Mohammad Shami, a Key maker from Syria, makes the locks keys at the ‘Prince of Keys’ shop. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

ABU DHABI: Tiny shops that line narrow alleys of in Abu Dhabi’s Khalidiyah area scarcely draw attention as people walk past but the merchandise within plays a life-saving role in emergencies — when a child gets locked in a car or people get locked inside apartments during a fire.

For the locksmiths working in these key shops, their experiences are as varied as are the shapes and grooves of the keys they make.

It is common for them to get customers who find themselves locked out of their house, have misplaced a set of keys or are frantic about their children having accidentally locked themselves inside a car. The locksmith’s assistance in such situations is invaluable.

Mohammad Shami, a locksmith working in the area for 14 years, said, “It takes only a minute to open a locked car or an apartment’s doors and we get such cases now and then.”

“Our service is offered round the clock. Anybody can approach us any time. Sometimes, we get calls in the middle of the night from the police and Civil Defence officials seeking help to open locks of cars or apartments,” the 36-year-old Syrian expatriate told Gulf News.

A couple of years back, key makers would get two to three calls a week from the police to assist residents and motorists but nowadays, the frequency has reduced to two to three calls a month, according to locksmiths.

“I have handled many cases in the past. In one case, a baby got locked inside a BMW car at the Abu Dhabi Corniche and the Civil Defence called me. I opened the lock within a minute and more than 500 people clapped and cheered and the mother of the baby thanked me,” Shami said. “It was a proud moment for us.”

In another incident, he said, a building’s watchmen called him to open an apartment’s lock. The woman of the house stepped out to drop garbage bag down the chute when a gust of wind slammed the front door shut. She was cooking and smoke was billowing from the kitchen when the door was unlocked, said Shami, who works at Prince of Keys in Abu Dhabi.

However, the most shocking incident was when he was asked to unlock an apartment’s door and upon entering it, he saw three bodies.

“A family was inside the apartment and they were not responding to phone calls. After the police called me, I unlocked the apartment’s door and found three bodies inside — two men and a woman who had slashed their wrists,” Shami said.

Shami said that unless they receive the original identification and contacts of the person concerned, they never open any lock. In suspicious or complicated cases, “we ask them to bring a police approval”, he said. “{Also], while opening any safe, we need papers from the police,” Shami said.

For locksmith Mohammad Ianullah Khan, key duplication is a family business. His father and brother are in the same business.

Khan receives two to five calls a month and they are mostly to do with locked vehicle doors with the keys inside.

“Mostly, people approach the police and the police then call the nearby locksmith,” said the 24-year-old Pakistani who works at Smart Keys on Muroor Road.

Given that losing a set of keys of a car or a house is very stressful, Khan advises residents to keep a duplicate key or a remote key with them at all times.

Another key maker in Abu Dhabi, Mahran Al Azhari, 35, from Syria, said, “All keys have different sets of lock combinations, codes and sizes, and it takes 30 minutes to make a key once it’s lost but duplication takes only a minute.”

Generally, key makers duplicate between 20 and 50 keys a day. But sometimes, the number dips, he said. Al Azhari gets two to three cases a month of children getting locked inside the car.

Normal key duplicating charges begin at Dh10 and go up to Dh3,500, depending on the key combinations, electronic codes and size of locks.

“Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW have the most complicated key combinations and the key making costs for these cars can touch Dh3,500 [for a new key]. We have to programme it afresh,” said Al Azhari, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for eight years.

On the other hand, normal key making for cars is Dh150, while duplication costs Dh100.