Traders in Meena Bazaar in Dubai hopeful as anticipation builds for Eid Al Fitr

One of Dubai's oldest districts was hit hard by the pandemic but shop owners believe better times lie ahead

For decades tourists and residents alike flocked to a bustling Bur Dubai market in search of a taste of tradition and with hopes of a bargain.

Meena Bazaar comes to life during Eid Al Fitr, a festival that provides a welcome boost to hundreds of traders offering everything from clothes and tailoring services to jewellery.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year – bringing about stay-home orders and travel restrictions – prompted shops to temporarily close.

Now, owners are reporting that business is starting to return to normal, as customer numbers gradually increase.

The National visited the area ahead of Eid, which will be celebrated next week.

Nizamudheen Vattakkandi at his shop in Meena Bazaar. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Sarwat
Nizamudheen Vattakkandi at his shop in Meena Bazaar. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Sarwat

Nizamudheen Vattakkandi, the owner of a shop in Meena Bazaar that sells watches and perfumes, sees hope on the horizon as the holiday season approaches.

“Last year, it was a terrible situation,” the Indian citizen said.

“The shops were closed and we didn’t have any sales during this time, so we weren’t earning anything.

“Now, it is slowly getting better. There are more customers coming in every day and we can see it getting busier with Eid around the corner.”

Mr Vattakkandi said the situation for shop owners in the district “will only get better from here” as the number of tourists in the emirate increases.

He said shops would also get busier once flights from India resume, because Indian citizens are among the top buyers in Meena Bazaar.

The UAE extended the suspension of entry for travellers from India on all flights on national and foreign airlines, as the South Asian country contends with a record number of Covid-19 cases.

Residents in the Emirates are being urged to again celebrate Eid virtually to curb the spread of the virus.

“It will take some time, but business will pick up again,” Mr Vattakkandi said.

“There are also lots of customers from Pakistan and other countries who are shopping here for Eid. The clothes shops, in particular, see a lot of customers during this time.”

Mohammed Amjad, a Pakistani sales clerk at a clothing shop, said it is not as busy as it once used to be during the Islamic holiday, but “it is still much better than last year”.

Garments shop in Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai in Dubai on April 5,2021. Pawan Singh / The National
Garments shop in Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai in Dubai on April 5,2021. Pawan Singh / The National

Mr Amjad has worked in the neighbourhood for the past five years.

“We all know that Meena Bazaar is one of the busiest areas during Eid,” he said.

“There were literally thousands of customers rushing to this area for their Eid shopping, but it also got really busy for other celebrations, such as Diwali.

“I don’t think the current situation can be compared to how it used to be, but at least customers have started to come in again. It’s much better than last year, when shops were completely closed and no one wanted to spend on things other than basic needs.”

Apart from stay-home orders and travel restrictions, people around the globe were also cutting back on extra spending, as many lost their jobs or faced a salary cut.

Mohammed Amjad at his shop in Meena Bazaar area in Bur Dubai in Dubai on April 5,2021. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Sarwat
Mohammed Amjad at his shop in Meena Bazaar area in Bur Dubai in Dubai on April 5,2021. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Sarwat

The labour market in the UAE has improved since then and old commercial districts are attracting more customers.

Manoj Kumar, from India, has been operating a clothes shop in Meena Bazaar for the past eight years.

“There used to be a countless amount of sales before the pandemic. We could easily get 200 to 300 customers per day during this time,” he said.

“Now, there are about 20 sales per day. But, things will improve once the pandemic is over.”

How Dubai's Naif community is striving to get back to normal in pictures

Updated: May 9, 2021 01:27 PM

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