JEDDAH – Life certainly is not so sweet and a bed of roses for everyone. And for 61-year old Shareefa Al-Harby, a mud pottery maker, it cannot be truer.
She has been selling hand-made pottery in the Bab Makkah district in Jeddah for the last 26 years to support her family, comprising of five children and four grandchildren.
“It’s not shameful to work in this kind of business. What is shameful is begging others for money,” said Shareefa.
She said her income feeds her large family living in an old house in Al-Balad district. She starts work at 9 A.M every day and continues until midnight. Her only rest is between 12 P.M to 4:30 pm. “It’s a lot of time and effort, but I have to do it or we can’t survive, eat or wear anything,” Shareefa added.
Shareefa was married at the age of 14. Her marriage couldn’t last for long as her husband died of illness. She then re-married a Saudi man when she was 21 and had five children. Two of her daughters are divorced and are living with her. None of her daughters work. Her two sons work in a stationery shop near their home, but what they earn is not enough to feed the family.
“My boys are only 15 now and are in school. I don’t want them to leave school for work as they should finish their studies first to earn a decent living,” she said.
Shareefa noted that pottery making isn’t easy and at times, she finds herself deeply involved in the craft. “Using mud and shaping it, gives me an insight into the intricacies of life and how hard it is to earn a living,” she said.
“Sometimes you find people spending money on frivolous things which they don’t even want, while others have to struggle to earn money to buy a bottle of water. This is a test of patience from Allah and I know that Allah will never forget us.”
Shareefa sells her mud pottery ranging from SR5 for small pieces to SR150 for the larger ones. “Not many people ask me to lower the prices. I think they know that I am very poor and need money,” she said.
“If one of us has not come on a certain day, we go to her place to ensure her well-being, in case she had had an illness or a problem. We are all one family here.”
Apart from mud pottery, Shareefa knows straw craft and makes small bags and brooms. “That is only when I’m not busy and have time. But it requires a lot of hard work,” she added.
Shareefa refuses to accept charity, and dislikes to be labeled as a beggar. “I am a working mother who earns money through work and not charity,” she said adding each person should live by what he earns. Indeed, it is a lesson for many.