Abu Dhabi traders prepare for end of an era ahead of Mina Plaza demolition and regeneration
The capital's main port area is to be transformed into a commercial, residential and tourism hub
Long-standing traders are gearing up for the end of an era as plans gather pace to transform Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed into a major tourist attraction and retail hub.
Mina Plaza, a cluster of unfinished tower blocks, will be demolished on November 27 as the second phase of a regeneration of the port area gets under way.
The ambitious project - spanning three million square metres - will include overhauling existing souqs and building separate facilities for fish, fruit and vegetable markets.
Most of the shops in the area have been selling goods for decades but are now braced to close down and relocate.
“We have been here for 30 years,” said Ishaq Ibrahim, owner of Abu Amer Furnishings.
We have already prepared a new shop in Khalifa City A. It is almost ready and we will open it soon
Ishaq Ibrahim, Abu Amer Furnishings
“We sell home appliances and furniture. If we stay here it is much better for us," said the 46-year-old from Iran.
"This market is well known for such things.
“A year ago the government told us we have to close, but we don't know when exactly."
Mr Ibrahim has already made plans to relocate his business.
“We have already prepared a new shop in Khalifa City A. It is almost ready and we will open it soon,” he said.
The new premises is not as spacious as in Mina Zayed, he said, and he is not sure if they will receive as much traffic there.
“Our shop here is well known, we have many regular customers and new ones too, especially during this season when people start buying outdoor furniture," he said.
He hopes to open another outlet in Mina Zayed when it reopens after development.
Arsalan Zainali, owner of Dar Al Ain Furnishings, said he was worried about the cost of rent in other locations, though he could return to the new Mina Zayed “if the rent is reasonable”.
“This shop has been here for 20 years, and our type of business doesn’t work anywhere else,” said the 37-year-old from Iran.
“We need wide parking space for trucks to offload, and inside the city rent is too expensive. We won’t make any profit.”
He said the rent of a shop similar to his, would be Dh2million a year in the city.
“Here we pay Dh300,000,” he said.
“And we are selling at very low prices, wholesale rates almost.”
Before opening in Mina in 2002, the shop operated on Electra Street for six years.
“The street used to be vibrant and a main destination for such items, but not anymore," he said.
Market traders have built up a loyal base of customers over the years.
Saif Al Mazrouei has made the Mina Zayed market his port of call for barbeque and camping equipment for six years.
“Usually in winter time, when the weather gets better we buy stuff for camping and outdoor activities, especially pots for cooking traditional Arabic food,” said the 44-year-old Emirati, who works in oil and gas.
“But all of this will close down. We need to follow them wherever they move to.
“They [the government] will probably relocate them in a different place. Some of the shops already have branches in Mussaffah.”
He said he would miss the traditional Mina Zayed market as it was now, “but if the government has a nice vision for this place, I’m excited for it.”
Anna Varghese, who has been selling plants and flowers at the Mina for 15 years, said she would not be against relocating.
“I think it will be a good place. I am optimistic,” said the 65-year-old from India.
She opened the Umm Al Salsa shop with her husband and son in 2005.
“The best thing I like about this place is its authenticity and there are many people here – locals and many other nationalities.
“It is a casual place and everything is easy.”
She said she would certainly miss the area, but she was confident that if the government offered a place to re-locate, “it will be good as well”.
Updated: November 19, 2020 03:34 PM