AD Secrets: Plant Souk

Abu Dhabi’s courting couples have found an unexpected new place to kindle their love — the Plant Souk at Mina Port. The many rows of greens, from ...

Abu Dhabi’s courting couples have found an unexpected new place to kindle their love — the Plant Souk at Mina Port. The many rows of greens, from fluorescent shades to dark hues, nurture Abu Dhabi’s budding romances. In contrast to the nightclubs and malls of the city, the Plant Souk offers living, breathing energy.
Shakeer, owner of the plant shop Green City, offers his own description.
“At night the men come with their girlfriend and they want to buy [an] orchid,” said Shakeer. “Their girlfriend sits and they don’t want to bargain, so we sell well at 150 dirhams.”
Shakeer and his fellow plant shopkeepers are well aware of the market in budding love. Whereas an orchid usually costs around 70 AED during the day, after 10 p.m. he doubles the price. The green entrepreneur is one of eight or nine shops that stay open past 10 p.m.
“At night [we make the] most profit,” he explained. The Plant Souk in the evening bustles with families and individuals who have just finished work. The souk offers an affordable way to make Abu Dhabi feel homey and alive as the clientele search for their perfect green companion.
By Nicole López Del Carril/The Gazelle
If your Sama dorm is feeling a little empty, avoid a trip to Ikea and instead make your way to the souk. Take a 12 AED cab ride from Sama and you will find yourself at the doors of Abu Dhabi’s green oasis.
Choosing a plant, like choosing a partner, can be an intimidating process. Plants require specific amounts of sunlight, water and care, so make sure to choose a plant suitable to your caretaking skills. For college students that can’t handle high-maintenance plants, Shakeer recommends succulents. These include all cacti, as well as plants with waxy leaves such as aloe vera and ponytail palms. For a splash of color, pick up a bromeliad.
A great addition to your Sama home may be a large potted plant or tree. For 100 to 200 AED you can take home a larger tree with a ceramic pot. These include dieffenbachias, zamias and ficus — all relatively easy to care for.
Photo by Nicole López Del Carril/The Gazelle
By Nicole López Del Carril/The Gazelle
For those who like striking patterns and geometric forms, the souk offers interesting, albeit artificial, configurations. There are bamboo plants arranged in pyramids and bonsai trees stretching up like DNA-helices.
Shakeer offers a tip for greener bamboo plants: Evian mineral water. Apparently these stalks like luxury, almost as picky as Mariah Carey’s bathing preferences.
His great love for his plants is evident in the way he speaks about them. Shakeer knows where each one is from — most indoor plants are Dutch and most outdoor ones are Thai or Sri Lankan. He imports the best seeds from a company in Spain. In his nursery in the Shahama neighborhood, he tends to each plant before placing it on the market. It is a labor of love and one that has kept him going for eight years in Abu Dhabi. After originally working in landscaping, Shakeer now owns four of the 44 shops at the Plant Souk.
With some nostalgia, Shakeer explains the wonders of his home state. In comparison to Kerala’s greenery, he explains, Abu Dhabi can be very depressing.
That, however, he hopes to change, “You have to make Abu Dhabi green, yeah?”
Nicole López Del Carril is a staff writer. Email her at 
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