The Souk at Central Market, Abu Dhabi

May 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm 2 comments

This week, Kate’s exploring a chic new shopping location in Abu Dhabi. A 21st century version of the bazaar in the Sex and the City 2 movie! Is the real thing anything like the one shown in the Hollywood movie? Read to find out more. 

I had the opportunity to be in the downtown area of Abu Dhabi last week, so I decided to visit the latest development there called Central Market, in particular The Souk. If I had thought that The Souk at Central Market in Abu Dhabi was one of those tradional souqs (souq – Arabic word for bazaar or marketplace) in the UAE – which I actually did – then I couldn’t have been more wrong. For anyone hoping to find a place that resembles the open bazaar from the movie Sex and the City 2, let it be known that the place was made up by the movie producers and doesn’t actually exist in Abu Dhabi but The Souk at Central Market would be a place I can actually imagine Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha buying their shoes from rather than the version in the movie.

Before I go into details about The Souk, let’s just say that the inital idea of walking around a traditional open marketplace in 45 degrees Celsius of noon time desert heat didn’t appeal to me very much, but I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity while I was in Abu Dhabi. So I was relieved and grateful that The Souk turned out to be an absolutely modern and chic place that was fully air-conditioned, with soothing lighting, relaxing ambience and a classy upmarket feel to it.

The Souk Central Market, Abu Dhabi

Modern architecture inspired by traditional elements

This seems to be the latest addition to the new-age souqs that have been appearing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the recent years, in the likes of Souk Madinat Jumeirah and Souk al Bahar in Dubai and The Souq at Qaryat al Beri in Abu Dhabi. These souqs are stylishly built based on old arabic architecture elements and are filled with restaurants, little shops (no, you will not find a hypermarket operating from within), souvenir stalls and even a few bars and night clubs in some of them. They are really places for people to mingle, hang out for lunch and dinner or take rich visitor friends to buy some souvenirs (at a higher price, no doubt) while wowing them with  a little culture, traditional arabic design and middle eastern luxury.

I must say that this souq is somewhat different from the other modern souqs. Its architecture is stunning and incredibly beautiful. Its interior is impressively covered with beautiful and expensive looking wooden lattices. I don’t know why but I felt a little like I was walking through a rain forest in the middle of the city (maybe it’s because of all the wood and the skylight from the roof).  It didn’t have the hard stony effect of the other indoor souqs. Beautiful stained glass windows let in light from the streets into the building. It’s hard to imagine such a serene place of beauty in the midst of this city.

The Souk Central Market interior

Stained glass window like this adds a modern charm to the place

The Souk Central Market atrium

Majestic atrium for an airy and relaxing environment

The Souk is located right in the busy downtown area of Abu Dhabi, off the famous Hamdan Street (Street No. 5) – see location map at bottom of page. It is part of the new Central Market development, which is an upscale shopping, hotel, office and residential project, despite its rather commonplace name. Interestingly the development is built on the site of the Old Souq (no, that looked nothing like in Sex and the City 2 either) which burnt down in 2002 and was later demolished .  Heading towards the area, I was a little taken aback when all I saw was a large construction site with concrete buildings that were in no way close to completion at all. Uh-oh, did I come several months too early? I circled around the area and finally saw a small brown building that seemed newly completed, tucked away amongst old shops on a narrow street, with signs leading to a covered parking area underground. That must be it!

Not all the units in the building have been filled yet, in fact most of the first and second floors are are still empty, but the ground floor seems to be fairly well occupied. There is a mix of shops selling arabic perfumes, art work, persian carpets, spices, trinkets, clothes, sweets and chocolates to jewellery, health, beauty and electronics shops, a small supermarket and even a tour operator. There are also restaurants serving western, Lebanese and Indian meals and several cafes located around an impressive atrium. It is smaller than I had expected it to be, but with three levels of shops, it’s sufficient for me I’d say (at least it’s kind to my high heeled feet).

Souvenir Shop

Antiques and gifts shop


Spices sold at a shop

Feeling hungry since it was lunch time, I zipped into the lovely Shakespeare and Co. restaurant for a quick lunch. It is a quaint little place, prettily decorated in Victorian style. Since the food took a bit longer to arrive than I would have liked, I made some observations around the place. Most noticeable to me was the fact that no two chairs (be it arm chair, sofa or dining chair) in the restaurant were exactly the same! That’s really quite incredible considering they had a lot of chairs. Anyway I would have progressed on to Quirky Observation No.2 but my piri-piri prawns finally arrived freshly sauteed in garlic, coriander and chilli butter along side some deliciously fried croquette potatoes with soft cheesy centers. All of that washed down with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in espresso at the end, aaah… It was indeed a fantastic trip to Abu Dhabi!

Shakespeare and Co. restaurant

A cosy corner at Shakespeare and Co.

Destination: The Souk, Central Market
Location: Intersection of Hamdan Street, Khalifa Street and Airport Road, Abu Dhabi

The Souk Central Market Signboard


Location map

We’d love to hear from you!
Have you visited The Souk at Central Market lately? Share your stories, experiences and comments with us below or ask a question about The Souk.


Entry filed under: Abu Dhabi. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Kate’s off to Bloomie’s! Jones the Grocer

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1.  |  July 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Wow its really a awesome blog post with some great pics thanks for sharing i love these type of posting kindly keep posting

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About this blog

Join Kate, shopping editor and co-founder of, as she explores the stores, souqs and malls in and around Dubai to find the best places in town to shop for gifts. Combining her passion for shopping, giving and exploring places, she writes of her new shopping adventures in this land of deserts, camels and skyscrapers.

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