to the days when he came to Doha. “There were few cars at that time operated by the Ministry of Education for all school teachers. We had to book one ahead of time. The car drove teachers to Doha to buy food and other necessary items once in a week. Driving was really a skill in the bumpy unpaved roads. I learnt how to drive and in 1965 I bought my first car which was Austin A40, with a special registration number 4700.”
Recounting some dear memories from his hobbies back in those days, he said: “I used to enjoy and challenge myself with walking alone at night and exploring my sense of direction. I made some friends in Al Ghariya from al-Mannai family. During the holy month of Ramadan, I used to take my lantern and walk from Fuwayrit to Al Ghariya to meet my friends. We would have nice conversation until Suhoor time. The walk used to take me about one-and-a-half hour. If I was lucky some night, I would find a wild donkey along the way. I would ride it to cover the remaining distance.
“Another hobby that I used to enjoy was hunting rabbits with my hunting gun. I along with my friends used to go on hunting trips at night. We used to give the hunted rabbits to other friends. On Friday mornings we used to go for fishing. I always caught lots of fish. I would keep some to myself and give away the rest. To preserve food, we had a fridge at that time operated on kerosene.”
Having lived in Qatar for so long, Mohamed has developed a very strong sense of belonging and love for this country and its people.
“I spent many years of my life here and my six children were all born and raised here. I witnessed this country grow and flourish and move from a phase to a much higher one very quickly. My ties and love to Qatar and its people still bring me back here every year. I come here to see my children, my grandchildren, and my work colleagues.
Speaking about what changes he has observed in Qatar, he said: “Throughout my yearly visits to Qatar, I keep observing noticeable and continuous development in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, roads, manufacturing, transportation, and literally in all areas.”
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