When the sea tides farewell the shore near Doha, a shocking secret is revealed. Tens of scuttled and abandoned ships, covered by the tide, lay stranded on the sandy seabed floor, exposed to the sun and surrounding landscape.
The ships are mostly rusted, covered in barnacles and stuck in the sticky sand, slanted to one side. As I delved more into the shore, I reached two ships resting against each other, one of them all rusty and covered by small corals. But the other was ‘alive’ or rather in working condition and simply stranded by the outgoing tide. Little did I know that it was also inhabited and after approaching and noticing hanging washing on a line, a man emerged and invited us aboard.
“My name is Sabri, I’m from Egypt and I’m a sailor,” he said and began to tell the story of how he came to be living on a stranded ship on the edge of Kuwait’s Bay. “I live here with a helper from Bangladesh and this is my second year on this ship.”
The 44-year-old married man and a father of five came to Kuwait before the Iraqi invasion. He’s been a sailor since childhood. “This ship and most of the ones you see aren’t abandoned. They are owned by a dredging company and we park here, I don’t know anything about the shipwrecks as they were parked here before us, accept the one next to mine which sank last year due to a sea storm,” he explained.
Dredging is cleaning out a harbor by scooping out mud and unwanted rubbish swept by the waves which hinder a ship’s movement. “We get hired by seaports located in different areas of Kuwait, like Sharq, Fintas. Our job is to maintain appropriate depth so the ships don’t get swamped”, he explained.
While he was fixing a cup of tea to serve with biscuits, he mentioned that the company provides food and drink supplies using a small boat. He writes a list of his needs and he never runs out of water or food.”Thanks to mobile phones, we’re connected to the other side of the world and entertained. But the television transmission is unclear,” he added.
Back in the 1990s mobiles phones weren’t as developed as today. When Iraq Invaded Kuwait, he and his colleagues didn’t know the cause of all the smoke emissions they witnessed coming from the land meanwhile they were struggling with an angry sea. “We had seen the smoke since dawn but we only found out about the invasion in the afternoon after we managed to anchor by the shore. Iraqi soldiers came and questioned us about our nationalities and told us to go to our embassy if we want to leave this country. After few days they moved us to Iraq and we stayed for four days there before we reached the Egyptian border. It was like hell,” Sabri recalled.
“Living in a ship makes you wiser and more patient. To me, life is nothing. Really, it’s nothing. Life is all about working hard with dedication and worshiping God until we’re all gone. My name is Sabri, Sabri means the man who has a lot of patience.”
Story and Photos by Athoob Al-Shuaibi