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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Fish mongers bemoan delay of RAK market renovation

Plans to install air-conditioning and improve drainage were set to begin by March

A customer looks through a basket of lobsters as a fisherman waits to package his choice at the Ras Al Khaimah Fish Market. Amy Leang / The National
A customer looks through a basket of lobsters as a fisherman waits to package his choice at the Ras Al Khaimah Fish Market. Amy Leang / The National

Fish mongers who were told their markets would be renovated to improve drainage and ventilation say they are still waiting for work to begin.

The redevelopment of Ras Al Khaimah’s traditional fish markets was slated for the first three months of the year but as 2018 nears its end, customers and sellers say they are still having to manage with poor facilities.

Last year, the municipality announced plans to install air-conditioning and upgrade the drainage network which sellers say often floods from the melting ice stands. The stagnant water begins to smell and is exacerbated by a lack of air conditioning — an issue that is exponentially worse during summer.

Some of the markets are more than 30 years old and re

Abdulhakeem Kakkat, a 41-year-old Indian fish monger, said he has seen no sign of impending renovation since the plans were announced in October last year.

“We still pay around Dh70 each day for ice to keep the fish fresh and not spoil fast and this is only during cool weather,” said Mr Kakkat, who has been working at RAK Old City fish market for more than 15.

“The market has been open for more than 30 years and nothing has changed for the better. Customers get annoyed by the bad smells that come out of the fish and heat which make them leave fast instead of spending more time choosing and roaming around the fish stalls,” he said.

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Read more:

RAK fish markets to undergo upgrades following complaints of no air-conditioning

RAK fishing ports get upgrade in Dh190 million government project

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Ras Al Khaimah has three fish markets: a morning market with 38 stalls in the Old City, an evening market with 44 stalls in Al Muairied, and another with 10 stalls in Al Digdagah area.

All are popular among residents, particularly during weekend when parking becomes scarce, according to Mr Kakkat. He and his colleagues are hoping renovations will include increasing parking spaces.

“A lot of people visit the market on Friday and Saturday and they face issues with finding a place to leave their cars. There used to be more parking space ten years ago but many shops opened around the market and that caused the area to become more crowded and the only few numbers of parking space are available,” he said.

But one of the biggest challenges facing sellers is the lack of air-conditioning. Municipality officials frequently carry out inspections and expect for catch to be well iced for freshness, but sellers say this is especially challenging to maintain in the summer.

“We use around eight bags of ice daily during summer and around five during the cool weather. Each bag contains 40kg of ice and its sold for Dh14 each, so we pay around Dh115 only on ice per day,” said Mujeb K, from India.

“They fine us if the fish becomes spoiled due to the heat and this makes us use more ice but if they install air-conditioners we will not use that much ice to keep the fish fresh,” he said.

The markets are a symbol of the UAE’s fishing heritage and the sole source of income for many traders. Competition from supermarkets threatens their existence but many still prefer the experience and competitive price of a traditional market.

But customers say the lack of air-conditioning, parking and the strong smell often makes them think twice before visiting the markets in Ras Al Khaimah.

“I sometimes prefer to pay more buying fish at shopping malls than visiting the fish market during the weekend,” said Abdulah Al Kitbi, 42.

The Emirati said he struggles to find somewhere to leave his car and his wife cannot bear the strong smell of fish in the Old City market. ‎

"She likes to choose the fish by herself and each time I take her to the old market she gets irritated by the fish smell and the heat," he said.

"The prices in the fish market are very reasonable but the place should get redeveloped to encourage people to buy from it," said Mr Al Kitbi.

He suggested a fruits and vegetable market also be opened nearby — with more parking to accommodate it.

"If we want to buy vegetables while in the fish market we need to drive to the vegetable market under the bridge in Suhaim area and look for another parking spot there,” said Mr Al Kitbi.

“They should consider opening one next to the fish market to buy everything from one place.”

RAK municipality said that the development plan is still in the planning and designing stage and work may begin in July.