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Down the years in Abu Shagara.

Byline: From empty stretches of sand, the Sharjah locality has been transformed into an enormous car park.

Sharjah: It used to be full of empty land and had only a few residential buildings. How I miss those days," sighs Haroon Abu Amar, a Palestinian resident of Bu Danig.

Abu Amar, 31, has been living in the same building for 20 years and has seen all the changes in the neighbourhood.

He vividly remembers playing football in the neighbourhood since he was 11 years old, and even though he did not play on a grassed football field was content with playing on the sandy lots between the residential buildings.

"It is sad to see how the place has changed over the years, and there is no space to play football anymore. The deserted areas have become parking lots and it is not safe to let children play in the neighbourhood."

The used-car market at Abu Shagara is extended over two areas - one near the public park and the other behind Mega Mall that is known as Bu Danig, which is where Abu Amar lives. However, now that the used cars have engulfed the two areas, the neighbourhood looks like one large, stagnant car park.

Once an empty plot of land, Abu Shagara has now become the busiest place in Sharjah and is home to the largest used-car market in the Middle East. With the vast amount of cars taking over the neighbourhood, Abu Amar has no choice but to refuse letting his five and six-year-old children walk alone.

"When I was a child, there were three places in the neighbourhood where I could play football. Now, there's no space for anything and it is difficult to even walk there because of all the cars blocking the footpaths," he says.

The infamous Abu Shagara has been on residents' nerves since the early 1990s, and the problem apparently looks like it will continue to last until 2010.

"I know that the cars will one day be relocated to another area, but when will that be? The problem will continue and it looks like we will all continue to live in a car park for several more years," says Abu Amar.

Sharjah Municipality previously announced that the used-car showrooms will be relocated to Riqqa Al Hamra, near Sharjah International Airport, and will be known as the Auto Zone Market.

According to Dr Salah Al Hajj, Director General of Sharjah Municipality, the Auto Zone Market will occupying a space of 877,495 square metres and is expected to be completed in two years.

"The used-car market in Sharjah is the largest in the Middle East and has over 186,000 transactions per year," says Al Hajj, adding that more than 440 shops operate in Abu Shagara and Bu Danig, which occupy 70 per cent of the parking spaces in the area.

While walking past residential buildings, it has become an all-too familiar sight to see metal poles attached with a locked chain - a sign that the parking space is reserved. Plastic chairs are scattered around the area, watchmen are bribed and five-kilogramme tin boxes are filled to the brim with sand and placed in empty parking spaces.

Apparently there is no end to what tricks a person can come up with next when in dire need of reserving a parking space.

When I was a child, there were three places in the neighbourhood where I could play football. Now, there's no space for anything and it is difficult to even walk there because of all the cars blocking the footpaths."

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Sep 12, 2008
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