This man-made island is an extension of the Al-Saadiyat natural island on the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi’s major hub of education and culture: it is the home of the New York University campus as well as several museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum.
Back then, my quick glimpse of the city’s vast landscape included its eye-catching modern skyscrapers, mega shopping malls, and luxurious buildings, all reflecting the prestigious position of Abu Dhabi as the capital city and home of Al-Nahyan, one of the six ruling families of the United Arab Emirates. Aside from its cultural, economic, and political role within the UAE, the city also plays an important role religiously. It is home to one of the largest mosques in the region, the Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, an extraordinary example of modern Islamic architecture.
A flat, spacious land filled with small scattered buildings – mostly houses – standing in contrast with the city’s gigantic skyscrapers: this was my first impression of Abu Dhabi, limited by both my own interests then and what I could see in a short time. I didn’t think I would ever visit the city again, despite the fact that I knew it was undergoing a major development plan. I wasn’t interested in it; it felt shallow.
In 2013, a major twist in my life occurred as I developed a true passion for coffee. I’ve been traveling all of my life from one city to another, but my experience of each location through its coffee community changes my understanding and appreciation for it. I first started viewing Abu Dhabi through this lens in 2015, and today, as I move from one coffee shop to another on each visit, I feel – more than I see – how lively and sophisticated the city has become since my first visit in 2012.
Located on the New York University main campus, Blacksmith Coffee is a favorite spot for work and study. It is a contemporary café with a simple yet elegant interior; the principle color is black, but it has been lightened with oak wood tables and bar tops. It offers a limited list of drinks and savory snacks, all of which are developed to accommodate the busy life of the students and university staff who frequent the café.
Some kilometers away from Al-Saadiyat Island is my favorite spot, Joud Café. This was one of the first specialty cafés in town, and it offers a wide selection of beautiful desserts and a full menu alongside its quality coffee. It attracts mostly locals, generally in their thirties, who are always on the lookout for new comfy places to socialize amidst all Abu Dhabi has to offer. Most importantly, Joud Café is the only place to enjoy a specialty ibrik coffee in Abu Dhabi! I’m sure you can understand why I love it so much.
But the specialty coffee community in Abu Dhabi, much like its skyline, is growing all the time. A brand new café, Coffee Architecture, opened its doors in September of this year. Nooran, its founder, is both a barista and an architect – and the first female Q Grader in the region, with a true passion for coffee. Her café, like many others in Abu Dhabi, is focused on quality, celebrates diversity, and offers a very welcoming, friendly, cheerful, and colorful ambience. These cafés are building new and exciting communities and I can’t wait to visit again! ◊
SARA AL-ALI is the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik Runner-Up and a 2016 World Cezve/Ibrik Championship Finalist. She owns and runs THAT COFFEESHOP in her home of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and is an Authorized SCA Trainer.
One of the first specialty coffee shops to open in Abu Dhabi, Joud Café offers locals a comfortable, yet lively and sophisticated, atmosphere in which to socialize over coffee. (Credit: Joud Café.)
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