Dubai: Penniless man wins car, cash prize for unborn child; how raffle announcer has been changing life for 25 years

Abdalla Al Ameeri says the tears of joy make his job worth it

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Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Thu 7 Sep 2023, 2:19 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Sep 2023, 11:18 PM

For almost 25 years, Abdalla Al Ameeri has been delivering life-altering news to people. That is because he is the one who informs people when they have won raffles in Dubai.

“Once a person came penniless to Dubai and spent his last money in buying a raffle ticket,” said Abdalla, speaking to Khaleej Times. “He won a luxury car in that raffle. We have a cash buyback policy, so he took the cash and started a business. The business grew and he sold it for a good profit. He then got a job and is quite settled. He told me this story when he recognised me at a mall, nine years after the win. He said he could never forget my face because everything had earned in Dubai started with that one win and I had informed him of it.”

As the Director of Raffles and Promotions at the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), Abdalla has become the face most associated with raffle wins. “I love delivering good news to people,” he said. “A lot of times, they don’t believe me. Some people have even called the police on me.”

However, Abdalla says it is the tears of joy that make his job worth it. “One really old woman had a few raffle coupons,” he recalled. “She couldn’t drive so she waited for her son and put them in on the very last day. When she won Dh100,000, I remember her beginning to cry. It was more money than she could ever imagine, and it would change her life.”

That thing called luck

Abdalla has seen it all since he began working at the DFRE in 1998. For some it is the numbers that bring luck while for others it is the name. “We have a rule that if you put someone’s name on the coupon, that person must come to collect it,” he said. “But the 2022-2023 DSF edition had a winner who had put the name of his unborn son!”

The Bangladeshi man Monir Jomir had learnt that his wife was expecting a baby boy and had decided a name for him. “I put that name along with my last name,” said Monir. “When I got the call that I won and that I must come with my son to collect the prize, I was in a fix. How would I take my unborn son to collect the prize?”

The raffles team then checked the ticket receipt that Monir had and examined security cameras to verify his identity. The prize was then handed over to him. “My son has been very lucky for me,” said Monir. “He is now a few months old and thanks to the money I won, I was able to build a house for myself. He now lives in his own home – a luck that I never had.”

Changing landscape of raffles

Abdalla says that he has seen raffles themselves evolving a lot in the last 25 years. “Earlier, we only had physical stores selling the coupons,” he said. “When it first began, the stores would only open from 12pm to 7pm and there would be long queues in front of the stores that lasted for hours.”

However, Abdalla says now, it has become easier for people to buy raffles online. “Now the prizes are smaller and there are many raffles to participate in, most of which are online,” he said. “The good thing is that it has increased the number of people participating a lot. And that is great because more people are winning.”

For Abdalla, one of the most memorable raffles was in 2000, when Dubai set a Guinness world record by giving away a whopping 31 Rolls Royce cars. “We gave away one Rolls Royce every day during the Dubai Shopping Festival,” he recalled. “It is still a world record that stands 23 years later.”


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