New list of Urban Treasures revealed as Abu Dhabi recognises long-standing businesses

Two restaurants included among firms awarded new status by Department of Culture and Tourism as significant pillars of the community

Another 15 businesses were named Urban Treasures by the Abu Dhabi government. Photo: Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi
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Endearing levels of excitement filled the lobby of the Cultural Foundation on Thursday afternoon as 15 businesses were added to Abu Dhabi's growing list of Urban Treasures.

The annual list, chosen and announced by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, recognises restaurants, cafes and other shops that have existed for two decades or more, thus becoming notable pillars of the community.

Two of the 15 establishments included this year are restaurants. Alfarah Restaurant, established in 1998, has five branches across the emirate and one in Dubai. Alareesh Restaurant, founded in 1990, in located in Al Ain. The other recognised businesses are scattered across different sectors, from the UAE's first pharmacy Al Qadi Pharmacy & Est (1965) to carpet expert Persian Carpets & Antiques Exhibition (1989).

There's also retailer Salem Al Shueibi Jewellery (1985) as well as Abu Dhabi Pottery Establishment (1994). Al Mandoos, an Emirati footwear business that opened in 1986, is also on the list, as is Nasruddin Perfumes, which was the first store in the capital's old souq and opened in 1989.

“I feel very proud and privileged to receive this recognition after all these years of handwork,” Homa Vafaie-Farley, owner of the pottery shop, tells The National. Selling crafts aside, she is most proud of sharing her passion with the local community.

“Over the years, we have also taught hundreds of thousands of students. A lot of my previous students are actually here, some of them from 25 years ago, to celebrate this milestone, so it's really an amazing feeling.”

Vafaie-Farley, who moved to the UAE in 1989 and brought up her children in the country, hopes the award will allow her to engage even more with the Emirati community. Asked what she loves most about living in Abu Dhabi, she says: “More than anything, it's the safety. You can walk in the street in the middle of the night and nobody will even bother you.”

For Osama Alfarah, who moved to the UAE from Syria in 1988 and founded Alfarah Restaurant a decade later, the award is proof that Abu Dhabi is a city that “welcomes you with open arms, supports your dreams and recognises your hard work”.

He adds: “This award means a lot to us. It's like all our hard work paid off.”

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, was at the event to present the awards, along with Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, the organisation's undersecretary.

Launched in 2020, the Urban Treasures initiative aims to honour long-standing businesses and the roles they play in the capital's social and cultural fabric. Mostly family-owned, establishments that have made it on to the list in previous years range from back-alley eateries and neighbourhood bakeries to textile stores and pharmacies.

Last year, the list included a flower shop that opened in 1995, as well as a bustling salon established in the 1980s. Al Ain's first optical store, which opened in 1969, was also recognised.

The awardees are chosen via public nominations, which are then evaluated by DCT Abu Dhabi to ensure they meet the criteria of having been in business for at least 20 years. After an initial assessment, a dedicated committee conducts surveys of the shortlisted businesses, which include interviews with owners, managers and patrons.

Brass plaques are handed to the winners, which they can display in their storefronts.

The complete list of Urban Treasures in Abu Dhabi 2024

  • Salem Al Shueibi Jewellery
  • Al Mandoos
  • Nasruddin Perfumes Shop
  • Abu Dhabi Pottery Establishment
  • Al Ain Pharmacy
  • Persian Carpets & Antiques Exhibition
  • Rubou Zahla Trading Establishment
  • Al Ajayeb Bazar
  • Al Jazeera Studio & Stores
  • Ayoob Exhibition
  • Alfarah Restaurant
  • WOSTB Legal Translation
  • Alareesh Restaurant
  • Al Qadi Pharmacy & Est
Updated: June 07, 2024, 6:15 AM