Cafe Arabia, one of Abu Dhabi’s gems. You may borrow those books for free.
I had a well spent weeklong Eid break. The first few days were devoured on getting lazy at home, catching up on Netflix, reading, sleeping, and more. The rest were spent on exploring new places in UAE, targeted on discovering the so called hidden gems. We randomly went to one of these gems yesterday after we had an early swim at Al Bateen Beach. I recall being a bit intimidated by this cafe that I never visited it although I drove by near this area several times; maybe because it seems to be a private villa and the name ‘Cafe Arabia’ insinuates specific target consumers.
Apparently, Cafe Arabia was established in 2010 with an intention of bridging Arabia and the world by bringing communities to collaborate with each other and address misconceptions through cultural exchange. The moment we went in, we realized that the artworks, interior and overall architecture were a feast for the eyes and soul. They effectively made use of each detail to stay true to enabling ‘cultural dialogue’ through basic tools, e.g. photos and books. For example, the collage on the first floor includes separate images of group of youth gathered for their first Holy Communion and the Palm Sunday.
The weather is getting much better, it will be pre-winter soon. Sitting by the veranda will probably be more appealing to many. This provides a view of 15th Street (otherwise known as Mohamed bin Khalifa Street).
We opted to sit at this corner. A slice of it reminded me of the Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland. I liked how the books, treasure chest-like table, teapots and charms worked well together. As we waited for our brunch, we started checking the books which surprisingly had notation on them that they can be borrowed for free. Overjoyed yet? Here is a bonus: you may borrow as many as you wish and you may return it after a week or even after months, if the situation calls for it. I went ecstatic at that moment because the cafe houses several books of different genres. I wanted to borrow at least three books, however, I ended up borrowing one only, a signed copy of Born on the Continent – Ubuntu by Gertrude Matshe. I will definitely be back again, anyway.
We had shish taouk (I have a sort of habit to try shish taouks wherever I go), carbonara, and American breakfast for brunch. What a shame that we did not order the traditional Arabian breakfast (cravings, you know). The menu boasts different kinds of must try – artisan beverages, burgers and panini (camel burger says hi!), grills, salads, tangines, couscous, pasta, saj, desserts which are homemade from scratch on a daily basis and more. We were more than happy with everything that we ordered. Pricing seems reasonable, too.
The cafe has three floors which offer equally cozy and preview of Arabic culture. We were seated at the first floor. There are no corners alike; there is a great mix of usage of Arabian lamps, generic yet grand chandeliers, and different shapes and colors of furniture.
Stairs to second floor.
There was a group doing a photo shoot on the second floor when we visited. Cafe Arabia hosts some events, e.g. Writer’s club assembly every month, birthdays, etc. which are normally held on the second and third floors.
The second floor is comprised of different personalities.
Completely different from those corners at the first and third floors.
I would probably have coffee or tea the next time I visit and will hibernate in this corner. Plenty of books! Some were donated to the cafe. If you love to read, you will probably consider this establishment as a library more than a cafe. I just have to say this again, you may borrow any of the books for free.
If you have a thing with doors, you probably will like this door at the third floor/roof top.
I can imagine that this view is prettier at night. Mushrif Park can be seen from this point.
Dining on the roof top is open to anyone, except during summer and when there is a private event. Hence, it will be in full swing again by October when it is officially reasonably cold in the Gulf (i.e. October – May). No wonder they have started arranging the chairs (majlis type) like those on the second floor near the books shelves.
Do not forget to check the wall of photographs of prominent personalities (mostly Lebanese and Palestinians) near the exit area and other corners where you will find Arabic ceramics and ancient pieces where photography is not permitted.
Cafe Arabia is at Villa 637, 15th Street (Mohamed bin Khalifa Street), Abu Dhabi, UAE. Between 2nd Street (Airport Road) and 24th Street (Karama). Opposite Umm Al Emarat Park (formerly known as Mushrif Park). Landline: 02 3048361. Open from 7am – 11pm, except for Fridays, Saturdays and holidays where it opens from 9am.