Visiting a souk (bazaar or market) is probably less appealing during the first phase of summer in Abu Dhabi. But it’s definitely a come-on when you think of this new age souk! Few minutes drive from where I live, the historic Central Market is now sporting a new look as it’s transforming into a hub of local food, crafts, boutiques, and traditional and bustling pieces rolled into one. Stories say that the old souk was greatly affected by fire in 2004. As for the idea of resurrecting it, I liked the part that they conceptualized the modern souk not by simply putting up a shiny establishment, and instead they retained the Arabic feel through its architecture.
Although The Souk is still eyeing its completion by the end of this year, it’s worth the visit because of the interesting finds inside it, a peek to its architecture, and the appreciation through your own senses that it’s a stand out in the UAE.
During our visit last weekend, we noticed that the available stalls offer arts and crafts products, antiques, cameras, jewelries, designer glasses (uhum, must be the season – an eye toy, err, cover is a must), chocolates, and a variety of dining choices ranging from Middle Eastern to Western dishes, not to mention the presence of gorgeous coffee, frozen yogurt and ice cream shoppes.
If you’re looking for edible gold-like cake toppers/figurines, you might want to check Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I enjoyed the free taste of chocolates which were kookily shaped as pharaohs and other trivial figures. I willingly accepted the discount card because I might become a suki (frequent customer), who knows? To start, we got a pack of spoon-shaped chocolates.
How I wish I were that articulate in reading Arabic, or even if I am (wishful!) I wish I knew how to use this sort of globe or compass.
The displays near the escalators, as well as the sculptures of deers (I thought we would find camels instead; but there were plenty of camel inspired souvenirs) and other antique cabinets are really attention grabbing. In a way, it felt like being in a modern-non-eerie museum.
I absolutely liked how they put together the sliding roofs and walls to pave way for a better ventilation. As the architect accounted it, while the towers relate to distance and skyline, the souk and the lower levels are scaled to the pedestrian. An intimate sequence of streets, alleys, courtyards, balconies and colonnades dissolve barriers between inside and outside, with flexible sliding roofs and walls to enable control of internal environments, and to maximise potential for natural ventilation. Like a patchwork quilt of gridded modules of varying height, the scheme is a highly articulated composition that bridges and unifies two city blocks.
Here’s the current look of the food court. It can only get more impressive in few months.
We tried the strawberry waffle and nutella crepe from The Crepe Cafe. Surprisingly, they were light and not too sweet. We found another favorite! But if you really want to know, we’re now earmarking our visits to The Souk to try the tea house and themed coffee shoppes. The ambiance is really magnetic.
This is how it looks from the outside. I’m not sure if it’s the Asian in me, but it felt and it looked like that there was a touch of Japanese and/or Korean architecture in it.
But whatever it is, I liked the practicality and appeal of the combination of old Abu Dhabi with the modern age in this structure. Let’s see once this mall (yes, it is!) is in full bloom.