Living His Best Life

Expat veteran Tahir Mughal shares his journey of 44 years in Dubai

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By Tabassum Vally and Ghazala Tikki Zaman

Published: Sun 14 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

Dubai is a unique hub that attracts people from across the world. Either as a tourist who come to shop in glitzy shop¬ping malls and enjoy the sandy beaches or for a job with better prospect, the world finds a way to come to “multi-cultural UAE”.

A young country with unprecedented progress, the UAE has achieved greatness in every sphere of life. It has at-tracted many expats from its neighbouring countries and today, almost 1.27 million Pakistanis reside in UAE, ac-counting for 13 per cent of the popula¬tion. As the UAE progresses, Dubai con¬tinues to offer great job opportunities in many fields. Aviation being an important and much-loved sector in Dubai, it offers extensive job opportunities. Given the success of its aviation industry and the building of finest airports, it is no surprise that the sector has attracted and employed many Pakistanis. Emirates Airline has a long-standing history with Pakistan as its maiden voyage was to none other than the Karachi airport.

Tahir Mughal, a Pakistani descent, narrates and looks back at his early days in Dubai when he started his career at the Dubai airport in 1979. He landed in Dubai 44 years ago and took a job at the Dubai airport as a traffic officer for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

“I was very impressed with Dubai. When I came in 1979, Dubai looked very different from what it is today. However, it still had an impressive and modern infrastructure with plenty of job opportunities.”

In 1978, PIA used to operate flights from Dubai to Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. Many carriers would use Dubai airport as a fueling ground as well as a transit spot to various destina¬tions. PIA catered to routes such as Nairobi, Kilimanjaro, Cairo, Amsterdam, Rome, Frankfurt, New York and London.

Mughal recalls that his job at the airport was very interesting as he met many of his friends and family members from Pakistan at the Dubai Airport who would be travelling to different coun¬tries. He recalls that his job was chal¬lenging but the size of the airport at that time was small and manageable.

Mughal had a turning point in his career when he joined Al Futtaim Travel and Cargo. In the beginning, the company handled only cargo that was dispatched from Dubai to different parts of the world. It was the year 1981 and his office was in the iconic Sanyo Showroom building. Later, the company grew as they had also become representative for Japan Airlines and the office moved to Qadir Hotel located in the busy streets of Deira.

In early 80s, sending cargo was a norm amongst the expat community. Invariably cargo was being sent by the people in the UAE to their relatives and friends back home.

However, the travel industry was about to see a big landmark in the early 1980s. With the first maiden voyage of Emirates Airlines to Karachi, things were about to change in the aviation industry.

Mughal dedicated 15 years of his career in the cargo company, where he enjoyed working for different departments.

However, by 1995, Dubai had started to see a boom in the passenger traffic and the airports were getting busy. The tourism industry had also expanded. Mughal now saw the opportunity to move to tourism and travel agency. Since early 1990s, many travel agencies had successfully started their operations in the UAE. He joined Orient Travels — one of the biggest travel agencies in those days and he still continues to cater to passengers until now.

In the earlier days, expats would travel alone, back and forth to their native countries. However, as income increased and tourism gained popularity, a lot of recreational travel started to take place. The agencies became busy and Dubai airport started to spread its wings. With the introduction of holiday packages by various airlines, more people started travel across borders to see new places.

The year 2000 onwards, travel started becoming less of a luxury and more of a routine for richer countries. Dubai saw a great increase in the number of passengers especially from the UK, Pakistan and India.

“I remember when I came to Dubai, I was living in Deira. There was no building after Fish Roundabout. Even from the Clock Tower roundabout up to World Trade Centre, there were hardly any buildings. There was a two-track road between WTC and Abu Dhabi and Toyota Building and defence roundabout along this road on the way to Abu Dhabi.”

During his vast experience in the aviation sector from the time of sandy runways to one of the largest and busiest airport in the world, he has seen the changing demographics of the travelers over the years.

The tourism sector was the most-affected by the pandemic. Commenting on the future of travel agencies, he ex-pressed his concern about their survival as now most of the work is online. “However people still continue to use travel agencies to book holidays and though there might be a decline in the numbers yet the agencies continue to provide good service to travelers.”

For Mughal, Dubai is his second home where he has and continues to share many happy moments with his family.

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