Sharjah: In the old Rolla area of Sharjah, dotted with backstreets teeming with small shops, you can still find popular magazines from India and Pakistan.
It’s a throwback to the 1980s, when magazines were popular pastimes, especially for expats longing for some culture and news from back home.
Equally nostalgic are the decades-old shops — bare-bones, tiny, and draped with magazines and newspapers. Shopkeepers said readership has taken a hit with the spread of the internet and mobile phones. Still, as many of the magazines do not have a website, the only way to read one is to buy one. Prices range between Dh6 and Dh12, depending on the magazine.
Most of the magazines are in Malayalam and Tamil languages, but there are a few in Urdu, Hindi and Gujarati — major languages spoken in India.
Women’s magazines and showbiz periodicals dominate the sales, as do newspapers from India and Pakistan. Popular titles include Vanitha, Grihalakshmi, Manorama Weekly, Mathrubhumi, Chandrika, and Femina.
Hamza Abu Bakr, a salesman at the 35-year-old Abilash Store, said the shop used to sell only magazines and newspapers before.
“We have added things likes toys, accessories, textbooks, stationery items, because many people don’t read anymore. In the old days, there were just two or three places where you could find these magazines, so customers kept coming back,” he added.
Manikoth Balan, a salesman at the nearby Kalpaka Store, which started selling magazines in 1981, also said demand has slowed down. “Some of the magazines don’t appear in the market anymore — I don’t know if that’s because they have closed down. But women’s magazines, celebrity news, romance stories and newspapers are still doing OK.”
Balan added: “I’ve worked at this shop since 1981. There are just a few shops — four or five — in this area that still sell magazines. Readers have gone online.”
Both shops are located near the Rolla bus stand, close to the “UAE Exchange/Juice World Lane”.
Across the bus stand, parallel to the popular Pak Ghazi restaurant, Masfoot Stationery Store has been selling magazines for more than 30 years, although their main business is office supplies, school stationery and computer accessories. Shop manager Amir said there are still customers who prefer the hard copy over digital — and it is this dwindling class of readers that have kept the magazine business afloat.
Salahudin, a Pakistani reader, said he was “pleasantly shocked” to find his favourite Pakistani Urdu magazine, Jasoosi Digest, in Rolla.
“I can’t believe they sell this here. When I was younger — I’m in my 40s now — I used to stay up all night reading the Jasoosi spy-related mysteries. Once you started, you couldn’t put it down because of the suspense — you wanted to know what will happen at the end of the story,” Salahudin, who works as a contractor, added.