Immediately beyond downtown, on the far side of a narrow sea inlet, a cluster of dramatic skyscrapers announces the city’s new financial district, Al Maryah Island. Abu Dhabi’s biggest and most futuristic urban development, the island is still very much a work in progress but has already sprouted a modest crop of wacky skyscrapers whose outlandish outlines hint at the architectural madness yet to come.
Centrepiece of the development (and the only part more or less finished at present) is the dramatic Abu Dhabi Global Market Square (or Sowwah Square, as it was previously known, and is still often described), with four massive skyscrapers surrounding the distinctively anvil-shaped Abu Dhabi Global Market building. Beneath this, the very chic Galleria shopping mall (looking like some kind of postmodern armadillo) swoops down to water level, where an attractive new pedestrianized promenade, dotted with cafés and restaurants, stretches down along the water to the quirky Cleveland Clinic building, resembling a pile of haphazardly piled transparent Lego bricks.
Cosying up against the southeastern flank of Al Maryah, the larger Al Reem Island is also in the throes of massive transformation, with further skyscrapers mushrooming up on a seemingly daily basis. Even from a considerable distance you can’t fail to notice The Gate Towers at the centre of the island’s Shams Abu Dhabi development – a trio of colossal towers capped by a huge skybridge, like a very futuristic but slightly wonky wicket.