ABU DHABI // Emirati couples have found that a free wedding venue in Al Ain comes with an unanticipated cost.
As an initiative to curb wedding expenses in the UAE, several halls were built around the country and made available to Emiratis free of charge. The halls are always busy, with bookings required far in advance. But some have fallen into disrepair.
Al Khabisi hall in Al Ain, in particular, is not ageing well. Damage is noticeable and must be addressed before guests arrive. Families can spend more to decorate the free hall than they would to rent a hotel venue.
The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions company took over management of the hall in 2009.
“Since Adnec took over the hall, regular maintenance is provided,” said Obaid Al Shamisi, the manager. “Last August there were painting jobs done, the outer landscape had a lift, and the doors were upgraded.
“In 2013 the fire safety system was upgraded, and in 2012, outdoor tiles were replaced and the shades given a makeover so the hall exterior looks like a tent.”
Yet wedding planners and couples who have held weddings there said there were aesthetic issues that still needed to be addressed.
More than 200 weddings were held at Al Khabisi last year.
Vendors have set up outside the facility to provide decoration services.
“It is expected to receive complaints from people regarding the floors, as they are over used,” said Nisreen Bayan, from Al Khosha Al Thahabiya, is a wedding planner whose business is affected indirectly by these damages. She estimated the cost to cover the damaged floors at Al Khabisi would be at least Dh28,000, and Dh10,000 to cover the walls.
“When customers come and find out that an average of Dh50,000 is where we need to start off with a well-covered hall, they usually cancel the deal,” she said.
Ahmed Al Kalbani, manager of Al Khaleej Hospitality, has a starting fee of Dh100,000 to cover the floors and Dh40,000 for the walls.
Mohammed Al Darmaki, a 27- year-old Emirati, celebrated his wedding at Al Khabisi hall in July 2011.
“I had to pay a company Dh10,000 to cover the walls of the hall. Looking back at the result of the coverage that I have received, I wish I hadn’t covered them at all. The result was just as bad as the walls were.
“The quality was very cheap. I couldn’t pay more than that. I even neglected the floors because I didn’t have the budget to cover it as well.
“I suggest that the hall walls get repainted, and the floors get changed to marble.”
Mr Al Shamisi said the high usage of the hall and contractor traffic was to blame, and he was aware the building was in need of a makeover.
“Sometimes we have more than seven or even eight contractors who work at the same time preparing for an upcoming event,” Mr Al Shamisi said. “Many of them usually leave behind noticeable damage.
“The customer reviews are taken into consideration,” he said. “We have a plan for this year to give the floors a full refurbishment. Over Dh1 million will be dedicated to this upgrade, plus better electric cable connections that will help to ease the work of many companies.”
There is a plan to create an add-on package that includes special prices for customers who are willing to pay the expenses needed to cover up damage.
Al Khabisi, one of the biggest halls in Al Ain, is in high demand compared with other halls. The car park can hold more than 1,000 vehicles.
“Our provided services are way better, compared with the other halls. We have a full team dedicated completely to organise all the bookings,” Mr Al Shamisi said.
Adnec has added another hall to Al Khabisi, using the same structure but with more advanced services. It is not free, however, and costs Dh50,000 to rent.