Over the last few years, the Dubai Police have cracked down severely on retail selling of firecrackers.
It is not uncommon to step into Bur Dubai's Meena Bazaar and be accosted by salesmen offering unbelievable discounts on counterfeit branded bags, watches and perfumes.
"Madam, bags, watches, perfumes?" they say as customers walk through the narrow lanes of Meena Bazaar. However, ahead of Diwali on Sunday, every third salesman in Bur Dubai is offering a 'killer discount' on firecrackers.
A Khaleej Times correspondent and a photojournalist visited Bur Dubai on Wednesday in search of firecrackers that were being illegally sold in the market area. While the reporters assumed it would be tricky to find crackers, it was shocking to learn that they were readily available in every hidden nook and cranny across Meena Bazaar.
In Dubai, event organisers need to have permission from the Dubai Police and Dubai Municipality before using them. But sales assistants approached Khaleej Times within five minutes of walking into Meena Bazaar.
Six packets of firecrackers for Dh120
A well-networked group of salesmen said: "Madam, Sir, Diwali pataka chahiye? (Do you need crackers?) in Hindi." KT walked with the salesmen to a hidden alleyway behind a general trading store that led to a dark, winding staircase. A variety of colourfully packaged firecrackers, imported from China, were laid out on the roof of the building.
"Sparklers come in two sizes: A pack of 100 small ones cost Dh50; while larger ones in packs of eight cost Dh10 a piece," said Salim (name changed). He added: "See madam, spouting fountains, Zameen Chakri (spinning wheels) and big rockets also for Dh60. See this magic lantern, only Dh70."
Demand for crackers skyrockets
The salesmen said at least 100 packets had been sold since the sale began two weeks ago. Several stores were also hiking prices as the demand increases.
However, the demand for fireworks is too high. An Indian family was seen haggling with the salesman. "Give me a kit for Dh100, last price," a woman said when the salesman demanded Dh150.
"On Friday, we expect a big sale. All the stock will be clear; people spend anything between Dh300 and Dh900 for crackers," said another salesman.
"Customers come back every year to buy our fireworks. We also do some home delivery for our regular customers," said Raju (name changed), another salesman.
However, over the last few years, the Dubai Police have cracked down severely on retail selling of firecrackers, with dire consequences for the shopkeepers.