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ABU DHABI'S GILDED DREAMS

DELIGHT THE SENSES WITH MODERN-DAY EXOTICISM

Less flashy than Dubai, yet packed with activities for those seeking the high life, Abu Dhabi is the epicurean, cultural and artisanal epicenter of the region.

ABU DHABI ART HUB

As Abu Dhabi’s mega-museum development on the Saadiyat cultural district gains momentum, the capital is also bolstering support for home-grown artists by opening mixed-use creative spaces and artist residencies. Enter the Abu Dhabi Art Hub – the first artist community and 24-hour living space established in the UAE offering residencies for foreign artists, international opportunities for Emrati artists and thriving, creative exchange between the two.

NESTLED WITHIN THE HOMOGENOUS BUILDINGS OF ABU DHABI’S INDUSTRIAL ZONE LIES AN OASIS OF ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT FOR THE MIDDLE EAST

Inside the art hub’s cool and airy main gallery, an inner balcony overlooks spacious private studios while upstairs and around are offices, galleries and apartments. Since its opening, more than 100 artists have resided in this creative gathering center for inspiration and interaction.

ART BY COUNTRY

As a platform for connecting national and international artists to the Emirates, the hub has provided accommodation, workspace and exhibition space to artists from all over the world, including Germany, Britain, Iran, South Korea, the Philippines, America and India. Individually and collectively, these promising young talents are given the freedom and platform to hone their skills in their respective disciplines, network and promote themselves. Besides exhibitions, the hub also hosts mentoring programs and partnering schemes.

THE BACKGROUND COLOR OF EACH PAINTING IS A COLOR OF THE ABU DHABI FLAG: RED, WHITE, BLACK, AND GREEN. AND EACH IMAGE SYMBOLIZES AN ASPECT OF THE PEOPLE.


American painter, Brenda Zlamany and former Abu Dhabi Art Hub resident artists on her Portrait of Abu Dhabi in Four Parts: Camel, Coffee Pot, Date Palm and Chandelier

Alongside its global perspective, the Art Hub also has roots deeply entrenched in the community. The center has held engaging street art exhibitions, art in the desert programs, pottery and jewelry-making workshops, as well as interactive events on art history, live painting, film and children’s art.

THE OTHER

BLACK GOLD

It’s official: Caffeine addiction is universal, not least in Abu Dhabi, where rich, aromatic Arabian coffee plays an integral role in the social scene. Roasted from green coffee beans and mixed with a touch of cardamom, clove, or even saffron, coffee in the capital has a distinct scent and taste that has not changed for centuries. For example, in Al Arish, a kitschy Emirati restaurant, serving proper Arabic coffee in the traditional way is taken very seriously. Here, the Arabic cup (finjaan) is always held in the right hand and the flask in the left.

With coffee chains like Costa and Starbucks throughout the Emirates, the locals’ relationship with the brew goes beyond on-the-go caffeine fixes, involving ritual and tradition.

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At modern cafés like the glitzy Shakespeare & Co. however, one may enjoy a serious cuppa alongside delicious Western pastries and cakes.

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With stylish new cafés booming throughout the region, coffee culture is becoming increasingly intertwined with the local art scene. At Café Arabia, artists celebrate their art with the community.

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A private gallery titled “Gems of the Middle East” was showcased at Café Arabia, featuring various artists from Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. The café strives to bridge people together over coffee and culture.

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AS LONG AS THERE WAS COFFEE IN THE WORLD, HOW BAD COULD THINGS BE?

