x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Naif Souk seeks Eid revival

Dubai municipality tries to promote the temporary Naif Souk during Eid following complaints by shopkeepers.

Stall owners at the temporary Naif Souk are worried as consumers are not aware of its location.
Stall owners at the temporary Naif Souk are worried as consumers are not aware of its location.

DUBAI // The municipality is trying to promote the temporary Naif Souk during Eid al Fitr, following complaints by shopkeepers of poor business during the festival season. The new market was set up in July to temporarily house some 200 shopkeepers who lost their properties in a blaze that destroyed the original souk, built in the 1980s. However, shop owners say that very few customers turn up at the new market because no one knows where it is.

"The Naif Souk is famous for Ramadan and Eid shopping. It's that time of the year when we make huge profits. However, this year we have seen few customers as regular customers can't find the new souk and others are just discouraged from coming here," said Majeed Theruvath, who owns a cosmetics and accessories shop. "Tourists come looking for the souk all through the year and especially during Eid. The designs and products we have here are not available even in big malls."

Other shop owners said the location of the old souk near the old Naif Fort, as well as its antique design, attracted many visitors, including from other GCC counries. "They all enjoyed shopping here. It was not just the variety and the cost, but also the way the souk was designed," said a trader. However, the new location is not very popular, say traders, forcing them to close much earlier than before.

"Last year, we were open up to 4am some days due to the number of customers. This Ramadan many shops have been closing early." The municipality now plans to raise a giant balloon above the temporary souk during Eid to help visitors locate it. It has also set up signboards at the location of the old souk directing people to the new one. "The signboards have helped us and we have seen more customers in the last few days. However, it is still nothing compared to the old days," said Mr Theruvath.

On April 2, the 60,000 square foot Naif Souk was gutted in a fire that destroyed the shops and property worth millions of dirhams - and left many shopkeepers jobless. The municipality acted quickly and set up a temporary souk in a parking area 500 metres from the original one. The officials urged traders to continue business at the temporary location while they built a new, air-conditioned souk at the original spot.

The new market is expected to be ready by the end of the year. Traders said that many of them had been holding off closing their businesses in the hope that sales during the festival season would help them cover their losses. "We were looking forward to the Eid season for some respite. It looks like we will have to wait for the new souk to be ready for us to get back on track," said another trader.

pmenon@thenational.ae