Ajman: When Pakistani expatriate Mohammad Yasin first came to Dubai, 55 years ago, in 1966, life was not easy. Jobs were hard to find and comforts such as an air-conditioner, refrigerator or a car were only within reach of the wealthy, who were also few.
Yet, despite the hardships, Yasin, now 75, misses the “simplicity and peace of mind” of that era.
As a 20-year-old, he had set sail from the Pakistani city of Karachi to Dubai in search of livelihood. It would be months before he would find his first job, at a car workshop. He worked for around a year without pay — all he got in return were daily meals.
“I wanted a change of job and heard from a fellow countryman that a new trend was on the rise in Al Ain — people were wiring their homes to get electricity. I knew some electrical work so I was hired out by a contractor,” said Yasin, who now lives in Ajman with his wife and five daughters.
In Al Ain, Yasin said he had met late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Founding Father, who was then the governor of Al Ain. “He was very kind and attentive to my needs, as he was with everyone,” Yasin said.
He returned to Dubai for what was meant to be a two-week holiday, but decided to stay on. After weighing his options, Yasin decided to take a bold step. He started his own car workshop in Ajman — the first one for the emirate in 1968, he said. It was a bold move because there were hardly any cars — or roads — around. “I was struggling, but the then Ruler of Ajman, Shaikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, offered me support. The small community around me also helped me. I fell in love with Ajman and its people and I’ve lived here ever since.”
Serving in the Scouts
Within a year, another opportunity came knocking. A member of the British force in the area (this was before UAE’s unification in 1971), known as Trucial Oman Scouts, offered Yasin a job. “They gave me a test: ‘Start this broken-down car’. I got it running and passed the test. I was hired for 450 rupees [Indian currency was in use in UAE at that time],” Yasin said.
He was with the Scouts until it transformed itself into the Union Defence Force when the UAE was formed in 1971, which then became the UAE Armed Forces. Yasin said he went with his unit, whose vehicles he looked after, to Kuwait in 1991, during the war with Iraq. He retired from the UAE army in 1993. Yasin then worked as a PRO with a Pakistani company in the UAE until recently.
Shopping for Eid
“I miss the old days. We had no electricity, TV or mobile phones. There were no malls, there were hardly any shops. But life was good, everyone knew each other and helped one another. We would spend hours just sitting and talking in the evenings,” Yasin said.
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“It was a time when cars and roads were a luxury. I remember how people would go from Ajman to Sharjah when it was low-tide, using the beach as the ‘road’, in their four-wheel drives. I would walk to Sharjah sometimes to shop for Eid.”
Life was less expensive too. A cinema ticket cost one rupee, a trip from Dubai to Karachi was 60 rupees by ship.
After a lifetime of hard work, Yasin is now focused on spending quality time with his family.