BY FAZEENA SALEEM
DOHA: With Eid Al Fitr around the corner, traders are exploiting high demand for goods and services by increasing their prices, claim many customers.
They have urged the Consumer Protection Department to strictly monitor the prices of commonly consumed goods and services.
Some say that even goods on offer in Eid discount sales are not really being sold at lower prices. They claim that traders increase their prices before the season and then reduce them ahead of Eid.
Consumption of fruits and vegetables increases at the start of Ramadan. However, it falls by the 15th day of Ramadan, and near Eid Al Fitr the demand for non-food items increases, according to retailers.
Fixed prices for selected food items are announced and monitored by the Consumer Protection Department during Ramadan, and many customers want such monitoring to include non-food items ahead of Eid Al Fitr.
Some customers have expressed their concerns in Arabic newspapers.
“On special occasions, prices are increased by traders in a tricky way, they do it in a way that customers don’t realise it. They do it for some types of sweets when Garangao is nearing. They use attractive wrapping and charge more money. This happens ahead of Eid as well,” said an Arab expatriate.
When Eid Al Fitr approaches, clothes are a major attraction, especially for women and children. Some consumers have expressed shock at the significant increase in prices of imported garments, especially children’s garments and footwear.
“Although there are procedures for discount sales or special offer prices, we feel that the traders are cheating. They initially increase the price and then reduce it. Some have special offers only for clothes from old stocks. The new and good quality ones are sold at higher prices.
“Inspections are more focused on food items; this should change. The number of inspectors should be increased. People also should complain about high prices to the Consumer Protection Department. Traders quoting unreasonable prices for goods should be punished,” said a customer.
Ahead of Eid, demand for abayas is high in the local market, especially for the Qatari and Emirati-designed ones.
Abdul Rasad Zain, an abaya seller, said that Eid was a good time for traders like her, as women are interested in new designs and the demand for abayas increases.
“We get new designs; some are tailor-made. Each shop has its own customers,” she said.
A ready-made abaya would cost, on average, between QR250 and QR800. The price depends on the design and the quality of the cloth, and some pieces can cost more than QR1,000.
Besides, beauty salons become busier during the last week of Ramadan as women prepare for Eid Al Fitr.
Hala Ahmed, manager of a beauty salon, said, “Hair colouring, henna, eyebrow shaping, face make-up are popular among women preparing for Eid.”
She said all her prices complied with a list given by the municipality. A haircut for women costs between QR80 and QR100, hair dressing from QR250 to QR350, face make-up between QR300 and QR350, manicure and pedicure QR120 and hair colouring between QR250 and QR350.
Many people purchase traditional sweets, incense and other items traditionally associated with the festival. Desserts, including chocolates, petits fours and Arabic sweets, especially maamool and ghoraiba, top the orders list.
A shopkeeper in Souq Waqif selling traditional Eid sweets imported from Lebanon, said, “People always buy sweets at the last minute and the night before Eid becomes very busy.”
Shops selling Bukhoor, the scented chips and bricks used to perfume homes, especially during festivals, also do brisk business during the final days of Ramadan. Different varieties of Bukhoor are sold at prices starting from QR15.
“Prices are decided by the quality; there are also very expensive ones. Usually, Qataris and others buy it, and the demand is very high during Ramadan, especially during the festival season,” said a shopkeeper.
Demand for shisha also goes up. As smoking shisha is a part of the culture of many Arabs, they buy tobacco of different flavours, and some restaurants also provide their customers facilities for smoking.
“Since it’s holidays we will get more customers. Many of them like mint and grape flavours,” said an employee at a restaurant preparing the water pipe. He said that prices would not change during the festival.
High prices notwithstanding, a festive mood and a sense of excitement are in the air as the country, along with Muslims all over the world, prepares to celebrate Eid Al Fitr, which marks the culmination of the holy month of Ramadan.
After a month of fasting and prayer, Eid brings in a sense of joy and fulfilment to the faithful. For others, the week-long national holiday provides an opportunity to relax.
Shopping malls, hypermarkets and souqs are packed with people getting ready to celebrate Eid. Grocery stores, barber shops, eateries, tailoring shops, laundries, car wash outlets and garages in residential areas are staying open until late in the night to cater to the rush of customers.
The celebrations will start early in the morning on Monday with thousands of faithful, including women and children, gathering in mosques and prayer grounds to perform the Eid prayer. Some expatriate communities organise their own Eid congregations where sermons are delivered in their language.
Eid Al Fitr is particularly important to Qataris because it is a time when the entire family comes together. They make it a point to spend at least the first day of Eid here even if they are travelling out of the country to spend the rest of the holidays.
The thousands of expatriates who spend their Eid holidays here try to follow their native traditions.
For many, the harsh weather at this time of the year and the small number of venues for entertainment during the holidays are a dampener. Moreover, the zoo and one shopping mall are closed.
Another category of people — the low-income workers who stay home due to financial constraints and the fact that they are not allowed into many public places, including parks, shopping malls and some beaches — devises its own ways to celebrate Eid.