Younger generations may never experience the thrill of writing letters and sending out postcards. Younis Hashim Al Kooheji’s new book enkindles fond memories of these yesteryear traditions. Melissa Nazareth talks to the former Chairman of the Bahrain Philatelic Society over cups of flavourful Arabic qahwa.
Younis Hashim Al Kooheji has been collecting stamps, bank notes and postcards since he was 12 years old. Recently, he decided to publish this collection as a book, ‘Bahrain Through Postcards’, which documents the Kingdom’s political, cultural and social history as well as its human and urban development over the years. “I was inspired by my friend, Ali Raees, who published a similar edition for Kuwait,” says Younis, adding that the book features his own collectables as well as a few from friends and fellow members of the Bahrain Philatelic Society, especially his friend Saleh Al Hassan.
“My brothers were avid collectors too and greatly influenced me,” says Younis. “We pursued different hobbies in those days; we collected stamps and bank notes instead of gadgets.” Reminiscing the old Bahrain, Younis says, “Bahrain had fewer people leading simple lives and it was quieter back then.” Is there anything he’d like to bring back? “I would love to bring back strong family ties and relations. Today, we are constantly busy with life and forget to spend time with our loved ones.” Younis’ family makes it point to get together every weekend and he hopes for everyone in Bahrain to do the same.
We further discuss Younis’ hobby and he tells me that when he started, he used to collect stamps from all over the world but eventually shifted focus to Bahrain and other Arabian countries. I am happy to discover he has few from India (my motherland), which are about 50 years old. “The oldest stamps from my collection are the ones closer to my heart,” he says, adding that the first Egyptian and Arabian stamp issued in 1866 is one of his prized possessions. ‘Bahrain Through Post Cards’ features collectables from 1936 to 1986 (50 years). Younis also has some from after the period but decided not to publish them in this book.
Speaking of future plans, Younis hopes to get another book, with pictures of old Bahrain, published sometime in 2017. “I have over a thousand photos,” he says. Younis also intends to participate in more exhibitions and asks you, my lovely readers, and me to watch out for the one by the Bahrain Phliatelic Society, this year. Further, we discuss some recent exhibitions where ‘Bahrain Through Postcards’ won medals – Bronze at the Bangkok International Exhibition and Silver at the Sharjah Exhibition.
As we come to the end of our conversation, Younis asks me if I’d like to have another cup of qahwa and I
politely decline. “Shake the cup like this,” he says, tipping the cup on to one side and then the other, really fast. “It’s the custom to say you’ve had your fill.”
‘Bahrain Through Post Cards’ has been published by the Bahrain News Agency and was launched by the Information Affairs Minister, Ali bin Mohammed Al Romaihi, on the sidelines of opening the Media Centre for the 37th GCC Summit. The book is priced at BD15 and available at Jashanmal in Seef Mall and City Centre Bahrain, and at National Book Shop and Al Ayam on Exhibition Road.