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Updated: Mar 16

The tree of life, the symbol of UAE, Al Ghaf Tree, Emirati culture, under the shade of a tree, Arabic culture, people and trees, stories and storytellers, coming back to nature, UAE culture and heritage, symbol of tolerance.

Like every tree, AL GHAF TREE also tells a story...

The Ghaf Tree tolerates harsh conditions and makes them hospitable for those around it. There is a saying that goes thus: “Death will not visit a man, even at the time of a famine, if he has a Ghaf, a goat and a camel, since the three together will sustain a man even under the most trying conditions."

People and trees have their own silent stories. Some people choose to pass them on to future generations after a life well understood. It is not a coincidence that trees have been compared to life itself: infinite possibilities, hidden channels of exploration and expansion, slow growth, and ever-changing and challenging times. Yet, evolution knows no bounds and the trunk remains firmly rooted in the unseen layer of the silence. The oldest ritual of this Earth known to almost all nations is the storyteller sitting under the shade of a tree. But before becoming a storyteller, the human, in the initiation of his Earthly Journey, stopped under the shade of a tree for rest, peace, and shelter. That intimate space brought a sacred protection often misunderstood, where solitude could be celebrated, rather than condemned. It is where a person feels safe without depending on the overcrowding of the community. It is, in fact, a so-called return to Nature. Our nature, yours, mine, that of plants, the soil, etc.; the same Origin. The exception is that by entering in this Connection with the tree, the human being often feels accompanied in "solitude" without being able to explain why. Over time, in this process of understanding, he realizes that the trunk, the branches, even the wood, are all Creations of the same Creator. Thus, even in the absence of another presence, the human being finds himself without living in the fearful obsession of absence anymore. [...] Sometimes, solitude was felt in the echo of those dunes, while other times the sunset brought hope of a new breeze... Like any other tree, Al Ghaf told its story as well, in silence...and slow evolution, according to human patience. In an endless dance under the supremacy of the Sun, with time unbounded by numbers and pendulum beats, Al Ghaf existed in an environment that was extremely difficult for the human being to adapt to. Yet, throughout its arboreal existence, it witnessed many eras that brought a continuous change to this worldly life. In that desert, the Bedouin often walked along with it. He was the first human being that had appeared in front of it, at Zenith for the soft dance of wind within the branches, and at Nadir for the peace of sleep. Loving the overwhelming heat, the tree knew from the beginning of time that it belonged to this land named Sahara (the Arabic word in the feminine irregular form ṣaḥra' (صحراء /ˈsˤaħra/), meaning desert). It knew without asking, simply following the Purpose of Creation. Humanity had often called it the tree of the desert, of drought, of oppressive heat, of endless sands, of desolation. But Al Ghaf didn't stop there. In its existence, it experienced the Unseen, Unheard, and Unsaid. It had always been by humans side, by providing protection to the human body, through its simple location, and above all, by bringing longevity and continuity to a nation that had been severely tested by past times. Over the years, the Bedouin had discovered that the roots of this seemingly short tree could reach water channels located at great depths, even under this strong layer of sandy soil. Thus, change was born. A simple tree of medium height, around 13 meters (rarely more than 20 meters), was announcing a new era. A new life, in which humans and trees can be much closer and more interconnected. And yet, on that day when the Bedouin turned into a resident of a newly formed state, the tree that already witnessed countless changes, chose not to expose any information. It already knew that life was always changing and that it brought uncomfortable situations under the supremacy of the Unknown. The wisdom of the tree was supporting this Truth of Life that humans were still trying to attain through more linear and less holographic paths. In the same realm, change was supported by the tree in its growth, with the same stability, loyalty, and reminder of origins that humans often desired to forget in their rushed evolutionary leap. Al Ghaf was now surrounded by parks, skyscrapers, and highways, as well as the same human presence, only more hurried. These were flourishing times, but rushed ones. And Al Ghaf was watching, waiting, and witnessing. As fleeting years passed, the memory of the Bedouin under the tree's shade resurfaced in the storytelling of an elderly man dressed in a pristine white Kandura, meticulously cared for, holding a Misbaha ( Ar. Prayer beads) in one hand, and in the other, a glass of "chai" (Ar. tea) of an authentic golden shade. His eyes were reflecting the sand drained in the hourglass of time, nostalgically recounting images that brought an idyllic scent of bygone times under the veil of dunes. He knew that nothing was lost. The spoken words belonged to a past time, but he knew the Truth of a Tree trunk that had seen and awaited everything, one that rose above time, place, as well as every individual. At that hour after sunset, in the murmur of the waves and near the magnificence of the Mohammad Bin Al Sheikh Juma Masjid Mosque in Dubai, that local resident welcomed me to a storytelling about a Tree that defined the stability of an imposing state, and had turned the entire modern history upside down with a culmination of ambitious, visionary, successful, and abundant projects. The AL GHAF TREE - the symbol of the United Arab Emirates.

