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#NextStopZero: Covid-19 cost this UAE expat his family business

Marie Nammour /Abu Dhabi
mary@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 19, 2020
Abu Dhabi, Covid-19 , uae, coronavirus, Pakistani expat




For Pakistani expat Mohamed Abu Bakar Sharif, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned out to be a nightmare.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another. Some of us are mourning the loss of a loved one, while others are trying to make ends meet after losing their jobs or taking a pay cut. The UAE is gradually restoring normalcy even as it reminds residents that the threat is far from over. Through this two-week series, Khaleej Times will feature residents who have endured a loss due to the virus, to remind you that the alarming surge in daily cases is more than just a number. #NextStopZero is a rallying call to get the community to adopt safe practices so as to bring down the infection rate.

For Pakistani expat Mohamed Abu Bakar Sharif, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned out to be a nightmare.

Sharif used to run Al Habib restaurant, a small family business his father had established in 1989 on Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi. The pandemic has cost him his restaurant - his livelihood. After incurring over Dh1 million in losses, Sharif was not able to sustain the business.

"We never thought this could happen to us. Everything was running smoothly and daily catering orders were coming in regularly until Covid-19 struck. (We went) from a flourishing business making up to Dh200,000 in revenues per month to closure and being submerged in loans and dues," he told Khaleej Times.

Before the onset of Covid-19 and up to January 2020, everything seemed to be going fine. But the pandemic changed Sharif's life forever.

"When coronavirus came, everything was stuck. Business got increasingly hard for me. My catering contracts got cancelled. I have lost over Dh1 million and my restaurant as well. I could not afford to pay the rent any longer. I could no longer pay the staff any salaries or pay the utility bills. I could also not stay in my rented place."

All of this made Sharif take the "heart-wrenching" decision of closing down his restaurant and going back to his home country. "I had no choice. I could no longer stay afloat. I had so many expenses while the revenues were very low to none due to the cancellation of thousands of catering orders."

He said the UAE has been his second home for 32 years. "But due to the pandemic, I lost everything and had to pack my bags and return back home. I returned to Pakistan with my family a couple of months ago, I had no other choice."

The expat expressed the desire to return to the UAE. "I spent all my life there."

Covid-19 has left this expat reeling under huge debts due to financial losses. "I owe about Dh300,000 and need another Dh200,000 to be able to start over. If I work hard, may be one day, I can make it big again just like my father did."

Hope for normalcy

Sharif said life would get back to normal if only people would comply with the safety measures.

"Everyone should wear face masks, maintain social distance and sanitise their hands. People who breach the rules should get fines. I am 32 years old and I spent all my life in Abu Dhabi. My heart is there as I was born and grew up there. I yearn to go back to the UAE."

mary@khaleejtimes.com

 

author

Marie Nammour

Originally from Lebanon, Marie has been covering the Dubai Courts and the Public Prosecution, immigration and labour issues often, and the Dubai International Film Festival. A graduate from the Holy Spirit university of Kaslik, Jounieh, a city to the north of Beirut, she worked as an in-house reporter of international affairs at a leading TV station back home and a legal translator for a renowned law college in the Lebanese capital. Speaks fluently four languages and is fond of travelling, psychology, learning more and grown by now a rich ‘criminal’ imagination…


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