x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Iranian traders in the UAE a scarcity as sanctions tighten

The quayside of the Iranian souq in the capital once bustled with traders and customers bargaining over clay pots and knick-knacks.

Abdullah Khan, a trader, sits with an Iranian carpets at the Abu Dhabi carpet souq. Stephen Lock / The National
Abdullah Khan, a trader, sits with an Iranian carpets at the Abu Dhabi carpet souq. Stephen Lock / The National

The quayside of the Iranian souq in the capital once bustled with traders and customers bargaining over clay pots and knick-knacks.

Last year, the market was cleared after the vendors to who had operated in Abu Dhabi for years returned to Iran after failing to get renewal of their visas.

Today, the Iranian souq has just secured a new lease of life - as a garden centre.

Indian and Bangladeshi traders have set up shop here, selling everything from flowers to trees to fountains and landscaping items.

"We picked this location because it is a market and people are already coming here," says M Shareef, the manager at Hollywood Corner Flower.

His shop is one of 40 gardening stores that have opened in the past few months, sprucing up the facade of the market with roses and various glossy green shrubs, vibrantly painted cacti and shimmering trees.

"As soon as a few shops opened, the rest decided to follow suit, usually nursery shops try to all open in the same location, offer same prices, so there is not that much competition," Mr Shareef says.

In the past, the majority of Iranian traders would visit the country on 21-day visas and pay a fee of 5 per cent of the value of their goods to Abu Dhabi Customs. In return, they received a stall to display their goods at no additional charge. That procedure was cancelled last year and only traders with residence visas who agreed to a permanent lease on the location were allowed to stay. The few Iranian traders who remain are mostly businessmen who have teamed up with local sponsors and have residence visas.

"Most of them left last year," says Reza Mohammed, an Iranian who has sold pots from his stall at the port for more than a decade.

"But I have had a residence visa since long time back. I buy the items from Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah and sell them in Abu Dhabi. It's too expensive to pay fuel for the boat, the insurance and everything," he says, when asked whether his items still come by ship from Iran. Iranian businesses worldwide are under increasing pressure as a result of growing western pressure on the country to halt its nuclear programme.

 

halsayegh@thenational.ae