Nation (photos)

Photos: Emirati's collection brings UAE retro days back to life

Published on March 26, 2021 at 14.09

Do you remember how a TV, a soda bottle or a UAE household looked in the 70s? Emirati collector Saeed Ahmad Al Kashri brings the retro days back with his personal memorabilia now exhibited at the District and Villages Authority pavilion of the Sharjah Heritage Days, which runs until April 10. Here's a sneak peek!

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Meet the collector: Over the last 25 years, Emirati Saeed Ahmad Al Kashri has been collecting all these household and miscellaneous items that date back to the 1970s. Walking through his “household” full of things at Sharjah Heritage Days is an immersive nostalgia trip, one that will take visitors down memory lane, of their own childhoods or their parents’ recollections of what life was like in the early decades of the UAE federation. “Most of them are sourced from my extended family and others from neighbours and acquaintances,” Al Kashri, a teacher-turned-librarian, says.
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Remember the kring-kring of a rotary phone? Browsing through the collections is a fascinating experience. Old transistor radio sets, HMV record players and an 8-track double cassette deck sit next to stacks of retro bakelite light switches, cassette and cartridge tapes and rotary dial telephone sets.
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When remote controls were alien and tuning was life: The make and brands of these items are instantly recognisable to any Emirati or Arab who remembers the last two or three decades of the 20th century. Some of the collectibles will also be familiar to expats and visitors from the Subcontinent, from where the items were imported.
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Relive the simple joys from the good old days: Old sweet tins, cigarette boxes and vintage soda bottles jostle for space along with the first soft drink bottles in the UAE. Al Kashri shares an interesting anecdote about a Player’s Gold Leaf tobacco tin. “Back in the days when we had no PO boxes, a few neighbourhood stores kept these and the postman would drop off mail for the residents of that locality in it.”
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Spot the cassette tapes that you used to rewind with a pencil: Glass cases display Al Kashri’s own well-preserved school notebooks from the 1980s, with images of Sheikh Zayed on the covers, next to Oman and Kuwait currency notes and a wall of school memorabilia — vintage satchels, canvas lace-up shoes and water bottles sporting the UAE flag and emblem.
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Get a glimpse of Emirati life and its unique social customs: Traditional jewellery, mandoos chests, vintage vanity cases, bukhoor burners, prayer mats, old glass-and-enamel wall art, and wooden cradles sit next to some popular brands of yore – Brilliantine hair cream, Attari Brothers perfume, Tibet talcum powder, Jasmine hair oil etc. “My mother would always say: ‘don’t throw them away because you don’t know if you will see these things again’ and she was right,” says Al Kashri, 56, whose sons are also avid collectors.
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