The city is an interesting place. The mixing of many different cultures creates some unique opportunities for meeting people and learning new things. However, a lot of my daily activities remind me of home.
Shopping is popular here. I have never, in my life, seen such a large number of malls in such a small area. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least seven big malls to which I can drive in less than 20 minutes. In addition to typical mall stores, many of them have high-end fashion designer shops. Some have more old-fashioned souks. Some malls have both! There is a pretty wide range of options.
Dining, especially cafes, is also a big pastime here. There are many American restaurants and fast food chains. I still smile when I think about how popular Krispy Kreme is! There are also many unique options, including more traditional ethnic foods. I particularly like some of the Indian restaurants, and I love the fact that I can buy fresh-cooked dhal at the grocery store. The only thing I can’t seem to find is a place that has good buttermilk biscuits… that will definitely be on my checklist for when I come home to visit.
As far as dining goes, many people ask me whether or not alcohol is available. The answer is: yes and no. It is technically a dry country, but many restaurants and bars, mainly those attached to hotels, have a special license to serve. However, this license doesn’t come cheap, and the drinks can be expensive. So, there are some savings for those of us who don’t drink alcohol. As a non-drinker, I’ve also enjoyed the novelty and convenience of going to bars and being asked what kind of juice (rather than what type of cocktail) I would like.
Even when not drinking alcohol, the price of some of the events and nights out can be pretty steep. A dressy buffet event easily costs $75-100 US, and some of them are much more than that. I’ve indulged in a couple of these events in the past year – and had a wonderful time! However, it’s not something that I can justify doing regularly.
Going out to bars, parties, and buffets is a huge part of the social life here, so it’s not always immediately obvious that there are other options. However, there is an undercurrent of interesting cultural events. There are many opportunities to make connections and do something creative, in a way that gives the city kind of a funky, artsy vibe.
There are yoga classes. There are art exhibits. Many of the exhibits are free.
There are salsa nights available. For my many friends who are Argentine tango fanatics: yes, there are also milongas, although they are a little few and far between at the moment.
A few events stand out in my mind as kind of unique and fun. The first was during the Abu Dhabi Festival, a series of art-related events and musical performances that took place over a few weeks in March and April. There was a lecture series called ‘The Cave: Irony and Emotions in Fiction and Philosophy’. A philosophy professor and a movie producer held a debate on the use of emotions and honesty in film-making.
I’ve found Meetup.com to be helpful yet again for meeting new friends in a new city. Some of my favorites include a fiction writing club and a women’s meetup. The writers’ meetup holds workshops and critique nights at a cozy cafe. The women’s meetup, called Gutsy Women, is run by a life coach who uses her expertise to facilitate deep discussions that help women to realize and achieve their dreams.
One more fascinating evening out was a girls’ night to Rooftop Rhythms, Abu Dhabi’s open mic poetry event. The specific evening we attended focused on singing rather than on poetry, but I was impressed by the talent of the amateur singers who braved the open mic. Saadiyat Beach Club, the venue, was a perfect place to relax and enjoy the tunes with a nice ocean breeze on the terrace.
If you’re curious to see more details of any of these groups and get a better feel of exactly what I’ve been up to, I’ve included some links below!