Jewelry Sparkling Again From the Windows of Dubai´s Gold Market
Business owners consider the reopening of Dubai's gold market, which is one of the world´s biggest ones, a vital move towards normality ahead of the autumn tourist season, in a city that prides itself on shop-'til-you-drop experiences.
"Reopening the shops is a big step for us... The main factor here is psychological," said Tawhid Abdullah, chairman of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group, the industry's main governing body in the emirate.
"We expect that by July or August when the airports reopen... we will regain 50 percent of our business activity," he told AFP.
The gold and jewellery sector is one of the pillars of Dubai's economy -- the most diversified in a region that mostly depends on oil. Authorities say the emirate holds 14 percent of all the gold in global circulation.
The emirate shut down its glitzy shopping malls, upscale restaurants and traditional markets for a month to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The area where the market is located is known as Old Dubai, with decades-old buildings and haphazard alleyways thronged by Asian and African migrants who make up a majority of the area's residents.
Videos of residents celebrating the end of the curfew, pouring onto the streets to clap and cheer, went viral on social media last month.
"When we came here the first day it was as if we were coming to a new place, so we sterilized everything. We were very very happy to be back," said jeweller Chandu Siroya.
"Everybody wants to be on holiday, but this time it was the other way around. The holiday was too long so we were longing to be back," he added.
Business owners left their gold in their shops during the month-long closure -- a testament to Dubai's reputation as one of the safest cities in the region.
Occupying a warren of streets and covered with traditional barasti roofing made of date palm fronds, the century-old market neighbors Dubai's other traditional souks selling spices and carpets.
"This is an iconic place, the heart of our city of gold, and it's important to see it open," said Abdullah.
According to AFP, today street sellers who used to try to tempt tourists to buy watches have disappeared, and shops are mostly empty except for employees keeping a two metre distance from one another.
"It is hard to believe that something like this could happen," said Chetan Dhanak, who has worked as an assistant in the same shop since he arrived from India 17 years ago.
"Business is really suffering. Only three or four customers have come since we reopened, while we used to welcome up to 10 daily depending on the season. But it will go back to normal."
Dubai's tourism chief Hilal al-Marri said in a television interview last month that after halting arrivals in March, the emirate could reopen to international tourism in July.