Mohammad Abdul-Fattah al-Moghrabi (‘Akka)

 

(The questions have been omitted from this interview.)

 

My name is Mohammad Abdul-Fattah al-Moghrabi. I was 13 years old when I left Palestine.  My occupation was in construction, building.

 

 My father’s work was in fishing, he had a small boat. Work was slow, just a little bit during the day, but the essential fishing was done at night, as well as going to sell the fish. As for farming, citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines were well-known, also vegetables. It was the cleanest produce, and the land was good.

 

There was a wooded area in ‘Akka that had swings. There were places for hiring donkeys, and they [the children] used to go and play at ‘Napoleon’s Hill’. ‘Akka is a heritage city, with the sea and ancient sites.

 

The hajj: The pilgrims would meet near the railroad station, and then head for Haifa where they would gather with the rest of the people making the pilgrimage, and then take a ship – air-planes were few in those days.

 

Funeral customs were the same as here. We have the third day, the week, and the fortieth day. They would offer food and slaughtered sheep, and the neighbors would cook, and clean the house. They would help the family of the deceased as well as the poor, and there were donations of food, supplies and money made to the family of the dead person.

 

Revenge: This was the custom of the peasants, and they would judge themselves.

 

As for the distribution of our produce, we had a vegetable market and there was a wholesale market there. The peasant would come with his goods and would sell them there. There was also an auction. They used to buy cows, donkeys, and chickens from the animal market, and horses from special markets.

 

‘Akka had many stores for gold, jewelry, and cakes. In ‘Akka, there were Muslims, Christians, and Jews spread out together, and there was also an area called the ‘Jewish quarter’. They all got along together. In fact my grandfather was suckled by a Jewish woman called Um Haroun. The eastern Jews were already living in Palestine, and had the same customs and traditions as [the people of] Palestine. However, the western Jews who came from Europe were racist, and there began to be problems between those Jews and the Muslims. In those days Christians used to inform to the British army about Palestinians. All the Muslims were Sunni, and they used to call the Christian Nazarenes.

 

They used to buy cloth from the shops and make sweaters, trousers, and sandals for the feasts.

 

Visiting the sick:  We used to take sweets and fruits with us. Most of the hospitals were in Haifa, and there were many hospitals in ‘Akka as well, and large ones.

 

It was forbidden to speak about politics and the Arab resistance, those who did were arrested. Everyone who spoke of nationalism was imprisoned, beaten and tortured to make him speak about his followers and his life.

 

Ramadan: My grandfather used to fast. We used to decorate the quarter and have celebrations at night, and everyone would go to pray the evening prayer in the mosque. Ramadan was nicer [in Palestine] than here [Lebanon], for the neighbors and the quarter used to invite each other, and prepare large meals. And there was aid given in secret from everyone.

 

There were many buildings and much construction. There was a mukhtar to handle administration and solve the problems of the town, and if he was unable to solve a problem he would pass it on to the government. But all problems were resolved peacefully.

 

There was a revolution against colonialism, and there were arms, but the arms were hidden, and so was Rushdi Al-Sa’di, one of the revolution’s leaders, who was exiled by the colonialists. There were demonstrations that included women and men. Al-Haj al-Husseini, al-Amin al-Husseini, was the leader.

 

Our traditions were beautiful. Everyone in the quarter knew each other, everyone, even the children.

 

Emigration and travel: My uncle Abdul-Salam was in the British army. He went to Egypt by ship to work.

 

They used to tell children stories but I don’t remember them.

 

Winter: We used to listen to the dropping of the raindrops and we would say — but ‘Akka had plenty of water and springs, and we were never short of water.

 

The lunar eclipse: We would glorify and praise God in the mosque. And there was folklore about boiling eggs when there was an eclipse, and people would go the mosques — there were many mosques. Towards the end, there was a microphone. And they would fire the cannon at the time of the call to prayer from the walls of ‘Akka.

 

There were gatherings for women where they talked about marriage, weddings, and food – gossiping — and the children would amuse themselves with food and games.

 

There was adherence to religion. All women were veiled except for the ‘liberated’ followers of European ways. They were unpopular but no one could speak to them because of British rule.

 

The women would sow seeds, and plough, and clean the ground, while the men would do the heavy work.

 

Songs: We used to listen to Abdul-Wahab and Um Kulthum and Khayriyah Ahmad. We were allowed to go to the cinema. There was a cinema called ‘Al-Bourj’ [the tower]. And there was photography and radio.

 

The ‘urosh [1] was worth a lot in those days. And there were factories for sweets such as caramels and baklava, and cakes made with cheese. Vegetables were always plentiful because there were so many gardens.


[1]  The smallest coin, equivalent to 1/100th of a pound.

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