The book, with its elegant black paperback cover and a dust-jacket, is an interesting collection of historical photos documenting the adventurous travel of Wilhelmina van de Weg and her colleague Joan Elliot in the early 60s to get to the Trucial States, now called United Arab Emirates to work as midwives.
Minie played a significant role in the creation of Fujairah Maternity Hospital recorded in this book with different photos. Her role was global, starting from the measuring of the land, the construction of the first walls until the final stage of the completion of the main infrastructure, which was officially opened in 1968.
Minie took about 1,700 snapshots since 1964. The most significant photos were selected to create this book which also shows the daily life in the hospital and her different travels in the villages scattered on the eastern region to visit her patients.
The book is introduced with great pleasure, by Hamad bin Mohammed al-Sharqi, ruler of Fujairah who emphasizes the important work of Minie and of her team not only in the creation of the hospital but also in the establishment of a sensitive and friendly relationship with the people of Fujairah.
The book begins with Minie and Joan’s arrival by freighter in Dubai, from Casablanca and has little text. It is a short biography of Minie’s life and there are few lines to caption each photo. The descriptions were narrated by Minie to the other friends who helped her in the creation of this book.
The photographs are testimony to the physical and mental strength of the two women, who are shown wearing loose, knee-length dresses, sometimes with trousers underneath. The pictures capture them at work, setting the foundations for a new clinic, checking generators and changing also tyres.
Minie brings the book to life when she flips through the pages for a guest.
Minie can remember the family tree of every single woman in the book, the dates of wadi floods that stopped overland travel for 12 days, and how men crowded onto the Land Rover “taxi” with goats and cargo below them, and chickens in palm-frond baskets on the side of the vehicle.
A photo captures the crowds of women outside the clinic one morning, sitting and squatting with their children. Some had gathered an hour before the clinic opened at 6am.
There are nice pictures of women related to the patients preparing food with the traditional cooking methods by using a stove made of stones and lit with wood and later on with kerosene. There is a wonderful photo showing women packing their equipment to return back home, and a girl coming close to earthenware water pots to drink.
Before opening of the hospital, Minie and Joan spent a short period working at clinics in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah and collected some knowledge from women who complained of backaches that could often be “cured” with malaria tablets.
At the beginning, the people were cautious of the clinic and treatments. Soon after that two patients of Rhas al –Khaimah were transferred to Fujairah and got sick, and they received treatment in the clinic.
Minie and Joan treated everything from toothaches to backaches, receiving medical supplies annually from Sweden and Great Britain.
After the successful recovery of two patients, there was a ‘spread the word’ about the clinic in Fujairah and down the coast and across the Gulf.
The clinic was important for low income people and designed almost as a charity operation – a delivery cost Dh55. The clinic brought the sense of togetherness to Fujairah families.