x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Rolla park, a popular site for families in the centre of the city, has been closed for four years while extensive redevelopment work is carried out.

The Rolla Square park in Sharjah is getting a Dh22 milion facelift and is expected to open again before the end of the year. Lee Hoagland / The National
The Rolla Square park in Sharjah is getting a Dh22 milion facelift and is expected to open again before the end of the year. Lee Hoagland / The National

SHARJAH // A Dh22 million project to redevelop Rolla Square park will be finished by the end of the year.

The work has been under way for four years, and the 3.7-hectare park has been fenced off from the public.

Once the revamp has been completed, the park will feature seven fountains and a cafeteria in a shape of a tree, with 60 per cent of the park set aside for green spaces.

“We have most of the work done now and the agricultural department have been planting the grass as some of the final touches,” said Abdul Aziz Al Mansouri, the assistant director general of the engineering section at Sharjah Municipality.

“There are some parts we are waiting to arrive from abroad in a few months and once installed the park would open to the public.”

Rolla Square was one of the most popular parks in the emirate and officials are keen to keep its reputation as a landmark intact, Mr Al Mansouri said.

“People would come from as far as Ajman and Umm Al Quwain to meet under the Rolla tree,” he said. “On festive days like Eid it would be full of families and this festive character of the place, we are trying to keep it.”

The park was named after the planting of the first Banyan tree, by Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqer Bin Rashid Al Qasimi, who ruled the emirate from 1803 to 1866, according to the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

The Banyan is known as the Rolla tree in Arabic.

Within a few years the tall Rolla trees became popular with dhow workers of all nationalities from the quayside, who would sit in the shade under their branches while waiting for cargo to be loaded or unloaded at the nearby port.

It is listed as one of Sharjah’s main historical sites and is close to the main bus station and other important areas.

Despite the park being closed for the past few years, the streets around it have remained a popular place for people to gather, especially bachelors from nearby neighbourhoods who meet along the park’s fences to chat in the evenings.

Irfan Habib, like many of the men who enjoyed hanging out at the park, is already counting the days until it reopens.

“Our main concern is it’s not going to be as free as it used to be and this could affect it being lively,” said Mr Habib. “The authorities could restrict the park for only families, leaving us out. If they do they may as well start charging an entrance fee as with our tight budgets we shall again be out.”

Mr Al Mansouri said it was likely a small fee would be charged for entrance, just as in other parks around Sharjah, but officials would not stop bachelors from enjoying the new park.

“In the future we may come up with some programme allocating some days for families alone but it’s all not yet decided,” he said.

ykakande@thenational.ae