Dubai: Reforms by Spain to nix three-hour siestas for shorter daily business hours is not a move to be mirrored in the UAE, said workers on Tuesday in Dubai.
Similar to Spain’s response to intense heat during midday, UAE shops and business have traditionally shuttered their premises for an afternoon respite in favour of cooler evenings to resume business later in the day.
Mariano Rajoy, who heads Spain’s moderate coalition government, has called for an end to his country’s 2pm-5pm siesta to streamline business operating hours from 10am to 6pm for a better fit in the European marketplace.
On Tuesday, Dubai business owners and managers told Gulf News that the time-honoured tradition in Arab countries of breaking for the afternoon makes sense as a time to escape the sweltering heat, rest, have lunch with family and catch up on lighter duties when there are no customers in the marketplace.
Traders continue the practice in older market areas across Dubai such as in Bur Dubai and Deira along Dubai Creek.
Abbas Ali Ansari, one of three brothers who operate popular Ostadi Special Restaurant, said his eatery shuts down every day from 4-pm6.30pm to rest and strengthen family ties.
The family, he said, believes the afternoon downtime is important to remind ourselves that quality family time is one of the most important blessings in life.
“We are three brothers and we work very hard. The break is good, we talk a lot, our families come to see us. Work isn’t everything, you must stop for a time and live.”
Ali Ansari said the break is also good business sense because the human body needs to relax each day to do a better job: “We’re not machines, you have to take of yourself and look down the road. You have to take a break.”
Joby Babu, 33, manager at Marshal Travel in Bur Dubai, said his firm has observed the afternoon break for as long as he can remember.
“The time is good because for two hours we can rest,” Babu said. “Not many people come because it is very hot during that time of the day. Our customers don’t come until after 6pm for tickets or visas. We stay open later in the day because we do not want our customers to suffer in the afternoon.”
Ramesh Kumar, owner of Al Muhtaram Laundry on Musallah Road in Bur Dubai, said for his business, the afternoon break is a critical rest from long steady hours washing and pressing untold numbers of clothing items.
“We are very hard workers and we start from 8.30am. We work until 9pm so it is a long day. We are on our feet all day and need several hours’ resting time,” Kumar said. “We’re not missing any business during our break, all our customers come after their work.”
Kumar said the afternoon respite “is a good tradition that we should keep. For some businesses, it is good.”
But not everyone who works in the Al Fahidi neighbourhood in Bur Dubai closes its doors come afternoon.
Mohammad Arshad operates Al Fareed Shoes and Repairing and says he works 15-hour days to make sure his door is always open for customers.
“Sometimes customers come to us when other stores are closed,” Arshad said. “We never close for a break, we eat lunch here. All our customers are happy.”
It appears the shoe-repair industry is highly competitive in this part of the city given that just down the street Bright Ocean Trading shoe sales and repair remains open all day as well.
“We stay open all day for customers and it is good for business,” said Akbar Khan, salesman, noting they are open every day from 8am-10pm.
“People always need to bring their shoes that we fix, any time of the day,” he said.