– CASSANDRA CLARE, CITY OF ASHES

OLD WORLD FLIGHTS

Even though Abu Dhabi has become a playground for the well-heeled, old ways still persist, and today you can find aviaries of skater falcons throughout the nation. Birds are flown and trained daily so that falconers can hunt with them in neighboring parts of Syria or Iraq (hunting is restricted in Abu Dhabi.) In fact, so respected are the birds that prized United Arab Emirates falcons actually have their own passports. Watch these majestic birds take flight at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the world's foremost falcon welfare institution.
Wild falcons were traditionally captured by hunters. Today, however, the centuries-old practice has been developed into a sport and preserved as part of the region’s cultural heritage.
The constant companion of the Bedouin hunter, falcons take months to tame and become members of their masters’ families once trained.
Due to the arduous training process, the national bird is highly prized and trained raptors are attached with radio tracking transmitters.
Stroke, hold and watch these regal birds of prey being treated at the state-of-the-art falcon hospital, which features an air-conditioned aviary.

GOURMET EXOTICA

With a vibrant restaurant scene offering cuisine from around the world, Abu Dhabi is a bubbling crucible of epicurean creations, recipes and flavors. Expose your taste buds to an eclectic spread, from great Ethiopian food and Afghan breads to mouth-watering Catalan cuisine.
Discover
  • ECLECTIC EATS

    Abu Dhabi boasts some of the best international cuisine in the world, from the fieriest curries outside of India to award-winning Chinese eateries. It is also home to many excellent modern European establishments including Catalan, a newly unveiled restaurant decked out to resemble a traditional 19th century home from the region around Barcelona. The menu, however, reflects a light and modern approach to the Mediterranean region’s gastronomic offerings.

    Visit Catalan

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  • FABULOUS BAKER BOYS

    Afghan bakeries and their wonderfully soft bread are cheap and plentiful, staffed by migrants escaping the political turmoil back home. The freshly baked flatbreads have won a strong local following over the years and the art of preparing the modest yet delicious staple helps keep the culture of the bakers’ land alive.
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  • CAMEL CRAZE

    The humped creatures may be reliable beasts of burden in the desert, but they don’t exactly come across as delectable sources of sustenance. Camel meat tends to be a rarity on restaurant menus in the city today, but one can taste the unusual protein in an unexpected establishment: Olivia’s Italian Restaurant, where it is served on a pizza.  The less adventurous can try camel milk chocolate by Al Nassma.
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  • OUT OF AFRICA

    When its top restaurants serve world-class Italian, Chinese and French cuisine, it’s not surprising that one of Abu Dhabi’s best no-frills eateries is a purveyor of authentic Ethiopian dishes. Bonna Annee is a favorite with expatriates and locals alike, due entirely to its full-flavored, spice-ridden dishes. After all, its rich wats (stews) and aromatic sourdough flatbreads more than make up for its lackluster décor and humble locale.
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RARE NOTES

Despite being home to the best global luxury brands, demand for traditional Arabian perfumes and oils such as oud, attars and mukhallats remains strong among Emirati men and women. Made from the resin of the agarwood tree, oud was historically a valuable commodity and today is still a sought-after luxury item as the most popular fragrance in the Arabic world and beyond. Many local perfumeries sell beautifully bottled oud and Arabian perfumed oils. But if one fancies an international twist, cult perfumery Le Labo sells a Dusky Rose 31 and Oud 27, as well as an Abu Dhabi scent from its Scent of Departure series.
The antithesis of minimalist flacons, coveted perfumes are stored in these ornate vials.
The highest-grade oud wood chips are reserved for burning as incense.
Specialty perfumers like Le Labo, a New York-based marque dispensing hand-formulated scents, create premium fragrances with oud. The label’s Oud 27 eau de parfum is an intoxicating composition that melds cedar atlas, black pepper and incense with agarwood resin to create the distinctively oriental jus.
Precious oud oils are not only a scent of tradition, they are a symbol of status and luxury.

GILDED REFLECTIONS

PRESENTED BY
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ABU DHABI

DESERT RENAISSANCE

The performing arts scene in Abu Dhabi is undergoing a transformation as the country — in part to step out of Dubai’s shadow — builds itself up as the cultural gem of the United Arab Emirates. Music festivals and events are especially popular and take place throughout the year, from one-off beach performances and electronic music raves to annual jazz and classical music festivals. The city has emerged as a home to world-class clubs and DJs like Briton Natalie Brogan, but there also remains a strong interest in preserving Arabian music and heritage with traditional sounds and instruments.

