Article in brief: The author takes us on a walk down memory lane with his visit to one of Dubai’s old grocery stores, and the story behind its owner.
Mohammed Mohideen, an Indian national from Kerala, came to Dubai about 35 years ago. He opened a small grocery store which he still operates until today. Visiting his old grocery store in Al Qusais brought childhood memories. His store is no different from “Babu’s” store in our old neighborhood. The fridge, the cabinets, the goods he sells and even the way he arranges things is classic. It all reminded me of a time when having 1 AED, which is equivalent to 0.30 US dollar, in hand was a lot of wealth.
I asked Mohammed, what makes him keep the traditional feel of the store. He immediately said, “My store is like a museum. Kids come here to see how old stores in Dubai used to look like. Dubai has developed so fast and has a lot of buildings. Stores like mine are none existent.”
Mohammed’s words are so true, Dubai has developed so fast and may have lost its traditional UAE ambience. Today communities are surrounded by huge shopping malls and hypermarkets. Stores like his are no longer attractive and business is not like before. Given all that, Mohammed is still resisting changing. A few months ago Mohammed received an eviction notice from the municipality but for some reason it was not forced. He wasn’t bothered a lot with the eviction notice and it seems that mentally he was prepared to leave his old store.
When I told Mohammed about my love to history and my intention to document stories like his, he felt so happy. He introduced me to his neighbors who worked in the laundry and restaurant next to his store in order to document their stories from when they came to Dubai, and they had a lot to say about the changes that they had seen throughout the years.
Mohammed may not be an Emirati, but he certainly knows the importance of maintaining history and traditions amidst our fast growing cities. With his simple words and efforts to introduce his friends, I felt he was trying to repay the UAE by protecting its history.
I thanked Mohammed and his neighbors for their time and promised them a second visit. I felt a need to document what they have to say about their experience in the UAE, as a lot of stories were lost when old grocery stores were replaced with modern ones in a recent modernization exercise in Abu Dhabi.
Abdulla holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. His abstract passion for history and literature with a hint of photography adds to his noble enduring quality. Abdulla enjoys visiting museums, art exhibitions and likes to spend his spare time in the outdoors. His column “Emirati Reflections” is a mixture of stories from the past and insights of the present, which blend together and formulate his understanding of the UAE’s culture.