Abu Dhabi: As the weekend approached, Musa Khan like all carpet sellers at Mina Zayed, was expecting an influx of customers last Thursday, but he had never imagined His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces to be among the visitors.
When Shaikh Mohammad came calling, Musa’s first reaction was that of disbelief, but the Afghan businessman, whose video showing his refusal to sell a portrait of Shaikh Zayed went viral on social media last year, quickly realised it was not a dream.
Shaikh Mohammad visited Khan at Mina Zayed, a downtown market in Abu Dhabi set up by Shaikh Zayed, to appreciate his gesture of refusing to sell a portrait of Shaikh Zayed despite the insistence of a buyer.
The gesture, shot on a video and posted on social media in October last year, went viral, making Khan popular across the country.
The video shows, Khan, owner of Al Safa Carpet, telling a customer repeatedly, “This is Baba Zayed. This picture is not for sale.”
These words moved Shaikh Mohammad who tweeted, “These words are moving, and through them he expressed his love for Zayed and the founding father’s high stature in his heart. A man came into his shop offering to buy a picture of Shaikh Zayed, and even though the man was insistent, the shop owner vehemently refused. It is indeed a story of loyalty, forged by Shaikh Zayed’s humanity.”
Mina Zayed’s carpet market is well-known for its wide variety of rugs sold at a bargain, housing more than 50 businesses owned mostly by Afghan traders.
Established by Shaikh Zayed to help poor retailers, the market has been in operation for more than four decades.
Speaking to Gulf News about the portrait on Saturday, Khan said: “My father placed a special order in Turkey to weave the picture of Shaikh Zayed on the carpet. This picture is here in the shop for last 25 years.”
The black and white portrait of Shaikh Zayed is woven on a carpet using silk threads. On the first look, visitors might take it for a regular painting on a canvas, however, a closer look reveals an intricately woven piece of artwork created using silk threads.
Khan’s father, Abdul Khader, has been in the carpet business in the capital for more than 30 years, and following his six brothers the 25-year-old joined the business 10 years ago.
“Baba Zayed gave these shops to us decades back when my father used to run the carpet business from a dilapidated hut made of palm trees. But one day he ordered to rebuild it for us,” Khan said.
He added: “The portrait reminds us of Shaikh Zayed’s generosity and humanitarian approach towards us. When decades back my father had nothing, Baba Zayed supported him to open the shop without paying any rents, so how we can sell this portrait now. It’s not about money, our emotions are attached with him.”
Most of Khan’s family is settled in Abu Dhabi, including six of his seven brothers. He also has four sisters.
“My father, who established the carpet business about three decades back, now spends six months in Afghanistan and six months in the UAE. He will be back in the UAE after 25 days,” he said.
During the visit, Shaikh Mohammad gifted Khan a “Year of Zayed” badge and told him that he would come back next month to meet his father.
“We received huge love and compassion from Baba Zayed and now similar attachment is being showered on us by his sons. We truly feel at home here, that’s why our generations work here and run the businesses happily,” Khan said.
Relating the stories he heard from his father of the early days, he added: “Most of our carpets come from Turkey and Afghanistan and Emiratis have mainly been our customers throughout the years. Even Shaikh Zayed used to visit our shops to buy carpets,” Khan said.
On Thursday, excited carpet sellers lined up the narrow corridors of the Mina Zayed market to shake hands with Shaikh Mohammad, bringing back memories of the time when Baba Zayed used to visit.