For 40 years, 60-year-old Abbas Haji has had a good business in Sharjah’s date souq that has been the “date basket” of the UAE for several decades.
Abbas’ life centres around the souq where the choicest dates from all emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Iran arrive for Emiratis and other residents and visitors, particularly Muslims of different nationalities, to take home.
Located near the emirate’s fish market, the souq boasts of tonnes of fresh dates that bring in between Dh4,000 and Dh5,000 turnover to the coffers of every shop owner daily. “Customers belonging to different nationalities just stop and buy dates that could cost as low as Dh10 or as expensive as Dh45 per kilogram depending on the variety they want,” Abbas said. Asraf Pallipuzha, 40, who owns two shops in the souq, said that he earns Dh8,000 daily from both shops. “In Ramadan, my shops earn me Dh50,000 daily as 500 to 800 customers come throughout the month.”
Indian shopowner Hanif Kunnil, who has been in the souq for 30 years, said besides dates, his shop also offers date syrup in bottles in various sizes costing Dh10 to Dh40.
Mohammed Ali, another shop owner, said that his shop has been keeping at least two tonnes of fresh dates to keep up with the demand in the market for the past 15 years. “In weekend, the number of customers doubles, and most of them buy up to 5kg during every visit,” he said.
Emirati Majid Ahmed Mohammed, 38, who is a regular customer, told Khaleej Times that he visits the souq thrice a week, and every time he comes, he buys from two to three kilograms of dates for his family. Emirati Hanan Hamid, 32, said that she comes to buy ‘Rotab’ when the date starts to turn soft as this is the sweetest. “I buy 1kg of date rotab for the week. I have bought more a few days before Ramadan.”
Besides Emiratis, people of more than 100 nationalities like Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Iranians, Russians, Kuwaitis, Qataris and Malaysians come to the old souq.
“Tourists also come to the souq daily. On average, each of the 22 shops in the souq caters to at least 200 customers on week days and up to 400 during weekends. The numbers could be 600 to 1,000 at anytime of the day during the entire month of Ramadan,” Abbas said.
The date souq is open from 8am to 11.30am and closes for three hours due to the unbearable heat as it has no air-conditioning units, and is open till late in the evening. Date lovers flock to the souq especially in the evening to buy what their families need, especially during Ramadan.