The women's majlis: Abu Dhabi's changing times means missing your neighbours

One evening, out the blue, my neighbour disappeared. I was visiting my small henna shop in Abu Dhabi’s Al Muroor, when I noticed my neighbour had left – without a farewell. We’re heedless of the reason. Dhiyafa Chocolate, which has been a prominent destination for chocolates and nuts, was up for lease. There is no […]

One evening, out the blue, my neighbour disappeared.

I was visiting my small henna shop in Abu Dhabi’s Al Muroor, when I noticed my neighbour had left – without a farewell. We’re heedless of the reason. Dhiyafa Chocolate, which has been a prominent destination for chocolates and nuts, was up for lease.

There is no shortage of confectionery shops in the UAE. On every corner, one can be found, and everyone has their favourite.

Dhiyafa Chocolate has been one of my favourites. This place, along with its neighbourhood competitors such as Halwa and Gahwa, are usually crowded during special occasions such as Eid.

I remember going to Dhiyafa last Eid with my sister and buying several boxes of chocolates. This brand is also served with coffee in hotels and at other hospitality providers.

Employees at this location gave customers a warm welcome. Getting free chocolates to taste was another bonus. For a child, it was heaven on Earth.

When I had the means to establish my own small business, Al Raheeq at Al Muroor, my partner and I were euphoric to be able to get a space in the same building as Dhiyafa. Imagine seeing chocolates, nuts and other mouth­watering sweets being delivered early morning to the shop. Is there a better way to start your day? The smell of chocolate greeted me when I walked into the building, and as I rode the lift up, the waft of henna. Both smells were pleasing.

As new businesswomen, we never had trouble explaining our location to our customers. All we had to say: “We are in the same building as Dhiyafa”.

But everything changed in the blink of an eye. On seeing the leasing signage on the glass, a wave of sadness enveloped me.

Even though Dhiyafa has other branches, my memories of buying confectionery were at this spot.

I realise that business is getting more competitive and complex in the UAE. It has been six months since I started the henna shop and I understand the hardships of running a business. Today, with the increase of online shopping and availability of all kinds of products and services at one’s fingertips, entrepreneurs need to find creative ways to keep their businesses thriving.

There was a time when having a business in a strategic area was enough to attract people, but not any more. People’s tastes are changing and the region is one of the fastest growing in terms of business and entrepreneurship. Plus, the UAE has also become an expensive country – not only for expatriates, but for some citizens, too.

Whatever the economic realities, a piece of Dhiyafa will always remain with us. So, farewell neighbour. I hope you find another place to reside, where you make new friends and find new families to delight.

Asmaa Al Hameli is a features writer at The National.

If you have a good story to tell or an interesting issue to debate, contact Melinda Healy at mhealy@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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