The UAE is home to many expats who have lived here for many years. Unfortunately, countless of them left the country without documenting their stories and their perspective of the country’s development.
It has been a year now, since I started writing for Sail Magazine. It has been a challenging yet wonderful experience, especially that this is my first attempt to publish articles. Honestly speaking, I didn’t think that one day I would have my pieces published as I have always thought that they are more personal recounts. Therefore, I feel so grateful to have the opportunity provided to me. Let me explain in more detail.
My first article was about an old grocery store in Dubai and its owner Mohammed Mohideen. That grocery store was not like any other store you would find in Dubai these days. It was small in size and the shop’s entrance was covered with old ads. The store signage was so old to the point that you could barely make out the name of the store itself. Inside, the merchandise were stocked without a proper order and the only way to find what you want was by asking the store owner.
When I saw Mohideen’s store, I was so happy to know that he survived the competition with large hypermarkets across the city. I even took my 8 years old son, Mohammed, to see the store as it was a real example of what I have been telling him about old Dubai or as Mohideen described it: “My store is like a museum”.
During the national day celebrations, I went to see the old grocery store. Knowing Mohideen had a lot of respect for the UAE and its people, I was pretty sure that he would be prepared for the National Day celebrations. This is why I wanted to go there and take some pictures of the store to post on Instagram. I wanted people around the world to know that not only UAE nationals celebrated the 44th national day, but also expats living on this land share the same happiness.
Unfortunately, my eagerness and excitement vanished when I reached the location and couldn’t find Mohideen’s store. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, but after looking around me, I realized that was not the case. It was not only his store that was demolished; the tailor and the restaurant that had been in the area for more than 35 years were also gone. Yes, I was aware of the major development plans that were in the pipelines for the area, but I didn’t expect that his store would be affected. I wish I paid attention to his words when he expressed his worry that he might be forced to leave.
Mohideen the grocery owner, Babu the restaurant owner, Mohammed the tailor – they may be ordinary people but they had lived in the UAE for a long time, and had seen how the country has evolved since the formation in 1971. Each one of them had a story to tell, but none of them had the chance to spread it. With their departure, we have lost great treasures.
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.