Dubai // Abu Dhabi //

World Trade Center and around

Standing on the site of the city’s former main souk, the huge new World Trade Center (previously known as the Central Market) is one of central Abu Dhabi’s most interesting recent developments. Much of the complex is concentrated in a pair of shiny cylindrical skyscrapers – Trust Tower and The Domain – although the main attraction is the marvellous new souk (or “World Trade Center Central Market”, as it now seems officially to be known), designed by Foster & Partners and offering a memorable postmodern take on the traditional Arabian bazaar. Classical Islamic motifs blend seamlessly with modern materials, the souk’s design featuring sleek wooden latticework screens (like a contemporary reworking of the traditional mashrabiya), geometrical stained-glass windows and marvellous (if incongruous) cast-iron lifts, while the muted lighting and gusts of wafting spices add to the romance – part chaste Zen minimalism, part Arabian Nights harem.

Many of the shops on the upper levels are yet to open, although most on the ground floor are now open for business including several handicrafts and souvenir shops, and dedicated honey and spice shops. There are also a couple of places to eat in the central atrium and a very chintzy branch of Shakespeare & Co.

On the southwestern side of the World Trade Center, Al Ittihad (“Union”) Square is home to an arresting sequence of oversized sculptures, including a vast cannon, enormous perfume bottle and gargantuan coffeepot – an endearingly quirky contrast to the drab surrounding architecture.