The alleyways of the Souk

August 4, 2015 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

After much soul-searching and discussion of the logistics as well as consideration of the weather we decided that we would have to miss out on seeing the Grand Mosque again. I think the changes made to the route and timing of the Big Red Bus makes it difficult to get from the Abu Dhabi Mall to the mosque and then get the return bus before our ticket expires. Margaret really wanted to go again but knew the timing would be difficult. Our alternative was to get the Big Red Bus to the World Trade Center and explore the Souk and possibly the mall. Yes I know how I spelled Center but that is the name so, as much as it goes against the grain, that is how it must be.

We walked up to the bus stop at the Abu Dhabi Mall and Margaret had a quick look around to fill in our 20 minutes until the next bus. We did the tour around Saadiyat Island once more. The spiel is all about the 'vision' but the series of projects are  only partly constructed. Even then the voice in our earphones referred to the 'famous' Louvre museum and the 'famous' cultural centre. I guess that is the grand vision and even more grand expectation. At the moment everything is covered in the dust of the HOT season and not a worker in sight. 

That could be a little harsh as I wouldn't expect people to be working outside in these temperatures. I think there is an earlier shift and perhaps a later shift.

Our tour then took us past the docks and the new cruise ship terminal (yet to be realised) then along the Corniche before turning in to the World Trade Center. We stepped off the bus there and crossed the street to the Souk. Crossing the street was done more in the Asian style. Judge your exit from the kerb so as not to step under a vehicle and then walk slowly but with steady progress and let every man and woman look after themselves. To that I would add that it is safer to step in front of a taxi as they are well aware of the signs of a tourist, and therefore a potential fare, and will be watching you closely if not tooting (and touting) for your attention. We survived the crossing and then searched for the entrance to the Souk. Although not immediately obvious the doorway was pretty easy to find although not because of the crowds as there weren't any crowds. One of shop ?keepers said that there would be more people later in the day. It was easy to see when the next Big Red Bus arrived as another couple of tourists hugely swelled the number of browsers.

The Souk itself is included in a new building complex over the site of the original and is advertised as a vertical Souk. The place seems too organised and new to deserve the term Souk and in some ways seemed like any other shopping mall as there were more commercial style enterprises like Optical services and phone shops as well as the normal markets and a proliferation of tourist goods probably manufactured wholesale somewhere. We browsed along without too much pressure from the vendors until we showed a little interest in something. A seller of carpets was particularly keen to show us his amazing rugs. And they really were very beautiful. He demonstrated how one would fold into a very small package to fit in a suitcase but we said unless we could fly home on it then it would have to remain in his shop.

We did find a great shoulder bag made of sisal type carpet that Margaret loved. A little bit of bargaining which met in the middle, but probably still above what the seller hoped for, made it ours. We also looked at some exquisite, hand painted, enamelled copper dishes, bowls and vases that we coveted but could not justify. Yes, I know justification is not part of the equation for a thing of beauty. We returned to the shop later on but only to photograph the enamel ware. Every second store seemed to be selling the same items but not necessarily the signed master works. Still such a proliferation makes you a bit sceptical.

Signs around the lifts and escalators promised a range of other goods and services on the two levels above and then a rooftop garden and cafe so we ascended the heights. The second level seemed a bit deficient in the promised benefits while the third was almost an unfinished project, even down to the couple of chaps deep in discussion over what loked like a set of plans. There was also a roped off area where there was water leak, probably from the air conditioning or perhaps from the rooftop gardens. The subject of the discussion perhaps?

The signs led us to a doorway where we emerged into the furnace-like heat of the outside and we climbed a further set of stairs to the rooftop garden. It proved to be another work in progress and while that seemed 'under construction', other sections, like the stone tiles covering the building, appeared in danger of falling already. A bit sad considering the quality of work in other areas. The gardens allowed us a different vantage point to view the city skyline and the modern architecture.

On our way out of the Souk we stopped at a little juice bar and had two jars of lemon, one with mint and one with ginger. The proprieter prepared them from scratch and we could hear the blender whizzing away while we waited. Refreshed by the cool drinks we left the air-conditioned atmosphere with the intention of walking back to the hotel but once on the street outside, even in the shade of the buildings and overpass, the lure of a tooting taxi was hard to resist. The journey back to the hotel was remarkably cheap. The costs are advertised in a sticker on the window; 4.00AED flag fall and 1.69AED per kilometre at this time of the day. The quickest although less direct route took us around two and a half sides of a rectangular block and cost less than one of the drinks we had just consumed.

Back at Le Meridien we took some time out to catch up on some journal writing and some general housekeeping before returning to the Akropolis Restaurant for our dinner. After our little splurge last night, not only in monetary terms but also as measured in calories, we felt the need for more restraint again tonight. This time it was the chicken souvlaki for mains with zucchini patties for a starter. Max made the mistake of not thinking about garlic in the tzatziki so had to give that and some contaminated chips to Margaret and settle for some simple mayonnaise instead, and steal some of Margaret's chips as repayment. Our only disappointment was the turkish delight tonight was nowhere as good as our previous visit. I suppose that says that hand made foods are subject to variation between individual batches.


Aromatic herbs
The colours of the Arabian world
Anyone want a date for the night
An empty Souk
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