As much as modern dance music is enjoyed by the younger generation, Arabic music has maintained its popularity with the masses over the ages. Today, traditional artisans continue to hand-craft the oud — a lute-like string instrument commonly played in Middle Eastern music.

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Contemporary oudists are creating a new musical language by fusing their art with that of flamenco guitarists and jazz musicians, while perpetuating the role of the instrument in classical Arabic music.

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Layal Watfeh is one of the emerging artists that is transforming Abu Dhabi’s performance arts scene. Having garnered several international rewards, she is a singer, composer and producer based in Dubai.

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At the Emirates Palace Auditorium, there’s a fine appreciation for classical music and local culture. Whether it is traditional Arabian music or a large orchestra, Abu Dhabi Classics offers a symphony for the senses in this dynamic capital city.

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LANGUAGE AND THE ARTS DEFINE ARAB AND ISLAMIC CULTURE. BY LEARNING ABOUT THESE UNIFYING THEMES, ONE CAN UNDERSTAND THIS CULTURE WITH MUCH MORE DEPTH AND AUTHENTICITY.

– KARIM NAGI, EGYPTIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER

WHERE TO GO

ABU DHABI

An exclusive guide to the top spots to get a taste and vision of the real Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI ART HUB

1. ABU DHABI ART HUB

PO Box 36149 MW5, plot 38, Musaffah, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Tel:  +971 2 551 5005. Email:  arthub@live.com. Hours:  Saturday to Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CONCIERGE

We’re at your service

Whether it is a simple dining reservation or complete organization of a personalized stay, our Concierge is at your service 24 hours a day.

THE OTHER BLACK GOLD

1. Al Arish

Al Meena , next to Fish Market. Tel.:  +971 2 6732266. Hours:  noon to 4 p.m., 7 to 11 p.m.

2. Café Arabia

15th Street between 2nd/Airport Road and 24th/Karamah, opposite Al Mushrif Children’s Park, 59623 Abu Dhabi. Tel.:  +971 2 6439699. Email:  infocafearabia@gmail.com.

OLD WORLD FLIGHTS

1. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Near the Abu Dhabi International Airport, its premises can be found on the right side along the Abu Dhabi Sweihan – Road 3 km after the Sweihan Bridge. Phone:  +971 2 5755155. Email:  info@falconhospital.com. Hours:  Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

GOURMET EXOTICA

1. Nolu’s Café

Al Bandar, Abu Dhabi. Tel.: +971 2 557- 500. Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday to Saturday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

2. Hakkasan Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi. Tel. +971 2 690 7999. Dinner Daily: 6 p.m. to midnight,  Lunch: Friday to Saturday, 12 to 3 p.m.

3. Hakkasan Dubai

Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. Tel. : +971 4 384 8484. Dinner: Monday to Saturday, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., Lunch: Monday to Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.

4. Armani Café

The Galleria, Sowwah Square, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. Hours: Daily (weekday), 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Weekends, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

5. Jones The Grocer

Al Mamoura Building B, Ground Floor 06/07, Corner 4th Muroor & 15th Street, Abu Dhabi. Tel.: +971 2 4438 762. Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Public Holidays, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

RARE NOTES

1. Le Labo

DESERT RENAISSANCE

1. Nasheer Shamma, Oud Virtuoso

2. Beit El Oud (House of Oud)

Al Nahyan Camp – Behind the One to One hotel. Tel.:  +971 2 6415699. Hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4 to 10 p.m.

3. Abu Dhabi Festival

4. Al Ain Classics Festival

5. Layal Watfeh

Sound Designer, Music Composer and Voice performer
Click here to check her recent work.

6. Natalie Brogan, City’s DJ

Click here to check her schedule.

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