Representatives from the awarded outlets with DCT Abu Dhabi officials. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Fifteen long-running stores in Abu Dhabi have been recognised as urban treasures by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) for their historical significance and standing within the community.

Identified as part of the city’s vibrant cultural and urban scene, the establishments have been given the first Urban Treasures award during a heartwarming ceremony in the capital.

“By recognising and rewarding our economic, social and cultural ‘treasures’, DCT Abu Dhabi is ensuring the sustainable development of the emirate for both current and future generations. Only through these meaningful investments into our communities can long-term prosperity be achieved and social integration promoted. The Urban Treasures 2021 establishments come from every sector and showcase the best qualities and attributes of our historically important businesses, demonstrating the values and aspirations we seek to instill throughout the emirate,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, DCT Abu Dhabi chairman.

2021 awardees

Awardees for the 2021 edition include a variety of outlets, from department stores to restaurants, and from fabric stores to bakeries. They include Al Aqssa Sweets, Al Ibrahimi Restaurant, Al Raiqa Date and Fruit Trading, Al Safa Carpet, Al Sultan Markets and Bakeries, All Prints, Corniche Automatic Bakeries and Markets, Jashanmal National Company, Bu Ta’fish Restaurant, Tripoli Sweets, Lebanon Flower Bakery, India Palace Restaurant, Al Dhafra Restaurant, Malik and Shaheed Shops, and Zahrat Lebnan Cafeteria and Restaurant.

Each outlet was presented with a brass plaque that can be displayed outside the store, identifying it as an Urban Treasure.

“For many of us who have lived here a long time, these are well known places to frequent. But Abu Dhabi has a very transient society, so the award spreads awareness among newcomers among the which establishments are deeply rooted. In the post-pandemic situation, the survival of many stores has come under threat, and this prize therefore helps long-running outlets maintain their presence as thriving businesses in the community,” explained Yasmeen Al Rashidi, unit head for modern and urban heritage at the DCT Abu Dhabi.

She added that only outlets that had been operating for more than 20 years had been selected for the first edition of the prize, and that newer stores can apply for the award once they meet this criterion in future years.

Heartfelt applause

At the award ceremony in the capital, each recipient was greeted with thunderous applause as they received the Urban Treasures plaque from Al Mubarak and Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, chairman at the Department of Community Development.

The oldest of the winners – Jashanmal National Company – has been running in the capital city as a department store since 1964. Mohan Jashanmal, shareholder of Jashanmal Group of Companies, told Gulf News that he remembered a time when there was not even a dirt road between the emirates.

“My father first opened our shop in 1992, and we have been serving the community since. To be recognised in this manner is truly a great honour,” said Nadeem Baloushi, manager of Malik and Shaheed Shops. The store is a well-recognised fabric store located in the capital’s Madinat Zayed area.

Well-loved eateries

Wissal Ahmad, chief executive officer of Al Ibrahimi Group, received the accolade for Al Ibrahimi Restaurant, a well-loved Pakistani eatery that now has nine branches across the UAE.

“When our first restaurant opened its doors, Abu Dhabi was still ‘a two-street city’, with most of the commercial outlets located on one of the two streets. We’ve grown since then to include nine large-format restaurants and a resort, but it still an honour to share the stage with so many loved establishments,” Ahmad said.

For Mahmoud Hanoun, founder of Al Aqssa Sweets, the award is valued appreciation from the government. The sweet shop specialises in Arabian treats like knafeh, warbat and basboosa, and has been serving customers since 1980.

“We would have about five people coming down to the store when we first opened. Now, we see upwards of 45 customers every day. And to have our place recognised by the Abu Dhabi Government is an altogether special feeling,” Hanoun said.

Another awardee – India Palace – has also seen tremendous growth over the years. K Muralee Dharan, founder, said the restaurant still aims to present an authentic maharaja-style dining experience to patrons.

“This award simply spurs us on to try and contribute more to the UAE,” Muralee Dharan said.

When did the shops open?

Jashanmal National Company opened its first department store in Abu Dhabi in 1964.

All Prints opened its first book store in Abu Dhabi in 1968.

Bu Ta’fish opened its first seafood restaurant in Abu Dhabi in 1968.

Lebanon Flower opened its first bakery in Abu Dhabi in 1972.

Al Aqssa Sweets opened its first sweets shop in Abu Dhabi in 1980.

Tripoli Sweets opened its first sweets shop in Abu Dhabi in 1987.

Corniche Automatic Bakeries and Markets opened its first bakery and supermarket in Abu Dhabi in 1988.

Al Sultan Markets and Bakeries opened its first bakery and supermarket in Abu Dhabi in 1990.

Malik and Shaheed opened its first fabric shop in Abu Dhabi in 1992.

Al Ibrahimi Restaurant opened its first outlet in Abu Dhabi in 1993.

Al Dhafra Restaurant opened its first Arabian seafood restaurant in Abu Dhabi in 1993.

A Safa Carpet opened its first stop in Abu Dhabi’s Mina area in 1996.

India Palace opened its first restaurant in Abu Dhabi in 1997.

Zahrat Lebnan, a well-loved restaurant chain that offers Lebanese cuisine, and Al Raiqa Date and Fruit Trading, a supermarket and dates shops in the capital’s Al Mina area, were also honoured.