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Dubai: Meet the Indian expat who has been selling UAE flags for 46 years – Khaleej Times

Wednesday, Nov 02, 2022 | Rabi Al Thani 8, 1444
Published: Wed 2 Nov 2022, 10:21 AM
Last updated: Wed 2 Nov 2022, 2:28 PM
Mid-October every year, the old souk in Deira changes its colours to black, red, white, and green – the colours of the national flag of UAE. Any visitor or shopper who enters the market immediately feels the joy of UAE’s National Day, which is just around the corner.
Khaleej Times visited the market to feel the patriotism the decades-old souk offers. The souk is topped with the UAE flag, as is every corner, even in the small alleys, in the market. Visitors, mostly local Emiratis, can be seen buying the UAE flag and items which feature it.
On our visit to the market, we met an old trader who arrived in the UAE on November 3, 1976, five years after the Union of the Trucial States. Since then, he has only had one profession – selling the UAE flag.
Abdul Majid Muallimi is a trader who has worked in Dubai for the last 46 years. He has witnessed and celebrated nearly every National Day of the UAE. “Earlier, until 1980, the celebration was quite different. Dubai was a small town back then, and the most happening place was the creek. With no tall buildings and skyscrapers, the sky on the Deira side was lit by fireworks. It’s not similar to what we see today,” recollected Muallimi.
The Indian expat from Karnataka mentioned that people from the northern emirates would come to Dubai to engage in revelry on the overcrowded road by the creek. “It was a single road on the creek, and the whole stretch from the market till Al Maktoum Bridge was decorated with true zeal,” reminisced Muallimi.
Another tradition was to paint cars with the colours of the flag. “We witnessed expensive cars being coloured,” the trader said, noting that celebrations would start early. “We could feel the essence of National Day during September itself.”
Muallimi also remembered the locals offering delicacies that used to be prepared at their homes and distributed among the expat community. “Like today, the expat community also celebrated the National Day in full fervour. Only a handful of nationalities existed in Dubai those days,” said the 67-year-old expat.
Maullimi said that he has over 200 types of items at his store, all featuring the colours of the UAE flag. These include flags, boxes, bags, hair clips, badges, caps, t-shirts, dresses, stationery, coffee mugs, jackets, ribbons, pens, balloon arches, gift boxes, dancing canes, scarves, shawls, gift tags, face paint, marker pens, umbrellas and bunting. “In the early days, we had only flags. Presently we are selling over 300 thousand flags a season. There are over 70 stores in the souk dedicated to selling the flags, and I believe their sales are also the same.”
Prices of every article vary, and the shoppers buy wholesale for the whole family or their neighbourhoods, said Muallimi.
The size of a flag starts from 14×21 cm costing about Dh5 a dozen, to flags as big as 100×4 metres with a price tag of Dh1000 a piece. “The big flags are not purchased much. However, flags with a dimension of 30×3 metres are on demand at a price of Dh500,” said Muallimi.
People from every corner of the country visit Muallimi’s store to celebrate their National Day passion and devotion. “I have clients from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Madha, Dhaid, Kalba, and almost every corner of the country. The Emiratis do visit malls to get their national day necessities, but it is a practice to visit the old souk.”
The most in-demand item, according to Muallimi, is the new shawl, designed in different patterns, with prints of quotes, rulers’ photos, and flag colours.
There are many wholesalers and designers of these new custom shawls. “These shawls are a preferred accessory of the Emiratis these days,” said Syed Nasiq, sales and marketing manager at NFN General Trading LLC, a firm that designs these accessories.
“These shawls are in huge demand these days. It comes in a universal size and fits any aesthetic,” said Nasiq. “This shawl surely gives an attractive look on a kandoora or even an abaya.”
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