Cooking for an Emirate Family for more than 25 years

By: Hanaa Ahmed — 25th of October, 2016
Oven-baked shrimps by Ismaeel. Source: taken by me

Ismaeel indicated that he got used to the UAE and it would actually be hard to go back to India now. The Indian cook, Ismaeel, has been working for a local family for more than 25 years and shares that the UAE has become his home.

He first came to Abu Dhabi at the age of 16. The conditions and low income in India forced him to leave his home and come to a new country to work. “I had my elder brother Ashraf already live there so it was easier to find a job and at least have someone with me in this country,” he explained. Since his elder brother left before him it was easier for his family to accept the fact that it would get him a better future. “However it was hard for me leaving them in such a young age.” he confessed.

The cook Ismaeel in 2010. Source: taken by the Emirati’s family driver Abdulrahman

Ismaeel had a fear of who he would be working for, afraid that they wouldn’t treat him well. It was also his first time to feel independent, which was a lot for him in the beginning. “Depending on myself, being away from family and friends as well as living in a new country with a new culture and people, those things made me think of going back to India,” he said, “But I always got my brother (Ashraf) making me stay and he always said wait and you will want to never go back to India and that’s how I feel now.”

Ismaeel got married at the age of 24 and currently has 3 boys and 1 girl. Hassan, who is Ismaeel’s eldest son, is the most difficult person he leaves behind every time he leaves India. “He knows me more than anyone else and I know him very well too,” Ismaeel said with a smile. When he can’t call his family, he communicates with them usingWhatsapp. In tears he said,

“I see my kid’s first steps, words and how they are doing through videos in Whatsapp mostly.”

The kids are living a life that many Indians live, unfortunately. His kids still find it hard seeing some of their other friends and family members living with both their mom and dad while they only have their mother. But Ismaeel is living this tough life for his family “They will be able to live a happy life. That’s what I want to see after all those years of working out of India.”

He also added that he would allow his son to work abroad if he wanted to because in that way he will assure him a better future than working in India. Still he will make sure he works with a good family to make sure he is in good hands, “Just like my brother helped me come here I will of course help my son too.”

The drink karak (basically tea with milk) which is also very famous in the UAE too is what reminds him more of India, “ It reminds me of the streets of India and of every place in India because karak in India is available everywhere; in homes, streets, restaurants and everywhere.” Ismaeel’s cook inspiration and the person that actually taught him to cook is his uncle, “I always went to his house during breakfast, lunch and dinner to see him cook and he promised me he would teach me when I grow up.” At the age of 10 his uncle started teaching him basic meals and by the age of 16 he was a very good cook.

His famous hamour fish dish. Source: taken by me

Ismaeel enjoys making maglooba (meat with potato on the bottom and rice on top) which is a traditional Emirati dish, because he had challenges doing it in the beginning. However, once he learnt it he felt happy that he overcame that challenge. Ismaeel would like to learn how to make more deserts since he doesn’t know many.

The maglooba by Ismaeel. Source: taken by me

Ismaeel find it difficult now to go back to India, he wants to stay in the UAE for as long as he can

“I call India my country because I was born there but I call the UAE my real home because I have grown and worked here.”

Ismaeel is proudly still working for the Emirati family in the UAE. He hopes that one day when he goes back to India he invites the family he is working for to his house in India to thank them for the many happy years they provided him with.

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