Visiting Abu Dhabi: Shop till you drop!

Abu Dhabi is becoming the shopping capital of the Middle East.

Saadia Qamar July 09, 2012


When a person thinks of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first city that pops into mind is Dubai – the shopping hub of the country. But things are changing. Abu Dhabi, approximately a two-hour drive from Dubai, is evolving into a hot shopping centre and tourist spot.

The general perception of Abu Dhabi is that it is an expensive place not only in terms of living expenses but shopping as well. As a result, tourists choose to visit Dubai or Sharjah instead. Sultan al Shaheri, the Head of Tourism Planning and Strategy at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority said: “Abu Dhabi is picking up pace as a tourist spot,” adding that the move is steady. One has to visit Abu Dhabi, to see the change.

The market is divided into two segments – malls for those with a deep pocket and souks for shoppers on a budget. Marina Mall, known for its famous fountain, contains brands like Zara, Woolworths, Bed&Bath, Areej, Bvlgari, Promod, H&M, Forever21. It also has Gallery Paris, a shop with an intoxicating aroma that lures shopaholics in, that sells perfumes. In the basement, you will find CarreFour, a large department store, where one comes across great offers.

The souk at al Qaryat al Beri, on the other hand, has several stores and stalls with affordable brands in store for regular shoppers. So when shopping in Abu Dhabi, it really depends on how much your wallet can afford.

When one analyses the two options closely, the souk doesn’t leave any margin for sales whereas malls do. At the Marina, H&M had discounted sale prices on T-shirts, whereas Forever 21 was offering trinkets for lower prices. Spotted at the mall was an Indian woman who could only speak Tamil (and no English), who let us know she shops here often, suggesting that these malls are not just for the rich. Other than that, young Arab girls, dressed in abayas mostly, sipped on coffee from Starbucks and gossiped in Arabic.

As a tourist, the heavens ask you to be kind on your wallet, but dollars and dirhams request the pleasure of being exchanged for goodies like dry fruits, Middle Eastern sweets, souvenirs and cool artifacts to take back home for your loved ones. A stop over at the famous IKEA, a home-products store, also needs to be made if you are in Abu Dhabi. Household items, kitchen utensils, wooden/plastic furniture, toiletries and even tiny fragrant candles – you name it and they have it.

With regard to Abu Dhabi, al Dhaheri said: “Over on Yas Island, development continues. The island is now gearing up for two more major attractions – Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and Yas Mall.” He added enthusiastically, “Yas Mall, being developed by Aldar, a well-known construction agency, will be Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping centre which will open towards the end of 2013. It will be the second biggest shopping destination in UAE after Dubai Mall. Yas IKEA is already open and performing well, whereas ACE Hardware is scheduled to open in the third quarter of this year!”

Let go of your worries and get on the next plane to Abu Dhabi. It’s time for an incredible shopping spree!

Note: The reporter was recently on a Familiarisation Trip to Abu Dhabi which was hosted by Etihad Airways.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.


uaeres | 9 years ago | Reply

@Amjad: So where do the rich people shop - I hope it's not the 'white inferiority complex' speaking? UAE is one of the most highly developed tourism and shopping places on the planet - the world has changed a lot over last decade or 2 my friend.

Amjad | 9 years ago | Reply

Sorry but both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are over rated. Only poor people from 3 rd World countries are impressed by the gaudy show of glamour there.

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