Author Archive for Day Al-Mohamed

Book Research: Ain Adhari

Okay, this is actually a bit of reminiscing for me. Ain Adhari or Adhari Spring or Adhari Park (as it is now called) was a freshwater spring in the Zinj area of Bahrain. I was thinking about it in reference to how communities congregate around water, particularly in desert regions.

Ain Adhari, was a natural spring that seemed to be the center of a community many years ago. It was fresh water bubbling up from below ground to a large natural pool. There were birds and frogs and all around there grew huge palm trees offering shade for visitors. My father talked about swimming in Adhari pool and there being fish that lived in there as well. Women would come from all over the island with bundles of clothes and do their washing using the natural channels of the spring. Families would have picnics on the grass and swim in the blue waters. All around it was farmland and date plantations, the water would flow through from the sweet water springs through irrigation ditches to supply expansive orchards and fertile gardens. There’s an old story that the waters of Adhari came into being when a virgin dug in the ground in search of water. After she dug but a little ways, the water bubbled up into her hands, fresh and cool and sweet.

When I was a child, the spring was already dying. There were no longer any fish, and the water had turned brackish with moss and algae. There was trash all around and the water no longer fed the channels around it, leaving little but a few palms desperately holding on and some scraggly brush. A few years after that, the waters dried up and it was abandoned completely.

In 2002, the government began to recognize the loss of Adhari park and decided to try and revive the spring and build a park for the community. It was remodeled again in 2006 and further improvements made. The “pool” is now 500 square meters…a pool-pool not a natural spring pool. And there are outdoor and indoor rides for people of all ages, a Family Entertainment Center, 10 food outlets at the Food Court, you get the idea. It is an amusement park.

In some ways, I guess it is great that they found a way to preserve some of what was Adhari Park and another part of me that laments what was lost, and what, in many ways, I never got to see – Ain Adhari as a fulcrum of a desert community. 🙂 Or maybe I’m just romanticizing.

As they say, pictures are worth 1000 words. I put these in what looks like chronological order.

These last three are from almost the same angle but probably cover about 20-25 years between each photo. 70s, 90s, and early 2000s.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Inclusion and Achieving the Dream

Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act - MLK behind him

Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act - MLK behind him

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For those of you outside the United States, it doesn’t seem to sound like much, just another federal holiday marking the birthday of some other “famous personage.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (it always sounds odd to my ear to have both titles in there) was a minister and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is mostly remembered for his civil disobedience and use of nonviolent protest to end racial discrimination in America; an end to segregation. What I always like to consider is that his vision was much much broader – he also was a proponent of efforts to end poverty and was staunchly against the Vietnam war. There is so much more to his story – he visited India, specifically Gandhi’s birthplace and it had a profound impact on his belief in nonviolent action as a way of demanding change; one of his closest advisers was a gay man and there is a direct line from his activities to those of the disability movement. According to Arlene Mayerson from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF)

“Like the African Americans who sat in at segregated lunch counters and refused to move to the back of the bus, people with disabilities sat in federal buildings, obstructed the movement of inaccessible buses, and marched through the streets to protest injustice. And like the civil rights movements before it, the disability rights movement sought justice in the courts and in the halls of Congress.”

Today is a day to think about who we are and who we want to be. As individuals and as a country. Inclusion, not exclusion. I have to admit, I fall into the trap as easy as other people. It is so much simpler to join against something than it is to join FOR something. Across the internet, I’m sure today, I’ll hear snippets of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the rally at the Lincoln Memorial. And it is amazing and electrifying, even years later. It gives me goosebumps as much as “Four score and seven years ago…” and “Today is a day that will live in infamy…” But on that amazing, electrifying day, women were nowhere to be seen on the program; not one was on the program to speak.

This isn’t meant to be an indictment of King or any other luminaries, but as this is a day of remembrance, and of service and of thoughtful reflection on injustice and discrimination, it is a good time to remember our own blind spots and perhaps rededicate ourselves to greater awareness. Men, women, white, black, able-bodies, gay, straight, poor, rich, conservative, liberal…does it matter? Should it? We can’t help but categorize. We can’t stop that automatic labeling but we can be more aware of it and we can be willing to push our own personal thinking. It is only by recognizing the inherent value and humanity in each person that we truly can achieve the dream alluded to by Martin Luther King.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

The Lost City of Matildaville

Matildaville Sign

The sign is a little beat up but you can almost read it.

One of the things Renee and I like to do occasionally is have an “adventure.”  Usually it involves trying something new or visiting an area where we haven’t been, so nothing too wild and crazy. (Sorry to disappoint all you thrill-seekers).  One of the places we discovered recently that really ended up being a great history lesson and a fun casual day-trip was Matildaville, Virginia.

What?  You say you’ve never heard of Matildaville?  That would be because it doesn’t exist anymore.  This “lost town” actually has a really interesting story attached to it.  It all starts in 1785 with the creation of the Patowmack Company by a gentleman named George Washington.  You may have heard of him.

Anyway, if you look at the date, the United States of America is still a VERY young country, only recently independent and not yet embroiled in the War of 1812.  There are 13 colonies but people are pushing ever westward and  George Washington worried about the tenuous connection between the more “civilized” eastern states and the western frontier, fearing a break of the union between states.  (As we all know, that happened much later and along north-south lines, rather than east-west.) George Washington’s idea was to connect the east coast to the Ohio River Valley through a waterway – the Potomac.  His vision was to “bind those people to us by a chain which never can be broken.”  Pretty clever, yes?

The Great Falls

We took several picture of the Great Falls and it's quite pretty but I will also say that we noticed that the scenic overlook that we took the shots from is much better on the Virginia side than on the Maryland side. We saw the poor folk on the other side crowded together trying to see.

However, as great an idea as that is in theory, there were a few technical difficulties with the creation of a Potomac river east-west waterway.  One of the amazing sights we saw and what would become one of the biggest obstacles for Washington is Great Falls where in just one mile, the river drops 80 feet.  The only way to get barges up and down the river was to bypass the waterfalls completely by building a canal with several locks to raise and lower the boats, like a giant staircase.  That’d be difficult enough to do today, now consider cutting into rock and earth and building a stone-walled canal in 1785!

 

Remains of Superintendant's House and Boarding House

The remains of the Superintendent's house and the Boarding house. The area was so green and beautiful...

Information from the local historical society and the Park Service gave us some more details – Matildaville came into being really as a result of the construction of the canal – a “construction town” built around the laborers and travellers. The town was named Matildaville for the wife of one of the founders, Harry Lee (who for you history buffs was the father of Robert E. Lee). Matildaville grew to include markets, gristmill, sawmill, foundry, inn, ice house, workers’ barracks, boarding houses, and small homes.

Matildaville Springhouse

The old springhouse had us both fascinated and I had Renee almost convinced to crawl down in the hole and take a look. FYI it ended a couple of feet in. But if we'd been smarter we would have realized...isn't that a great place for snakes to rest. Eeep!

But the canal was never really profitable.  Actually it was a downright failure. Construction costs had been high, and the Potomac route wasn’t useable much of the year because of water levels. The company went bankrupt and the canal was abandoned in 1830. Matildaville followed soon after.  Over time the woods reclaimed the town.  Now it is part of Great Falls Park and the Patowmack Canal has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

Renee in Lock #1 of the Canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out more about Matildaville and its fascinating history here:

I hope to post more of our photos from the day soon!