Father Stephanos Neaimeh, a Greek Orthodox priest, has lived in the UAE since 1989. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Father Stephanos Neaimeh, a Greek Orthodox priest, has lived in the UAE since 1989. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Greek Orthodox expanding the faith



ABU DHABI // Greek Orthodox Christians are building a church in Mussaffah to accommodate the hundreds of worshippers living in the capital.

In addition to the 700 Abu Dhabi families registered with the church, Father Stephanos Neaimeh believed there were 300 to 400 more unregistered families in the emirate.

“The Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church isn’t very big,” said the Lebanon native. “It fits about 300 worshippers, sitting and standing. Sunday and Friday masses are usually full and we have 700 families, so we don’t have much space. We sometimes use the salon upstairs with a screen and we place chairs outside too. During Easter and Christmas we never have space.”

The Saint Andrew’s Centre, an Anglican compound with more than 40 Christian worshipping groups, was built in 1975. The church has worshippers from seven Arabic nationalities, mostly Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese.

“There are also Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Serbians and Georgians,” Father Neaimeh said.

“If they need to pray, we give them the church with their own priest. Otherwise, they can pray with us using their books. We use the Greek and Arabic languages and we’re thinking in the future to prepare a book using English and French because some people don’t understand Greek and Arabic.”

The compound in Al Mushrif was a donation to the British embassy from Sheikh Zayed, the founding President.

“The Greek Orthodox Church then got built on a plot of land in the compound,” said the 65-year-old clergyman. “We have been treated very well and we always pray for the late Sheikh Zayed’s soul to rest in peace because he founded a country that is open to anyone. He turned the desert into paradise and those who hadn’t lived in his days don’t know how wonderful it was.”

The new church, Saint Elia, will house about 1,250 worshippers sitting. “It will be much bigger than the current one.”

Its construction started in May and it should take 18 months.

Ornaments for the church are being brought from Greece. “Every year I fly to Greece to ship crosses, icons and religious books for the church and I have never once been stopped or questioned,” he said. “The local population is very polite with us, well mannered and very hospitable.”

Father Neaimeh, who arrived in the UAE in 1989, said he valued his time in the country. “I’m not surprised I stayed this long because in the Orthodox Church the priest is like a father to the congregation – he stays with them and takes care of them for as long as he is supposed to,” he said.

“I am happy here in Abu Dhabi because the priest is like the soldier, he serves the people like his family. We don’t differentiate between rich and poor and all people are the same in the church.”

The UAE includes three Orthodox churches, including one in Jebel Ali.

“We organise bazaars and dinners to raise funds for the church,” said Gloria Mina Chahine, a member of the church’s 30-person committee. “I’ve loved church ever since I was a child. I was always in Sunday school and the choir back in Lebanon and I go to church every Friday. I like to pray and I feel a special feeling towards God. When I came to Abu Dhabi with my husband 20 years ago we joined the church. It’s a nice habit and I really found my family in the church.”

Nabil Al Zahlawi, a Syrian-Canadian who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 20 years, said the aim of the committee was to bring the best to the Greek Orthodox community and support the church’s activities. “We have a lot of work to do with the new church,” he said. “We always face problems in the current church because it’s too small. But now that we own the land officially we can do a lot of work without any problem.

“My family is very close to the church. My brother is a bishop in the US. My cousin is a bishop in Brazil and my other cousin a priest in Germany.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

* The article has been amended since it was first published.

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UAE insurance firm Al Wathba National Insurance Company (AWNIC) last year launched an e-commerce website with a facility enabling users to buy car wrecks.

Bidders and potential buyers register on the online salvage car auction portal to view vehicles, review condition reports, or arrange physical surveys, and then start bidding for motors they plan to restore or harvest for parts.

Physical salvage car auctions are a common method for insurers around the world to move on heavily damaged vehicles, but AWNIC is one of the few UAE insurers to offer such services online.

For cars and less sizeable items such as bicycles and furniture, Dubizzle is arguably the best-known marketplace for pre-loved.

Founded in 2005, in recent years it has been joined by a plethora of Facebook community pages for shifting used goods, including Abu Dhabi Marketplace, Flea Market UAE and Arabian Ranches Souq Market while sites such as The Luxury Closet and Riot deal largely in second-hand fashion.

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July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

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1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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