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Issue 37
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Fish as a symbol on Tarut Island
Issue 37

By Ja’afar Al Bahrani

 

Tarut Island has been the target of several leaders and invasions because of its stability, available water, fertile land and strategic location on a sea route in the Arabian Gulf. The island’s natural harbours and berths facilitated trade, agriculture and fishing. As a result, the island was a place to which people immigrated and from which they migrated to surrounding areas from Basra in the north to Oman in the south, and from Najd in the west to Lengeh, Al Ahvaz and Muhammara and its suburbs in the east.

As an active commercial link between the Arabian Gulf and the Levant during the rule of the Hyksos, Tarut has been subject to many outside religious, intellectual and cultural influences since the dawn of history.

Perhaps fish are used to announce a marriage or another significant occasion on Tarut Island because the region was influenced by ancient civilisations, such as those in Iraq, Persia, Sind and the southern Arabian Peninsula, where fish was a symbol.

In Tarut, the custom of eating fish and shrimps dried in salt is an inherited tradition. They were eaten dried, or soaked in water and boiled with onions, or served with vegetables such as radish and cucumber. This is common in Tarut and some Gulf countries. Every household dried fish and shrimps in preparation for the fiercely cold winters.

Drying fish was an old custom, especially for the Sumerians, who had a significant influence on the surrounding areas with which they traded.

While the people of Tarut used to hand out fresh fish to announce an engagement, they also distributed dried fish to signify that they were mourning on the anniversary of the death of Mary, the Blessed Virgin.

Fish are also used to signify a marriage on places other than Tarut Island. They are used to signify the building of a new house. Grilled fish with rice and honey are served before the wedding night to signify the consummation of the marriage.