Positioned just off the busy Sharjah-Dubai highway, the empty Eppco petrol station is all the more striking.
Dubai-based oil retailer Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) — which owns Eppco stations announced on Saturday it is likely to make a loss of Dh2.7 billion this year due to the cost of providing subsidised fuel.
But the fate of Sharjah's petrol stations remains a mystery to residents. An Enoc spokesman was unavailable for comment last night and neither security staff posted to guard these petrol wastelands, nor the few retailers on the premises have been informed of when the stations will open.
A lone Dunkin Donuts is the only facility on the deserted Al Nahda site. The Star Mart and other car services are closed and the pumps are sectioned off with black tape.
This service station is closed. Sorry for the inconvenience," a cheerful red and white sign reads, giving no explanation as to when the inconvenience will be resolved.
Enoc employees stand guard at some stations, taking three daily shifts, but other staff have long been transferred to stations in Dubai and other emirates.
At one station an Eppco employee emerges from the closed Mini Mart, where the only stocks are cartons of car lube.
He is posted here for security to guard the boxes and report to the head office any nearby car accidents that could be dangerous to the station, he says. Asked when the stations are expected to re-open or what is happening after being closed by the Sharjah government, he replied: "It's our internal communication. I cannot tell you. Speak to the head office."
In another station in the Al Tawun neighbourhood, the term Vacuum Bay takes a whole new meaning, since the site has been empty for months.
The security employee here has the 2pm shift for eight hours to guard the computers inside, he says.
"Two days ago some tankers came and took all the petrol to Dubai," he said, but had no idea when the station would re-open.
Al Tawun residents use the empty Al Sherouq station for parking.
"I work late at night and it's hard to get parking. So I just use the station to park my car," said Marwan, who lives in the building opposite, as he navigates his car out of the station. Al Tawun residents are hit particularly hard by the station closures, he says.
"There is no station serving Al Tawun now. We either have to drive to Dubai or Sharjah and go to Al Wahda Street," he says. "It's not just a waste of time, but you also use up more fuel."
In June, the Sharjah government shut down all the stations in the Enoc Group in the emirate after they failed to comply with government demands to resume service.
Left in the dark
Retailers operating in the shut-down Enoc petrol stations are left in the dark about when they are expected to re-open while they continue to lose customers.
"We are losing 10 to 15 per cent of our customers," said one employee, who works at a Dunkin Donuts in a Sharjah Eppco station.
Employees at the F&B retail outlets speculated about the situation, as Enoc management failed to update retailers and the public.
"They were supposed to make a decision last week, but now there is silence," said one employee at a Krispy Kreme in one of the Sharjah Enoc stations.
He added that his manager depended on him for information based on what he hears around the station.
"We are getting fewer customers, it's not like before," said a Burger King employee at another station.
Al Thaki, a fast food restaurant in one of the stations, was shut down recently, with old newspapers lining the closed windows.
No store managers at the F&B outlets were available to be interviewed at the time