UAE royals, British soldiers have shopped at this Emirati's 65-year-old store

The 82-year-old first set up his shop when the country was still known as the Trucial States



By SM Ayaz Zakir; Visuals by Shihab

Published: Thu 9 Jun 2022, 8:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Jun 2022, 10:33 PM

Abdullah Ali Mohsen, 82, has been running his trading shop for the last 65 years. Among his customers at the store that is 15 years older than the UAE were royals and British soldiers from when the Emirates were Trucial States.

Ali Mohsen, who started his career at the mere age of eight, was among the very first traders in Ras Al Khaimah. And to date, he makes sure he comes to his store every single day to interact with his customers personally and retain the bond he shares with them.

How he started his business

Ali Mohsen spoke to Khaleej Times, recollecting how his trading career began.

"It was with the help of a prominent Emirati businessman. He was one of my first clients for fodder, flour, and barley."

His mentor addressed him by a name that would be famous in what was then the Trucial States.

"He called me 'Abdullah Saboos'," said the octogenarian. His new name gained popularity not just among the Trucial States, but also amid British commanders and soon-to-be Emirati royalty.

Ali Mohsen established his shop in what is now the Ras Al Khaimah Old Market.

"This market had just about four shops on either side of the road. A grocery, which is mine, a gold merchant, a date trader, and a fish shop, which catered to the daily needs of the residents."

He recollects the boom in business after the union.

"With just four shops, the locality turned into a marketplace with almost everything on offer. I don't know the number of business establishments currently on this lane."

Royal recognition

Mohsen looks back on the moments that made him a popular trader back in the old days.

"Once, I had gone to meet the then Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. As he heard my name 'Abdullah Saboos', he directed his subordinates to present me in front of him," said Mohsen.

Mohsen also cherishes the moment the then-ruler of Ras Al Khaimah invited him to help set up a marketplace and discuss business ideas.

"Sheikh Saqr called on all the traders in the emirate to gather at Digdagga. I went along with my friend Haider bin Saeed."

Remembering his fellow traders' names, Mohsen said: "Hassan Ali, Musli, Singhes, Wahidi and Asaad were also present at the Digdagga. We all brought goods in bulk and sold around the emirate."

Ali Mohsen's clientele included both common residents and influential elites.

After this meeting, the Ras Al Khaimah trading sector was headed to change for the better.

"We liked the ruler's plan for our business, and he provided land to build our house and shop at Digdagga," said Mohsen.

Digdagga soon gained attention, with the area brimming with life as more people moved there.

"Following the traction, the ruler hired two companies to develop Digdagga. I still remember two people from the company, Morgan and Manditan, who were my buyers."

Mohsen was very positive about the development. Pointing to the development work, he said: "The companies improved the soil quality of the land and planted lemon trees, watermelons, melons, eggplants and tomatoes, which boosted the agriculture trade in Ras Al Khaimah."

This got the region on the agriculture map among neighbouring states. "Our produce was exported to Qatar, Dubai and other nearby countries. Our production was known for its outstanding quality, and the emirate has maintained its reputation in this field," he said.

"Ahmed bin Rashid anchored his boat at sea and we used it for our trade."

Decades-long friendship

Some people enter your life as a blessing, and for Mohsen, it was Abdullah Ibrahim Al Wahabi, who is nearly 10 years his senior.

Al Wahabi is seen outside the shop with his son as soon as the clock strikes 10am.

"Some may call it ritual, but there hasn't been a single day in my life without him. He comes to my shop every day except Friday and sits with me until Dhuhr prayer."

The duo talks about their family and business, cherishing old memories over cups of ghawa. Mohsen stresses how blessed he is to have Al Wahabi through thick and thin.

"He is elder and more experienced than I am. He is my guide, mentor, and an irreplaceable asset."

Mohsen also urged the younger generation to look up to the older generation and learn from how they valued relationships.

"The present generation, people do not have time even for them. But do look at your grandfathers and old people and understand the importance of friendship and the value they carried in every relationship," said Ali Mohsen.

Attracting customers from across UAE despite not having an online presence

Online shopping has taken over the world, but it doesn't bother the trader, who says he has clients all over the country.

"Many people have migrated from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, but they still buy their monthly groceries and ration from me. They drive here once or twice a month for their monthly needs," said Mohsen.

"It is because of the bond I share with my clients. That's the power of respecting relationships," added Ali Mohsen, emotion running through his eyes.

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Ali Mohsen concluded on a happy note, expressing his faith in the country's leadership.

"Our resources were limited once. But our leaders made the country a trading hub. We are happy, very happy, and trust the leadership of the country and where they are taking it."

- ayaz@khaleejtimes.com


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