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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Renovation of Dubai ruling family's former neighbourhood welcomed by traders

The business community in Dubai Creek believes that the restoration scheme will boost tourism

The old Shindagha area next to the creek in Bur Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National 
The old Shindagha area next to the creek in Bur Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National 

The renovation of the former Ruler of Dubai's home and plans to create the world's largest open air museum have been welcomed by traders working in one of Dubai's oldest neighbourhoods.

Members of the local business community say the rejuvenation of Shindagha Heritage District on Dubai Creek, part of a wider project to restore old areas of the emirate, will boost tourism and increase trade.

“The redevelopment is good for business because it will attract even more tourists than before,” said Jafar Ciyan, who helps to run the Asaadi supermarket in Dubai Creek, a business that first opened in 1963.

“Dubai has changed a lot in recent years, before the redevelopment it was all old buildings but now we are seeing it become more and more modern.”

Asaadi supermarket in Dubai Creek that has had a trading license since the 1960s. Antonie Robertson / The National
Asaadi supermarket in Dubai Creek that has had a trading license since the 1960s. Antonie Robertson / The National

He said that investments being made in an area that has long been seen as a throwback to the "old ways" of the emirate can only be good news.

“There has to be change or else you will just get left behind. Life itself is change,” he said.

“Dubai is constantly changing so why should Dubai Creek be any different?”

The Shindagha Heritage District project has caught the imagination of local traders who believe it will stimulate local economy.

“I have no doubt at all that this project is going to attract more and more people to the area. That is good news for us,” said Arjun Mathath, who runs the near-by Roseland and Salarjal stores.

“What is also good about it is that it is not just going to be for people who are rich, like other parts of Dubai. It will be for people from all walks of life.”

Tourism is essential to the prosperity of the entire emirate of Dubai, but to the traders in Dubai Creek it is their lifeblood.

“Of course, tourism is helpful because it helps our businesses to grow,” said Mr Mathan.

“The whole area is excited about what these changes are going to bring.”

Shabeeb Abdulla from Al Nada Jewellery at Dubai Creek. Antonie Robertson  /The National
Shabeeb Abdulla from Al Nada Jewellery at Dubai Creek. Antonie Robertson  /The National

Shabeeb Abdulla, who runs the Al Naba jewellery story said that anything that brings more tourists to the area has got to be welcomed.

“Conditions have been difficult for traders recently, especially as we are just getting over the lull from Ramadan. The Eid Al Fitr break helped us a lot but we still need help,” he said.

“One of the biggest problems we have faced is that customers do not want to pay VAT to us. They think because we are small business owners that it does not apply and they can haggle us down. We still have to pay it though when buying our stock.”

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Read more:

Dubai Ruler inspects historical renovation

History of museums in the UAE

Green light for Dubai Heritage Project

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He said this would not be a problem if more tourists come to shop in Dubai Creek, though, because “they are used to the concept of VAT in their home countries, unlike locals here in the UAE”.

The open-air museum is not the only change that the area has seen recently, as Mr Abdulla praised the advent of water taxis, something which he describes as transforming the creek, since their introduction in 2013.

“It has been brilliant for business as it has made us an easier option for tourists to visit,” he said.

Connie Waluhan, ticket officer at the Al Ghubaiba Water Transport Station. Antonie Robertson / The National
Connie Waluhan, ticket officer at the Al Ghubaiba Water Transport Station. Antonie Robertson / The National

Connie Waluhan, who works in the RTA ticket office on the dock, said that while the buildings in the background become modern "the heart of the creek stays the same”.

“It makes sense that the place becomes more developed, especially with Expo 2020 on the way, but it is just as important that the area does not lose its historical appeal.”

When the project, a collaboration between Dubai Municipality, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, was first announced in 2015, the goal was for it to attract 12 million visitors by 2020.

The National reported earlier this year how 150 historical buildings have been renovated including the house of Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum. The renovation project is being overseen by Dubai Municipality’s Architectural Heritage Department in adherence to international best practices.

The ultimate aim of the project is to transform the area into the leading culture and heritage centre in the region, focusing on trade, crafts and the pearling industry.

The redeveloped Shindagha Heritage District is expected to open later this year.

There will also be 17 pavilions displaying more than 50 collections of cultural and historical value.