NYU Abu Dhabi: The Early Years

With the impending graduation of NYU Abu Dhabi’s fifth class, we detail what things looked like when it all began.

May 06, 2018

nyuad Photo by Alistair Blacklock

Almost eight years since its first class enrolled, NYU Abu Dhabi has begun to stabilize. NYUAD’s fifth class is about to graduate, so we decided to go back in time and take a look at the early days. Here are 30 remarkable facts about the early days of NYUAD:

The old campus, Downtown Campus or DTC, was built where an old fish market used to be, so packages needed to be addressed to the old fish market.

DTC’s components were manufactured in Turkey and then brought to Abu Dhabi in trucks via Saudi Arabia.

According to Al Bloom, NYUAD students and faculty ended up living in Sama Tower by chance: “We had no idea of where we would house students or faculty,” said Bloom. “And, then, an apartment building grew called Sama Tower, and we said to the government, Can we have that? And, a miracle, they said yes.”]

The publications Airport Road and Electra Street reflected the intersection of the two streets where Sama Tower, the residential building for students, faculty and staff, is nestled.

Rumor has it that Al Safa, the supermarket next to Sama, decided to stay open 24/7 in order to accommodate NYUAD students.

Students had 21 meal swipes a week with all-you-can-eat meals in the dining hall. Furthermore, Baskin Robbins ice cream was a part of meals in the dining hall in Sama.

For Candidate Weekend, students would stay at the Cristal Hotel. Candidate Weekend memories included walking from Cristal to Sama for breakfast, mistaking Madinat Zayed — which could be seen from the hotel — for a mosque, and watching camel races on TV for the first time.

Some rooms in Sama had bathtubs. Yes, that was a thing. There was also a free weekly bathroom cleaning service that all students got automatically.

Living in the same building as your professors meant that skipping class and trying to get away with not doing your assignments was a lot harder.

Open Mics were very well attended and considered an integral part of student life.

Seniors had 42-inch televisions in their apartments.

When the Class of 2016 arrived on campus, there were no seniors and the juniors were all studying away, so there were only sophomores and freshmen on campus.

Class of 2018 was the last class to have their Candidate Weekend in DTC. Candidates were driven to Saadiyat where they got to get off the bus and take pictures of the NYUAD campus, which was far away with no actual roads or highways leading up to it.

The first thing to happen on Saadiyat was the Class of 2014 graduation, though the Class of 2014 never actually lived there.

Classes 2015, 2016 and 2017 lived in both Sama and Saadiyat throughout their time.

When the Class of 2018 first moved to Saadiyat, everyone talked about how great Sama was and how they really missed living in the city.

In 2014, your NYU ID would let you access almost all campus spaces, including the 8th floor or rooftop in residential buildings, the Torch symbol above C2 and professors’ offices.

The Convenience Store was a small classroom on the ground floor of C2.

The pool wasn’t open when everyone first moved onto campus. Neither were the Marketplace, the Library Café or the Convenience Store on the first floor.

The Class of 2018 consisted of about 60 percent of the student population on campus in 2014. Four years later, they make up about 20 percent of the entire student body.

Learn to Love and Live was an iconic song that was sung at Candidate Weekend, the Real AD Show and at Commencement. The Class of 2017 petitioned to have it sung at their Commencement.

John Sexton was part of every single Candidate Weekend.
Dance classes took place in the squash courts.

D1, now Al Diwan, served fancier food and had a Global Food counter. The Grill in D1 used to serve lobster.

There was also another smaller and fancier space at the Experimental Research Building, where they served nicer but more expensive food. Students would often go there for meals at the end of the semester to spend their excess dining dirhams. It stopped functioning in spring 2015.

In 2014, we were the only inhabitants of Saadiyat. We had an uninterrupted view of the city skyline.

The glass panes on the highline weren't there when the Class of 2018 moved in.

Dinner at Emirates Palace used to be a Candidate Weekend staple.

Taxi drivers had no idea where our campus was, so “Saadiyat Island, Exit 11,” was a commonly uttered phrase.

There used to be a thing called the Inter-Residential Hall Council, which would host a series of events called Saadiyat After Hours. Events used to include tie-dye sessions and ice cream on the Highline.

Thirangie Jayatilake is Features Editor. Email her at [email protected]

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