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22 April 2024

Meet UAE girl with 900 plush toys – and she wants more

By Sneha May Francis

When she was a little girl, her mother told her the story of ‘Cinderella’, and ever since UAE’s Rizwana Khan Ghori dreamt of building her own little fairyland.

She was all of seven when she was first introduced to the world of cartoons, and 12 years on, she got around to giving life to her fantasy and started collecting plush toys.

Today, the collection stands at 900!

It's beautifully arranged in one part of her office space (as she’s in the middle of moving homes), and is valued at a staggering Dh300,000.

Among the 900 toys, the most expensive one is valued at Dh10,000. “It’s limited edition Molly Cunningham.” And the least expensive is Jimini Cricket for $1.

She had approached the Guinness Book of World Records, but was told she’s still got a lot more to go before breaking a record. However, closer home, India’s Limca Book of World Records is currently reviewing her collection, and it would be matter of time before she finds her name in the 2016 edition.

Born into the Ghori community, Rizwana spent much of her formative years in Kerala before moving to Sharjah.

Over the years, this 30-year-old has painstakingly put it all together, and 900 toys later, she still believes her collection is incomplete. “There’s never an end to a collector’s dream. There’s always that one toy that can be added to the collection,” says Rizwana, who is constantly communicating with other collectors around the world, trying to source rare finds and even strike a swap deal.

She’s now on the lookout for a 40-inch limited edition of Woody. “I had almost won it in an eBay auction, but lost out in the last minute. It was disappointing, but I’m sure I will get it.”

Her first find was the toy named Gadget, which was made in the 1980s. “There are about 17 of those now, and I have one of them.”

Rizwana locates most of her precious finds on eBay, and agrees her passion doesn’t come cheap. “But, it isn’t about the money. I must add that I started working early on, so I’ve contributed a lot to the collection. It’s not just my father indulging me.”

She remembers how she didn’t have a credit card when she had started her collection, and much of the transaction on eBay then happened through e-payment. “I’ve bought toys from people who were willing to let me send the cash by post. So, I used to go to the Sharjah post office, and put the cash in an envelope and send it to the seller. And, once they received the money they would ship my toy.”

This was around 11 years ago, and she claims to have bought 150 toys like this, where the payment were as low as $6 (roughly valued at Dh22 today).

But, her most special toy is Gadget from rescue ranger. “I had searched for nearly 7 years, and had almost given up hope when one day it propped up on eBay. I couldn’t believe it, and immediately shelled out $1,500 (roughly Dh5,000). I even paid Dh600 for shipping because I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing it.”

Another treasured toy is a limited edition Genie, which her brother had gifted her. “This was 7 years ago, and he gifted the 40-inch Genie saying it would bring magic into my life, and it did.”

Rizwana is upset that she could never meet Walt Disney. “I had visited Disneyland, and returned with 5 suitcases filled with plush toys!”

She is thankful for her father for backing her unconditionally. “He has never asked me why I do what I do. And would always go the extra mile for me. My mother, on the other hand, would occasionally cast her apprehension about my collection.”

In fact, her father has built special racks to display her collection, and has put CCTV cameras in the room. The surveillance footage appears on her phone app. “I can get to view them on my phone whenever. For a collector, there’s always a fear that something would happen to the collection, but now I'm at ease because I can monitor them 247.”

The collection also demands her time, as she has to vacuum them, and ensure they are protected from external damages.

Rizwana’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter strangely isn’t impressed with her collection, and prefers gadgets to plush toys. “Hopefully she’ll learn to appreciate it when she’s a little older.”

If the time ever comes and Rizwana has to bid goodbye to her collection, then she wants to auction it and use a sizeable portion of the funds towards charity.