Shop owners in a tizzy over demolition date

ABU DHABI - Hundreds of shop owners are in a tizzy over a planned demolition drive here in the capital.

By (By a staff reporter)

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Published: Sat 8 May 2004, 10:03 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:24 PM

Hundreds of frustrated shop owners in the central souks (old and new) in Abu Dhabi, whose run-down shops are to be demolished, are highly critical of the municipal authorities for keeping them in the dark on the definite date of razing and the closure of their business.

Most shop owners expressed their resentment about the municipality's stance that has kept them guessing and left them in a limbo, thus adversely affecting their trade.

Initially, the municipality had given the more than 500 shop owners of the two souks March 3 as the deadline to vacate their premises and shift their businesses elsewhere.

Earlier, the Abu Dhabi Municipality and Town Planning gave the shop owners a four-month notice in July last year to find other venues for selling their goods.

The short notice had upset shop owners as procedures to shift from one location to another often needs a lot of time. The municipality had then extended the deadline to March 1 of the current year as the last day to vacate their premises.

However, over a month has passed since the expiry of the deadline, but the shop owners have not heard from the municipality again about closure date. Rumours about varying deadlines for the demolition are now making the rounds and adding to the anxiety of the shop owners. Some say the demolition has been extended till the end of this year while others insist that this month was the deadline.

A plan has been chalked out by the municipality to replace the old and new souk, off the Hamdan and Khalifa roads, with a new modern structure, maintaining its traditional Arabic design with car parking lots and other facilities.

The two souks sell almost everything - from designer gold jewellery to cheap hardware. It is brisk business and the total turnover runs into millions of dirhams.

Speaking to Khaleej Times about their suffering, Safar Ahmed Ali, owner of Bahar Al Khaleej for Furniture shop said, "Officials at the municipality have put us in a critical position, where we are unable to continue our business. This uncertainty about the deadline has crippled me as I cannot renew my trading licence or carry on with the storing procedures or even renew my residence visa. I have decided to end my business and go back home."

Mohammed Yakoub, who owns a watch shop, said, "I have rented another shop in the new vegetable souk near the Khalifa Mosque. Now I have to pay double rent as I still possess this shop in the old souk. The municipality should do something quickly about the demolishing decision. It is really costly and does not serve our business. The worst thing is that we heard that officials at the municipality have not yet even asked for tender from local construction companies."

Mohammed Abu Yousif, owner of Abaya and Wear Shop, said, "I have already paid Dh12,000 to rent another shop for six months in the Fish Market, which is now lying empty and unused as I did not receive any notice from the municipality as to when I should pack up and leave. Business in the new location is not as good as in the souk. As I do not know the exact date of demolishing the premises, I have to bear the new rent also. This is a real burden and I want to know when this will all end so that I can finally settle down in one place."

Mohammed Abdullah, owner of Al Mafraq and Jabel Ali Furniture Shops, said: "I have rented a store in the Mina Zayed area but I have not moved my merchandise there because I do not know when this place will be demolished. I cannot even contemplate bringing in new commodities. The situation is simply chaotic. The municipality officials should quickly determine a date for the new construction so we can properly manage our business."

"There were rumours that the municipality would cut off electricity to the souks in May. Some also predict that demolition will take place early next year, but no exact date has been mentioned. I rented another shop in the Zayed Shopping Centre off the New Airport Road after I received the first warning. It's only fair that we be informed about the final deadline for the closure of the old souk. This situation is affecting our business," said Abdullah Mohammed Yusif of Al Jazeera Jewellery Shop.

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