Palestinian boys play in the sea off the coast at Gaza City (Eloise Bollack/PCRF)

The Arab Connection to the Seas

Al-Anba, Kuwait, August 2

So many of the Arab world’s most important cities overlook the ocean. From the Gulf of Aqaba in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Gulf of Kuwait, the Arab people have established and populated coastal cities for thousands of years. This great geography has a deep history linking communities of our region with the seas. Sadly, however, very few people in the Middle East today remember this deep connection. Even fewer realize that our societies have been associated with the seas since the time preceding Christianity. Think, for example, about our ports overlooking the seas that linked ancient civilizations such as Iraq, Egypt and India. Among these historical ports, it is worth mentioning Samharam in the Sultanate of Oman, Umm Al Quwain in the United Arab Emirates, and the Nabataean port city of Leuke Kome in what is now Saudi Arabia. In his work titled “Civilizational Relations between the Arabian Peninsula and the East Coast of Africa,” Emirati researcher Dr. Hamad Bin Sarai points to a number of Koranic verses that emphasize the depth of the Arabs’ relationship with the seas and their knowledge of nautical navigation even before the birth of Islam. These experiences and knowledge contributed to the Arab conquests and the expansion of Arab lands and thus played an important role in building the Arab civilization we know today. Unfortunately, it seems there is a deep rupture between our modern Arab society and its ancient history. We have separated ourselves from our rich history that helped define who we are today. –Salah Al-Sayer

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