x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Souk to be finished by May

An historic souk that was destroyed by fire last year will reopen by the end of May, the municipality says, promising it will be bigger and better than before.

Naif Souk was gutted in a fire caused by a short circuit in April 2008.
Naif Souk was gutted in a fire caused by a short circuit in April 2008.

DUBAI // An historic souk that was destroyed by fire last year will reopen by the end of May, the municipality said yesterday, promising it would be bigger and better than before. On April 2, 2008, the 5,500-square-metre Naif Souk was gutted in a blaze that destroyed the shops and property, causing almost Dh1 billion (US$270m) in damage and leaving many shopkeepers jobless.

Dubai soon began rebuilding the market in the same location. The new Naif Souk will be located over two floors and will contain 218 units, 18 more than the previous one. The municipality has already started assigning spaces to shopkeepers who had businesses in it. Khalifa Hareb, the director of assets management for the municipality, said in a statement the souk would open by May at the latest, and possibly the month before.

"All those who had shops in the gutted market will get shops of the same size," he said. The new souk will be housed in a centrally air-conditioned building that will pipe cool air into 111 shops on the ground floor and 107 on the first floor, where the abaya shops will be located. The new souk will have public toilets, parking, three coffee shops and four municipality offices, as well as underground parking for 99 vehicles.

"Those who had small shops earlier will get only small shops in the new souk, while those who had bigger shops will be given justice by providing them the same size, too," Mr Hareb said. According to the statement, the rental rate will be revised because it is a multi-storey building with an air-conditioning system, but Mr Hareb was unable to say if rents would be higher. Shop owners were compensated by the municipality on a case-by-case basis after the fire and were also exempted from paying rent in a temporary souk erected in a car park 500 metres from the original site.

Investigators said the fire began early in the morning after an air-conditioning unit in one of the stores short-circuited. The fire ravaged what was Dubai's oldest and most popular souk. More than 180 shops selling textiles, electronics, toys and spices were destroyed. Two firemen were seriously injured while battling the blaze. A third suffered from smoke inhalation. More than half of the 600 workers in the souk were given compensation of Dh1,000 by the Red Crescent Society and several received aid from Indian welfare groups.

The market was named after its proximity to the Naif Fort. It is popularly referred to in Arabic as Souk Sanadiq, or the "box market", because of the box-like design of the shopfronts before they were renovated in the 1980s. eharnan@thenational.ae