Inheriting a legacy: Hassan Khoury and Mohammad Ali, second and third from the left Image Credit: AHMED RAMZAN/XPRESS

Dubai: They are Muslims, but their grasp of Hindu rites and rituals is as good as that of a Hindu priest.

They run the only Muslim-owned shop near the Hindu temple on the Bur Dubai Creek selling garlands, fruit and other items for worship.

Abdullah Hussain Khoury who died in 1997 at 60 set up shop in the bustling old Dubai locality more than four decades ago when the UAE was yet to be formed, making it also among the oldest groceries in town selling Hindu religious items.

“We are following in the footsteps of our forefathers who handed down this business to us,” said Hassan Khoury, 46, the man who inherited the family-run business from his grandfather Hussain Khoury in whose name also stands a toy shop not far from Al Asheera Grocery.

Hussain Khoury spent the greater part of his life in the UAE before handing over the reins of Al Asheera to his extended family.

“It’s a tradition we are proud of and want to keep it going for as long as we can,” said Mohammad Ali who is married to Hassan Khoury’s daughter.

Not just any grocery

Today Al Asheera isn’t just any other grocery. They have been in their new location, the narrow alley next to Gate 1 of the temple just by the creek for almost 20 years, selling everything from special rudrakasha beads to tulsi, the ‘holy Basil’ to vermillion, traditionally worn by married Hindu women in India to denote their status.

Originally from Khur in Iran, the Khourys speak Persian but will chat you up in English, Arabic and fluent Urdu or Hindi.

In case you are lost in the muddle, they will even guide you on what to offer to which Hindu deity on which day of the week. “You offer Shiva (‘The Destroyer’) milk on Mondays, oil to Hanuman (the Monkey deity) on Tuesdays and modak (a sweet) to Ganesh (the Elephant deity) on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, you offer something yellow to Sai Baba (an Indian saint) and on Saturdays, something black for Shani-dev (Saturday deity) puja,” Ali, the bespectacled 37-year-old rattles off in less than a minute.

Yet they haven’t tried to hide their faith at all.

“Allah is the biggest provider” reads the signpost in Arabic followed by English at the entrance of the shop.

‘Allah has been kind’

“Allah has been kind to us. Tuesdays and Saturdays are particularly good for us because we sometimes make up to Dh2,500 on each of these days,” said Hassan Khoury.