It is a story of a Pakistani expatriate family business started from scratch 63 years ago in Doha. Soon to be taken over by the third generation, the success speaks volumes about the endurance of the family that has earned its spurs.
Kashmir Fashion Tailors is not just a family business. It stands for what people with humble demeanour can attain in Qatar through persistent hard work. Abdul Majeed, owner of the tailoring shop, takes pride in what his late father Haji Abdul Hameed achieved and passed it on.
“Actually, the Kashmir Tailors was set up by Mohamed Anwar, elder brother of my father, who landed in Qatar as early as 1955. He then called my father to the country in 1957 and the same year my father started his separate shop with the name of Kashmir Tailors and Drycleaners in Msheireb area,” said Majeed, whose family hails from Gujranwala in Punjab province of Pakistan, recollecting the old memories.
Majeed’s paternal uncle along with his two brothers used to stitch uniforms for Pakistan Air Force in Karachi before he moved to Qatar. “When my uncle came here, he called my father. He was the first sponsor of my father in Qatar under the British authorities. It was in 1966 that my father got the first Qatari visa. My uncle and then my father both voyaged to Qatar back then. However, after the death of my uncle few years ago, his son did not continue the business but we continued.”
Majeed moved to Qatar first when he was only five and then went back to Pakistan for studies. “Our father had a big lawn in his house in Doha. He used to commute first by his bicycle and then he bought a motorbike. In the courtyard, we used to dry the washed clothes. People coming from Pakistan to Qatar for the first time used to stay at our house until they found their own residence.”
“Life back then was very simple. There were very few foreigners and the population was small. It was a British government administration here. My father’s passport still bears visas with stamps issued by the British authorities. I remember we used to purchase water for drinking from suppliers, mostly Iranian people, who would charge a few Indian rupees for two pots of water that they would deliver home,” he said.
Majeed, whose shop has been located at Bin Mahmoud area for over 10 years now, joined his father after spending some time in Pakistan. He still cherishes the memories of old Doha. “The sea was up to the area of Arab Bank roundabout or the Iranian market that is now called Souq Waqif. It was gradually filled with sand up to the area which is now called Corniche. There was a fish market there as well and a vegetable market.”
The businessman’s father was offered Qatari nationality many times by the then ruler, who was acquainted with his father. “My father used to visit his residence and he would always send for my father whenever he wanted to get clothes stitched. But my father said he did not know if he would stay here for long. He said he might go back in a year or two as the population here was very small.”
The tailors used to have and still do have a large base of customers and Majeed attributes it to his father’s hard work and dedication. “He had many tailors employed at his shop, yet he would cut the clothes himself. My father used to have many customers from the Royal Family of Qatar. We still have very loyal and high profile Qatari customers. A large number of Western diplomats still prefer suits stitched at our shop.”
Speaking about the changes in clothing trends, the longtime resident of Qatar said: “Earlier, people used to have more heavy stuff as it was real cold during winters. With the changing weather, the trends have also changed. Now, people prefer lighter stuff even for winter. Though the trend for readymade clothes has increased over the years, Qataris still prefer custom-made clothes.”
Majeed remembers life in old Qatar as one with its own charm but finds the modern one with its own beauty. “We have seen incredible development, particularly after the new millennium. Many new malls have come up. Earlier, there were not many avenues for people to go outing. Now they can go to malls. The first was City Center I guess; now, there are many others and many more are coming up. My business has grown manifold. Our shop is now more spacious. The government has given us a shop in Souq Waqif as we run one of the oldest tailoring shops in Qatar. My son has already learnt the business traits and hopefully is going to continue it. Qatar is our home in real sense as whatever we have, we got from here.”