"- Dear daughter, Al Ghaf is a memory keeper of this young and blessed nation. Often, I stop in its shade and rest. That's where the Connection between humans and trees lies. In rest. We breathe because of them. And breathing, as it is known, is life itself. In the Noble Qur'an, our Prophet Muhammad mentioned his deep rest under the shade of the Sahabi Tree, The Blessed Tree. Again, in the Holy Book, one of the Surahs mentions trees with indefinite wisdom: “And the stars and trees prostrate. And the vine and the tree both prostrate (to Allah). And the star and the trees prostrate themselves.” - Often times, I remind the youth that an abundant life is based on peace and love for the Creator and His entire Creation. Nothing before our eyes is without significance. In Creation, there is no mistake. And the human being and the Tree have a Channel of Recognition towards everything that has been, that is, and that will be in Existence. It is thus intuited that we return to our roots when we seek 'the grounding' barefoot in the shade of a tree.

And in the shade of the AL GHAF TREE, I, as a mortal being, sat and remembered..."

I had stepped out of the car, barefoot, as I set to venture through the dunes of The Ghost Village, even though the sand retained its high temperature even at sunset. I was pondering on how our footprints were vanishing in the desert, swept away by the powerful "Shamal" wind. The same fate befell this village. Only traces remained, and we, the present-day visitors, were exploring fragments of a retro image that we longed to reconstruct, in order to remember. I didn't know much; I was just a human being like any other, growing and continuously seeking. But something always drew me back to this relentless Human Quest. Ever since we learn to walk as infants, we use all our senses to experience the Unknown. We reach maturity believing that we can grasp the Unknown through information, rigorous training in our chosen fields, and we do not stop there. We seek in Connection, eyes in which we can rediscover ourselves, arms in which we feel safe, and words that support us. We don't stop there either. Many of us embark on a search back to the same Roots, as mentioned by the wise local. It is an inward search, not among the walls and crowds of the external world. In the chaotic movement of my steps among those abandoned buildings, deeply embedded in the sand dunes, I suddenly caught sight of the richest crown of a tree positioned right in the center of "the Ghost Village": the mystical and patient Al Ghaf. With the wide-eyed wonder of my inner child, I sat in its shade. And there, in that seemingly solitary place, in the most intimate setting, in the presence of Nature, I finally mustered the courage to open my typewriter and give voice to the first silence. Perhaps now I had an idea of what I have been searching for year after year, that I have found here, in this Dubai of Al Ghaf, next to this Al Ghaf Tree of the United Arab Emirates: that ethereal feeling of "Home" that gave me meaning, continuity, that taught me to endure the Unknown without fear, and gave me the courage to Exist Here and Now. After seven years of coexistence and exploration amidst the novelty of each day in this city with infinite horizons, I finally recognized the Path of Words and allowed the Nature of Existence to guide me. Somewhere in this Guidance, I have come to understand that within each of us, there is a Tree of Life, which some recognize more than others. And even now, I could still hear the echoes of the most beautiful words of my Spiritual Guide: "the tree, within the tree, within the tree, within the tree..." - the Infinite Interconnectedness. We are ONE.

Close to the final stroke of the hour, toward Nadir, amid words and pages, next to the trunk of the Al Ghaf Tree, I sat, I Recognized and I wept... I knew now that I was the storyteller sitting under the shade of the AL GHAF TREE. Dear Reader, I honor this moment of our Journey! Please, meet me where I am NOW.

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