x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Workers bring Christmas to Dubai labour camp

They may not be able to celebrate the festive season with their family back home, but workers living in a Dubai labour camp have created their own little bit of Christmas in Al Quoz.

Labourers working for Specialist Services have built nativity scene, where Christ was born in Bethlehem, and other important events from the Bible at their camp behind Al Quoz Mall in Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National
Labourers working for Specialist Services have built nativity scene, where Christ was born in Bethlehem, and other important events from the Bible at their camp behind Al Quoz Mall in Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // They may not be able to celebrate the festive season with their family back home, but workers living in a Dubai labour camp have created their own little bit of Christmas in Al Quoz.

The labourers, who work for Specialist Services, a supplier of modular buildings and packaging solutions for the oil and gas industry, have built their own nativity scene where Christ was born in Bethlehem as well as other important events from the Bible.

"People don't have the opportunity or the ability to always go back home to their families for Christmas," said Shijo Thomas, 34, an Indian driver and resident of the camp.

"Many miss their families and the celebrations back home. In India, people have a lot of time to celebrate the occasion and decorate their homes and neighbourhoods well. But in Dubai, nobody has any time. People are always busy.

"By taking time off to do this, we feel good and gather here to feel happy. It is not just for Christians but for everyone here. It is like our pathway to peace."

Mr Thomas, who helped set up the nativity scene with 25 other colleagues after work hours, said it had taken them nearly a month to finish.

The camp's courtyard is now replete with a Christmas tree, figurines of people and animals, including Joseph, Mary and a baby Christ. This is the third year in a row the men have created this Christmas scene. Each year they try to outdo their previous efforts.

"We got the sand levelled and brought ready-made grass to set it up. We are doing it with our company's support," said Mr Thomas.

The camp, which houses nearly 300 workers from different countries, has become a popular attraction for labourers from nearby camps and even some families since it opened to the public on Thursday.

On the first day, a woman and man dressed as Christ's parents while a five-month baby played the role of Jesus. In the evenings, colourful electric lights are lit up to make it look even more festive.

"Many families and visitors are coming to see this regularly. We had a family come from as far as Ras Al Khaimah to see what we have done," said Mr Thomas.

Jacob Verghese, 30, a fabricator, said the decorations reminded him of home.

"We have left our homes and come here to work. Since my childhood, I have celebrated Christmas with my family. To forget that I am far away from home, I try to immerse myself in things here and get together with friends. It is great we can do something like this in this country."

Many of the workers at the camp said they do their bit to get involved in the spirit of Christmas, even if they are not Christians.

"I helped a little with transporting the goods to the camp," said Ashok Kumar, 30, also a driver.

"It's been done nicely. We even had a priest from the Jebel Ali church visiting us to see this. We celebrate all festivals, including Eid, Diwali and Onam," Mr Kumar said.

pkannan@thenational.ae