Shopping in Abu Dhabi

Guess what, it’s Beth again. Two posts in a row from me! Watch out, Victor!

Well, as I continue to meet people in Abu Dhabi, both those affiliated with NYUAD and those otherwise affiliated, I continue to find readers of this very blog. It’s funny, Vic and I started the blog just to share our adventures with our family and friends. It’s quite gratifying to know that we’ve found a somewhat larger audience. So, hello, dear reader, I hope we meet (or see each other again) soon.

Today’s topic is shopping in Abu Dhabi. Obviously, this is more up my alley than Vic’s, although I had hoped to include photos by my personal photographer. Perhaps these will be later additions to the post. Let’s start with the basics: grocery stores.

My favorite, or at least most often frequented, is Al Safa. It’s just down the street from Sama Tower, on Electra/Sheik Zayed the 1st/I forget the number. It doesn’t look very promising from outside (or really very promising from inside!), but they’re great for most of your basics. Also, having lived basically my entire adult life in New York, I have an aversion to getting in a car in order to do my grocery shopping. It should be within walking distance, gosh darn it! Vic and I have had rotten luck with buying milk from Al Safa though — it seems that whenever we decide to make a trip is when they’re out of low fat milk. (Side note: we appreciate that here in the UAE milk label colors have been standardized, so that red always means low fat, baby blue is skim, blue is full fat, and green is Laban, sort of like buttermilk.) Al Safa’s produce section is really small, and hit or miss, quality-wise.

Lulu Hypermarket is another favorite. There’s a Lulu’s at the Khalidiya mall and at the Al Wadha mall, and they’re both very nice. Both also generally have a nice selection of Tex-Mex and Dr. Pepper, which is very important in my book. They even have Ro-Tel tomatoes! Al Wadha is just barely walking distance in this heat and it is beyond walking distance once you’ve made purchases. Both Lulu’s have nice produce sections.

Choithram, just across the street from the Khalidiya mall on Electra, is another awesome spot for my American favorites. Like Al Safa, it doesn’t look too promising, but as you study their offerings, you realize the awesomeness. We actually went to Choithram when we tried to attend the opening of a photography exhibit at the Alliance Francaise. Why do I say tried? Because apparently the opening gala didn’t happen, even though it was all over their website and they were still handing out promotional material for it. But, the evening was saved because we found Blue Bell ice cream, Dr. Pepper (including Diet! Just for you, Mom!), Tostitos with lime, brownie mix, etc.

Abu Dhabi Co-op is a chain around the city. They are good for cheap stuff. The location Vic and I go to is the one in Abu Dhabi Mall — near where our first apartment on Najda street was. I first found Amy’s Organic frozen dinners at the Co-op, which really made my day. Their cheese enchiladas are soooooo good!

How could I nearly forget Carrefour, the French supermarket? It’s in the Marina Mall, where you will frequently find NYUAD folks trolling the IKEA in search of that stylish Swedish flat-packed furniture. UPDATE: IKEA is now on Yas Island! Carrefour carries croissants and pain au chocolate (aka chocolate croissants), which makes me happy, but they don’t have my favorite French cereal (basically granola with dark chocolate). The one they have is chocolate granola instead of bits of chocolate. So wrong, and so disappointing.

And then of course, there’s Spinney’s, aka “Big Spinneys” because little Spinneys are liquor stores. Spinneys is also in the Khalidiya area, although not really so close to the mall (in a cab, just say “big Spinneys”). Spinneys is probably the closest to a western grocery store, with prices to match. But, they have a great pork room, including Jiffy corn muffin mix! They also carry Prego, which is the pasta sauce we always ate when I was growing up, so is my favorite. (Hi again, Mom and Dad!) If you’re wondering why Jiffy corn muffin mix is in the pork room, it’s because the pork room doesn’t just have straight up pork, but anything that contains pork, in the muffin’s case, lard. Spinney’s also has the best Western-style bakery in town (IMHO) and an extensive produce section, including some organic options. And for our British friends, Spinney’s carries a lot of Waitrose products.

Abela’s also has a very nice pork room. A friend of ours claims that their pork deli counter is better than Spinney’s, but I must admit that I am not a big deli counter patron, so I can’t really say. Abela’s is the first grocery store Vic and I ever went to in Abu Dhabi, and we found my boss some Miracle Whip (he’d been looking for it for a while unsuccessfully). No Dr. Pepper on that trip, but on subsequent trips, we’ve found it. It’s not far from Choithram and the Khalidiya mall, closer to the Corniche on Electra. UDPATE: Abela’s isn’t on Electra, which runs parallel to the Corniche anyway (whoops), it’s on 26th street (I think), whose name I don’t know.

For our readers who are not familiar with Abu Dhabi, allow me to say a few words on the pork rooms. As you may know, pork is prohibited by Islam. However, in the UAE, non-Muslims are welcome to eat it. We are subjected to beef or veal bacon, generally to disappointment, when eating out, but for home dining, we have the pork rooms in grocery stores. Actually, a few restaurants have special pork menus that you have to request. Some of our new colleagues have moved here from Qatar, and apparently pork is completely prohibited there. Sadness. Anyway, the pork rooms are only in a couple of the supermarkets, and they really are separate rooms, sort of hidden in the back of the store with a big sign over the door that says “For Non-Muslims only” in English and Arabic. It makes me feel like a rebel whenever I go in!

Hm, well, I had intended to make this post about more than just groceries, but I see I’m at over 1,000 words. I think that’s enough for now. Stay tuned for furniture and clothing tips…

3 Responses to “Shopping in Abu Dhabi”

  1. Mom says:

    Looking forward to your next posting…..
    Are your eggs open containers or cartons? Non-refrig or refrig?

  2. Beth Daniel Lindsay says:

    Kate, nice question. The eggs here are refrig. Interestingly, they also have brighter, more orange yolks. Hooray for more beta carotene! However, the brand I bought most recently is the usual American yellow yolk. Here’s another tidbit about eggs: one of our colleagues is from Iraq, and she said that she only eats eggs at home because they taste bad everywhere else. Her argument was that, since Iraq is a poor country, its eggs are totally natural.

  3. Gale Shorb says:

    Hey Beth, I too like Al Safa market because of the proximity to Sama Tower. Also, there is a 24 hour Abu Dhabi Co-op in Madinat Zayed mall just two blocks away. But…..I am recommending “Abu Tariq Super Market” next door. Leave Sama from the back door, turn right, walk a half a block. It is just before “Milano” Automatic Laundry, which I also recommend.

    Abu Tariq is a small neighborhood grocer run by a very nice Iranian man. He has been increasing his variety and selection but if there is something specific you want he will try to get it for you. Today I took in an empty Hills Bros. coffee can and said, “Can you get this for me?” (Kind of like a library!!!) And he said, “I’ll try to have it tomorrow.” There is no fresh meat but the produce was excellent today. And, if you don’t see what you want, ask them because chances are it is somewhere in the space.

    They also deliver so this is where I get cases of bottled water, laundry detergent, and other heavy items.

    Happy Shopping.