Dr Ahmad Farid sitting on the same bench (left) at the Dubai Zoo where he was photographed by his father over two decades ago. He even bought a bottle of Coca Cola to recreate the scene. Image Credit: Ahmad

Dubai: As a child, Ahmad used to often visit Dubai Zoo with his siblings and father. He enjoyed interacting with the animals in what was Dubai’s first zoo. Ahmad is no longer that little Emirati boy. He is now Dr Ahmad Farid, who works in a government hospital in Dubai. However, the pictures taken by his father, Farid Mohammad Saadi Al Rais, kept his memories about his zoo visits as a child alive.

As an adult, he continued visiting the zoo once in a while.

When he heard that the 50-year-old zoo is closing its doors to the public in a week as the animals are shifted to Dubai Safari, his father, a former Dubai Municipality engineer now working with a private developer, decided to head to the zoo again with his family on Saturday to refresh their memories.

He took pictures of Dr Farid sitting on the same bench where he was photographed over two decades ago.

Since the little Ahmad was holding a Coke can in the old picture, he bought a Coca Cola bottle to give the same feel to the new photo.

“It was fun,” said Dr Farid, who was accompanied by his parents, sister and uncle.

Taking the trip down the memory lane was a beautiful experience, he told Gulf News.

“Whenever the weather was good we used to go and see the animals. I cherished the moments with the lions, monkeys and giraffes,” Dr Farid recollected.

“The place looked bigger and active with many animals then. Even the cages had only two fences. Now, there are three.”

Like him, several residents who grew up visiting the zoo and live nearby would miss it once it closes on November 5.

“It is a landmark. It is going to be missed,” said Lebanese expatriate Jad Raed, who sees the zoo almost every day when he goes for a jog.

“My nephew is really sad that it is closing down. He used to visit the zoo now and then.”

“I will miss the sound of the birds and animals. The cacophony might have been a disturbance for those who live very close to the zoo. But for me, it was kind of entertaining to hear them occasionally.”

Free parking zone

The street along the zoo is the only place where motorists do not have to pay for parking in Jumeirah.

Dr Reza Khan, principal wildlife specialist with Dubai Safari and Dubai Municipality, who served the zoo for 25 years, said the zoo management had made a special request to exclude the area from the paid parking zone.

“We were concerned that people would be discouraged from visiting the zoo if it was made a paid parking zone.”

Residents have been flocking to the zoo even after Dubai Municipality announced that most of the animals have been moved to Dubai Safari. While some came to catch the last glimpse of the wildlife in the facility, some turned up without knowing about its closure.

Zahid Abid from Kyrgyzstan, who lives in Ajman, came with his family including two children. “I have taken my kids here two times before. When I read online about the closure of the zoo, I thought of bringing them again,” said Abid, a ground operations manager at Sharjah Airport.

Maria Eisa, an Emirati living in Ras Al Khaimah came with her twin boys aged two. “We didn’t know the zoo is closing. On my way my brother called up and said it is closed. But when I rang them up, they said they are still open. So, we got a chance to see it.”

Visitors said they are happy that the animals will get better facilities at Dubai Safari, which they are also eagerly waiting to visit.

Dubai Municipality has invited the public to visit the zoo for free and attend its closing ceremony on Sunday when officials and worker who served the zoo will be honoured,