“We hope that the park will become a community hub for the entire Abu Dhabi just as the old park had been part of Abu Dhabi’s history and memory since 1982.” Abdul Aziz Husain Ahmad
I would like to personally congratulate those responsible for the design and concept of the newly opened Mushrif Central Park, it’s truly fabulous. Who would of thought I would be so bowed over by a green space in the middle of the city, but it seems they have got it just right. Ok, so its not Central Park in New York but this two-year AED 179 million renovation project of one of the city’s oldest and largest urban parks orginally built in 1982, has really paid off.
The park opened to a fanfare of community and family activities and myself and the teenager popped along on the first Saturday afternoon which was incredibly busy and again on Sunday after school to see all the places we missed the previous day due to the high volume of people. The first thing that struck me was the clever idea to welcome SALT to Abu Dhabi, the retro silver Airstream food truck concept that is extremely popular in Dubai and judging by the queues on both days we went, the idea has been welcomed with open arms (or should that be mouths) here in the capital.
Located just outside the main entrance with a large adjacent seating area, the truck offers it’s signature burgers, fries and drinks that were going down a storm and will have people flocking back, especially the teenager who loves a burger and gave the SALT offerings a big thumbs up, twice.
Once inside the very grand Entrance Pavilion gateway, that is lined with tree imaged glass panels (a nominal entry fee of AED 5 is charged per person with under 3’s free) you immediately get an idea of the park’s vast size and the attention to detail. On the right is a fabulous new cafe, The Park Station that wouldn’t be out of place in London. Bright and airy and filled with flowers and an eclectic mix of furniture, including a large wooden feature table, the cafe is offering a selection of drinks and goodies from it soft-opening menu, until its full menu is launched very soon.
Trading from one corner is Sweet Connection, a gluten free bakery offering a range of cakes, biscuits and sweet treats that can be ordered to enjoy in the cafe or to takeaway, trust me the lemon sponge was delicious. A brightly painted red park train stops just outside the cafe but I couldn’t convince the teenager to take a ride, spoil sport!
Opposite the cafe is the exhibition space that will in the future house children’s activities as well as art exhibitions and workshops, in a nice touch charities will be able to rent the space free of charge for any of their events. Outside is a three-panel living wall covered in plants that was very popular with the local birds flying in and out.
This enormous new 14.5 hectare park offers visitors a wide range of facilities including an outdoor Amphitheatre, Botanic Garden and Shade House, Animal Barn, Wisdom Garden, Evening Garden Pavillion, Friends of the Park Pavillon, Children’s Garden and play areas
Another fantastic weekly feature is the very popular Ripe Food & Craft Market that will take place on Saturday afternoons from 4pm- 9pm and the inaugural event was definitely attracting the crowds. The market is filled with stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, organic produce and health foods, artisanal arts and crafts, toys, clothing as well as local takeaway food vendors, all accompanied with some live music. I loved the Charicycles vintage bike stall where all the bicycles having been lovingly ‘up-cycled’ (no pun intended) and can even be customised, visit their website here.
The teenager and I sampled some of the The Raw Place offerings and she finally choose a ‘Green Gold’ cold pressed juice, a refreshing blend of pineapple, pear, mint, lemon and ginger – click here to see their full menu of organic, natural and raw options.
One of my favourite areas is the tranquil Wisdom Garden, a central monumental gate that houses a series of black granite fountains inscribed with quotes from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan, founding president of the UAE. The area has been designed to honour his legacy, his love of the great outdoors and his quest for environmental conservation. The black granite structures surround pools lined with geometric paving slabs and views across to the Shade House and the Amphitheatre.The animal barn (which the teenager loved, shhhh don’t tell anyone) is run in cooperation with the Emirates Park Zoo and has a few animals including camels, goats, ponies and sheep, all of whom greedily munched on the feed given to us by their keepers, it really doesn’t matter how old you are everyone still like feeding animals. The keepers were very friendly and even released the sheep to meet us (baby was cute, over protective mummy sheep was not!) and it’s hoped that this area will enable people, especially younger children to interact with the animals. Camel rides are also available in the sandy area in front of the animal pens.The Amphitheatre is an outdoor performing arts venue which can accommodate over a thousand people on its green lawn space. There was an outdoor yoga class in full flow on Saturday afternoon, taught by Let’s Go Yoga’s Sasha Quince which judging by the sea of brightly coloured lycra and mats was very well attended, something to try out for sure. Weekly classes are available for adults, teenagers and younger children – click here for more information.
We climbed to the top of the imposing steel structure called the Shade House, which offers amazing 360 degree views across the city from its top platform and down into the Botanic Garden oasis below. The garden area is very beautiful and serene where several different species of plants are housed around ponds in the climate-controlled environment. There is also a lift with access to both platforms ensuring that the Shade House is accessible for everyone.
In keeping with the park’s history and heritage, over 200 mature trees (some of the oldest in Abu Dhabi) have been salvaged from the old park and were cared for in nurseries until they could be re-planted along with approximately 150,000 new shrubs and 1,200 trees. All in all there are approximately 250 different species of trees and plants throughout Mushrif Central Park but don’t worry all those environmentally minded among you, the park is using reclaimed water to keep all the trees and vegetation watered and in tip top condition.
There’s plenty of green space for children to run around and as well as designated play areas and interactive equipment for them to play on and climb, there’s also a children’s garden that has a wadi and two Bedouin type tents for shade in the centre. Alongside all the usual various types of climbing apparatus there are even giant instruments to play as well as circus type distortion mirrors and large puzzles.
The Friends of the Park Pavillion (not yet opened, we tried to get in but failed, completion scheduled by the end of 2015) is tucked away in a corner and offers views across the park. It has been designed to offer a shaded place to escape the summer heat (not this year though) and the space will be available for the community to have social gatherings, meetings and even art exhibitions. In front of this building is the already completed beautiful and colourful Flower Garden.
There is also a Evening Garden Pavillion which has a large fountain at the front, described as ‘a green blossoming sanctuary’ where visitors can relax, read, work and enjoy some quiet contemplation. The Great Lawn area is the biggest area in the park and will be ideal for picnics, although outside food and drink cannot be taken into the park but there are lots of kiosks, the cafe, SALT and Ripe’s food vendors to purchase any refreshments. Barbecues along with smoking including shisha is banned in the park, in fact bbq’s will incur a AED 500 fine. Bicycles, skateboards and rollerblades are also not permitted and animals (except assistance dogs) are also banned from the park which will help to keep it a clean and safe place for visitors (read all the many park rules and regulations here).
So don’t just take my word for it pop along yourself and check out Mushrif Central Park, grab a SALT burger, have a coffee at the Park Station Cafe and enjoy a lovely walk around the park, don’t forget to climb to the top of the Shade House to check out the park and the views across the capital and then revisit again at night to see the park all lit up.
MUSHRIF CENTRAL PARK
Location: 15th Street between Airport Road and Karamah Street.
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm (last admission 9pm) Animal Barn 9am – 9pm
General admission is AED 5 with children aged 3 and under free.
Read more about the Ripe Market at The St. Regis Hotel at The Collection in my previous post here
Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.