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For illegal bazaar in Jebel Ali, time to pay up

Authorities draw up plans to nail vendors selling alcohol and X-rated material

Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News
The illegal bazaar that comes to life by night in the alleyways of a worker accommodation inJebel Ali has resurfaced despite being dismantled by the authorities earlier.
Gulf News

Dubai: Alcohol smugglers and illegal vendors running an unlawful open-air bazaar in Dubai’s Jebel Ali area face an imminent crackdown, Gulf News can reveal.

A senior Dubai Municipality official said the civic body is in touch with the police and immigration authorities to ensure an element of surprise in dealing with bootleggers making brisk sales in alleyways dividing workers accommodations in Jebel Ali Industrial Area 1.

The brazen nightly bazaar is run by dozens of unauthorised peddlers of liquor, x-rated material, banned chewing tobacco, expired foodstuffs, and knock-off electronics who lure workers with rock-bottom prices.

The noisy underground market had been dismantled following previous clampdowns but resurfaced recently, workers in the area said.

“We’re aware of these activities and will carry out an inspection very soon. Not only do we carry out inspections there, but also hold monthly inspections across various areas to stop such people from illegally selling goods, as well as selling banned items,” said Obaid Ebrahim, head of the municipality’s marketing section.

“These illegal vendors sell expired fish, pirated CDs, alcohol and other goods that are harmful to consumers. In these cases, a number of issues have to be addressed and that’s why we co-operate with various authorities,” Ebrahim said.

“After an inspection, some of the confiscated food is sent to Dubai Zoo while food unfit for consumption is destroyed. We also keep the seized alcoholic drinks in storage for one year and, with the help of the Waste Management Department, dispose of them in a safe and regulated manner.”

Gulf News visited the bazaar undercover recently with assistance from a guide. He advised caution as there have been reports of reprisals against those caught tipping off authorities or the media.

“There’s big money involved in this, the dealers don’t take things lightly,” the guide said.

Men who appeared to be lookouts for the dealers soon arrived on scene and followed Gulf News before the team dispersed momentarily.

“Everything you can get in a supermarket, you can get in the bazaar — and more. Booze, porn, paan [chewing tobacco]? No problem,” he said.

Labourers line up to buy alcoholic drinks served behind huge trash bins.

“It’s about Dh5-Dh10, depending on what you want. Two shots down and you’ll get a good night’s rest after a long working day,” one worker said.

Alongside were makeshift roadside kitchen counters serving omelettes, boiled eggs, roasted peanuts and the like.

“Come, come, eat! You’ve got to eat when you drink, don’t you?” one man said.

The aroma of deep-friend snacks wafted through the air which was also thick with loud sales pitches. A carnival-like atmosphere built up as darkness fell.

“Over here, I give you good price!” one vendor yelled. “Step right up, what can I get you?” another said.

The salesmen sat on the ground or on plastic baskets and spread out the merchandise in front of them on sheets or in cartons.

Men socialised, sipped tea and smoked cigarettes while carrying back bags of “groceries” to housing complexes.

“These sellers offer products way below market prices,” the guide said. “Some of the goods are expired; others are stale, damaged or fake. Pick-up trucks full of such stuff arrive here every day, and the vendors buy it from the dealers.

“It’s hurting business for those supermarkets trying to make an honest living, but some salesmen say it’s actually good for business as the bazaar draws so many people to the area. It’s wrong and it should stop.”