Souvenir shopping can sometimes be the most stressful part of a vacation. Magnets have earned a bad name, and postcards have become dated (pun not intended)--so what do you pick up? Well, we're happy to help. With our Unusual Souvenirs series (read our other guides here), we scope out the best local finds from places we travel to. It could be a food item that won't spoil on your journey, a hidden scarf haven or an unexpected gift. Here is what to pick up the beautiful Middle Eastern city--Abu Dhabi.
Dates—a gift and a health reminder wrapped up in one. The dry fruit (and its over 200 varieties in UAE) are a speciality in the Middle East and Abu Dhabi has no dearth of its share. Enter any of the date souks in the city, Mina Souk, being the most common to get dates by the kilo. There are embellished dates too—covered with chocolate (we love the ones by Chocodate), wrapped inside a blanket of figs, studded with pistachios. Just take your pick.
Louvre Artwork Reproductions
The recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi is noteworthy for many reasons. It’s the first of its kind outside of Paris; it’s built on the beautiful blue cultural hub, Saadiyat Island; it has a striking dome weighing 7500 tonnes (the same weight as the Eiffel Tower) and appears to float mid-air. But its merit extends to its gift shops, one of our favourite places in the city to buy souvenirs. Find gorgeous art and coffee table books, paper vases inspired by the artwork, stationery and bookmarks with reproductions of artworks in Louvre Abu Dhabi and even a section for kids gifting.
In the UAE, it isn’t considered unusual to spot a falcon in a shopping mall or on your morning walk partner’s shoulder. As it is an important part of Emirati history, falcons are a revered species. In fact, Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s first and biggest falcon hospital. The falcons, now pets, are usually taken out with a small hood that covers their eyes, making them calmer in public. You can buy a falcon hood, which comes in many several designs, as an interesting piece for your living room. Just don’t try and smuggle out any falcons along with them. It is illegal.
Arabic Coffee & Milk
Arabic coffee—a traditional symbol of generosity in UAE—is simply put, not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s rather strong tasting and made of ground spices including cardamom. Arabic coffee, similar to espresso, can only be had a little at a time and is usually paired with a date to sweeten its aftertaste. A packet of Arabic coffee home for friends (for new experiences) and foes (for a taste of their own medicine) is always a good idea. Add to that a carton of camel milk and you’ve got yourself a whole Middle Eastern shebang.
A more expensive gift, pick up an item of pearl jewellery if you really want to give someone (or yourself) something special. In the past, before Abu Dhabi discovered oil under its sands, it used to rely on its massive pearling and fishing industry. The traditional method of finding pearls involved tools such as iron weights to weigh down the diver who would jump from traditional dhow boats, nose clips, and oyster baskets. Although it is no longer a big industry, there are still some pearl divers who go take a dip down under and shell out pearls. These pearls make for beautiful gifts and can be bought at jewellery stores and the process can be seen at The House of Artisans at Qasr Al Hosn.