Dubai: Traders looked in disbelief and sat huddled together in silence as the place where they had earned their livelihoods for over a decade went up in flames before their eyes.

A fire that broke out at 1.45am on Wednesday ravaged the Naif souq, which housed 183 shops selling ready made garments, toys and perfumes.

Jameela Al Za'abi, head of technical operations at Unified Ambulance Services told Gulf News that two firefighters had been transferred to the trauma centre for minor burns.

"Eight people were also treated for smoke inhalation on site," she added.

She said no civilians were injured because the market was closed when the fire broke out.

A team of paramedics along with several units of firefighters rushed to the spot and brought the fire under control before dawn.

Eyewitnesses said that they heard a blast near the air-conditioning unit located next to an electrical transformer inside the souq.

Traders and shop assistants, the majority of whom are from India and Pakistan, said that they have lost everything and it will take a long time for them to start again. Residents and onlookers were seen comforting the shopkeepers. They said that the fire had not only destroyed a market but a historical landmark of Dubai that stood testimony to a bygone era. The market is more popularly known among residents and shopkeepers as the Camel Market.

Obaid Mohammad, an elderly Arab who stood watching the firefighters and paramedics in action, said: "I am very upset. I loved this market. I met here with my friends every other day in the evening. The Naif area will never be the same again. This market was also a landmark."


Mohammad, who lives with his grandchildren, said the market had existed for 30 years, but kept changing its shape through the years.

"It was the oldest market and is the original Deira souq. It used to be an open market but later Dubai municipality built a boundary wall around it."

Zahir, a shop attendant who lived in one of the residential buildings that overlooked the market, said: "I was employed in shop number 233, which sold ready made garments. There was nothing for us to retrieve from there. All that is left behind in our shop is burnt clothes hangers and charred goods."

"A telephone call from an employee who worked in a neighbouring shop got us rushing to the spot," said Sadiq, an Indian employee from shop number 281. "All the employees, as well as traders who had shops in the market, gathered here from 2am. It was a horrible sight to see the entire market go up in flames. Our shop has been doing business here for the last 30 years. This was a market that brought the rich and the middle class people of Dubai under one roof. Everyone came here to shop and the place got jam-packed during festive and holiday seasons,"

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Your comments

While going for dawn prayers, I was taken aback to see thick smoke emitted from the legendary Naif Souk. Negligence of one person can cause great havoc. The concerned authority should take strict actions to avoid such kind of incidents.
Posted: April 02, 2008, 12:23

I stay just close by to Naif Souq and it was a bad situation when we saw the shops burning! Don't know what's happening in Dubai....
Deira, DUBAI,U. A. E.
Posted: April 02, 2008, 09:29

It was a bad scene - 90 percent of the shops were on fire. I felt that the firefighters arrived on the scene too late, even though they are located close by.
Deira, Dubai,UAE
Posted: April 02, 2008, 09:02

I am a resident of Naif. I woke up to fire alarms going off and police and fire sirens. I could see smoke and fire above the souk.
Posted: April 02, 2008, 08:55

This is the second incident so soon after Al Quoz and has caused huge financial loss.
Deira, Dubai,UAE
Posted: April 02, 2008, 08:40

So many fire accidents in just a few weeks! I'm worried about what is happening in Dubai. People should be more vigilant.
Posted: April 02, 2008, 08:30

I woke up last night by a huge sound on my door, one of the colleagues of my friend came rushing to inform my friend that their shop is on fire. By the time he reached their it was too late. The fire fighters were trying their best to put out the fire as the souk has lots of garments. It is a tragic loss.
Posted: April 02, 2008, 08:19