A Dubai restaurant has transformed into a living museum of sorts, providing customers with a nostalgic haven where they can relive their childhood memories in the UAE.
Owned by Emirati national Ahmad Al Mansoori, Al Embratoor Cook and Restaurant is where the past seamlessly blends with the present. This place was once his home. His bedroom is now an office which he uses for his daily meetings and chat sessions with friends over cups of traditional ghawa.
Pinned memories on the walls
Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing that captivates guests is the visual treat of nostalgia. “There are over 2,500 photos here, and were stapled by me on the wall. [The wall] has [photos of] the landmarks of old Dubai, Sharjah and other emirates. Some of them I clicked, some are bought, and some are collected online,” said Al Mansoori.
For Al Mansoori, it's about more than just decor. “It's a way of showing love and a reminder of a time, memories are kept in things one can touch and hold,” he said.
Blast from the past
Al Embratoor is filled with relics from previous generations – some of them are as old as 80.
The old TV sets, tape recorders, and gramophones bring echoes of the past. “They are the storytellers of what the old era was. Each of them was a technological marvel in those days,” said Al Mansoori.
Additionally, the restaurant boasts a collection of well-functioning audio and video cassettes.
Watch an old movie while dining
For those who are fond of watching TV while eating lunch or dinner, there is an old VCR set and video cassettes of Bollywood and Hollywood movies.
“Some of the electronics are working perfectly fine. Guests do request us for a movie while they dine,” said Al Mansoori.
Vintage cinema tickets
Cinema holds a special place in Al Mansoori's heart, especially during the joyous Eid breaks. “These walls showcase cinema tickets dating back to 1992, a tribute to the period of Deira Cinema, Lamcy Cinema, Almassa Cineplex, and Century Cinema."
“Earlier, it used to be just single-screen theatres... now there are places with a lot of screens, reminding people how entertainment has changed.”
“I still remember going to Amitabh Bachchan movies with my brothers and friends,” said Al Mansoori, who admires the actor.
Soft drink bottles and sweets
One of the many cool collections includes an array of soft drink bottles from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Al Mansoori also has vintage cans, and old cigarettes and beedis.
The shelves are filled with tasty memories. They showcase a nostalgic collection of chocolates like Tiger, chewing gum such as Haitai and Batook, and candies such as Mango Bites and Minoo. “Each thing has its own interesting story. These are from different generations,” said Al Mansoori.
Old photographs and classic perfumes
Walking around the restaurant feels like taking a casual stroll down memory lane. There are many pictures showing Al Mansoori’s time in school, including his old desk, school stationery, and special books.
Then, there are neat displays of perfumes from the 1960s, bottles of sealed shampoo, and soaps in their original wrappers. “Earlier, these soap wrappers had a photo of a model. But now it’s only the branding. It's like experiencing memories with all your senses,” noted Al Mansoori.
Authentic Emirati dishes
Al Mansoori serves authentic Emirati dishes along with some Indian and Lebanese cuisines. He gets regular customers from government departments, who love to remember the past. “My restaurant serves as a perfect place for officials and delegates who visit the country from outside. They just love seeing the old charm of Dubai and UAE. Guests here spent more time exploring every corner of the restaurant than [eating] their food,” said Al Mansoori.
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