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Submitted by: Liene Pekuse

Abu Dhabi encompasses more than shopping malls, luxury cars, and glistening skyscrapers; the city offers its residents and visitors a great choice of markets and cultural sites to explore. Visit one of the markets near the Zayed Port (the Mina) and see for yourself a contrasting side of the capital.


What to see:

The hidden markets on the north side of Abu Dhabi not only provide a wide and fresh variety of products but also a glimpse into the life of Abu Dhabi that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

  • The Fish Market at the Mina is the largest fish market in Abu Dhabi, where all the merchandise comes in right outside the market during the sunrise and the same morning is cleaned and separated for the customers. All of that can be seen by anyone who is interested. Your experience in this market will be completely different if you choose to come during sunrise as that is the time when fish is brought in from the Gulf. Salesmen work out in the open and are usually more than happy to chat about the things they do and see in the Gulf. This is an opportunity seldom available in the city, so do take advantage!
  • The Vegetable Market is within a seven-minute walking distance from the fish market. From the fish market, look to the opposite side of the city and you will see blue one-story buildings in the distance. Head towards them and the market is hidden under large sheets of fabric that serve as protection from the sun. Fruits and vegetables galore are inside the small shops and you won’t find anything more fresh in Abu Dhabi than what you can get there.
  • The Date Market is in the same block as the fruit market. There you will probably see flavors of dates that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Dates stuffed with nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, coconut – everything that you can imagine, they have! The shopkeepers often treat you with some, so don’t worry: even if you don’t want to buy anything, you get to taste a lot of them.
  • The Plant Market, or the secret oasis of Abu Dhabi, is located within a walking distance of all the other markets and will allow you to refresh your senses from the overload of the city. Head into the market and walk through the path that looks like it is meant only for the shopkeepers. They really don’t mind you going through and this will provide a much more immersive experience of the oasis.

What to do:

Take a look around and talk to people!

People who work in the markets and on the boats tend to be very friendly. Approach someone and start a conversation about life in Abu Dhabi as a fisherman. In the market, you will hear about the process of fishing in the Gulf and the sea creatures they find. As you walk through the market and near the water, you will typically see fishermen resting on or by them. Often they invite intrigued visitors on the boats and show around.

Have a bite!

The Fish Market has cafeterias where you can enjoy lunch (even fish that you’ve just bought!) and so does the date market, where you can treat yourself with Karak and dates. But before you choose where to eat, walk through the street after the fish market and it, despite being quiet, hides other restaurants. And even if you choose not to eat there, taking a look around the small shops and bustling lifestyle of the street can give you a good understanding of people’s lives near the port.

How to get there?

Car or a Taxi.

Or even a Bicycle.
Rent out a bicycle at one of the ADCB bike share stations across the city. Along the water goes the Corniche Bike Track that ensures a safe and smooth road to the markets. A day pass for a bike costs only 20 AED and allows you unlimited 60-minute trips. This way, you will be able to see all the markets in no time and get great exercise doing it!