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Image by Emily Broad

AD Secrets: A Night for 50 Dirhams

As we get caught up in our hectic lives on campus, we tend to drift towards accessible options near Saadiyat, forgetting about the fun and cheaper options in Abu Dhabi. Here’s a guide to a night in Abu Dhabi using only 50 AED.

Oct 26, 2019

On Oct. 10, I decided to challenge myself to enjoy a stress-relieving night out in Abu Dhabi with a budget of only 50 AED. Most Thursdays I dedicate to cathartic wandering around the city to take photographs and escape campus. Doing so, I’ve discovered an array of restaurants and shops that demonstrate the liveliness of Abu Dhabi’s diverse communities.
I left campus at 6:54 p.m. on the public bus line 170, filled with workers returning home for the night, overhearing phone calls with loved ones back home.
I got off across the street from the Mosque Of Sheikh Hazza Bin Sultan on Hamdan Street, and walked to my favorite Arab restaurant, Bab Sharqi. I reached the Hala Arjaan Hotel and took a left on Razeen Street until I saw the fluorescent purple sign of Posters Abu Dhabi and knew Bab Sharqi was across the street.
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Image by Emily Broad
Bab Sharqi creates an authentic experience of Syria in Abu Dhabi, one that is missing in other parts of the city. As I entered the restaurant, the television blasted an Arabic news station reporting on Turkey’s advance into Syria. The chefs slid bread into the ovens and one man tended to the shawarma split. The staff are extremely welcoming, and although there is a language barrier for non-Arabic speakers, their smiles never cease.
The quality and taste of Bab Sharqi’s shawarma and hummus is unparalleled, and everything on the menu is worth trying — manakish, kababs and other meals. After contemplating what to eat, I settled on a shawarma, lemon mint juice and hummus for only 30 AED. My personal favorite at Bab Sharqi is the hummus because it is thick and the taste of chickpeas comes through naturally. The lemon mint juice is less sweet than other places, allowing you to actually taste the mint. Bab Sharqi’s shawarmas have the most tender meat out of any I have tried in Abu Dhabi, and the ingredients are tucked into the restaurant’s freshly baked bread.
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Image by Emily Broad
Stuffed from a large Arab dinner, but desiring something sweet, I walked across the street into the Tourist Club Area’s winding alleyways. Eventually I spotted the neon pink signs indicative of my favorite dessert spot in the city — Filipino bakeries, called Panaderias. I craved the ensaymada roll with sugar and butter that reminds me of home. Sometimes I also order an ube basket, a sugary bread featuring purple yam, which has a sweet nutty flavor that livens many Filipino desserts. Most of the bakery stock sells for one to two dirhams.
Beyond their sweet and savory pastries, these bakeries are an important success story of migrant businesses that characterize Abu Dhabi, beyond the blocks of glossy skyscrapers. As students in the UAE, visiting these places provides us with the opportunity to explore and support places of migrant success.
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Image by Emily Broad
With the ensaymada roll inducing my nostalgia for home, I continued down Razeen Street. Reaching the giant billboards at the city’s entrance, I began searching for the [Chinese-themed Baqala] (,54.377127,19.4z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x3e5e440f723ef2b9:0xc7cc2e9341971108!2sAbu+Dhabi!3b1!8m2!3d24.453884!4d54.3773438!3m4!1s0x3e5e678f3c96f2f5:0x89aff57fb00d643a!8m2!3d24.4982459!4d54.3777316) I frequently visit. As I entered, Filipino cashiers greeted me and I moved towards the milk tea fridge, passing crowds of customers on the way. Shelves of candies and snacks crammed together next to utensils specific for Asian dishes on the walls of the store. The market’s coziness and stock makes window shopping at this Baqala especially great.
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Image by Emily Broad
Although I am not Asian, the Chinese Baqala also reminds me of home. I used to stroll through Asian Markets in North Carolina to find ingredients for a spontaneous night of cooking. Without spending more than a few dirhams, I can recreate my hobbies in Abu Dhabi while also learning about a space geared towards a different migrant community.
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Image by Emily Broad
After finishing my milk tea and second pastry, I was reminded of the Filipino thrift stores on Hamdan Street. With enough money left, I walked down Hamdan Street towards the [Dunkin’ Donuts] (,54374635,1003&tbm=lcl&ved=2ahUKEwiVufaXv7TlAhWIHRQKHVYADA8QtgN6BAgKEAQ&tbs=lrf:!2m4!1e17!4m2!17m1!1e2!2m1!1e3!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:4&rldoc=1#rlfi=hd:;si:8116476791897289777;mv:[[24.498327800302736,54.37925422722378],[24.488603521007985,54.360714798512845],null,[24.493465754643925,54.369984512868314],16]) which signals the entrance to the hidden shops inside Al Yousuf Center. Inside, the pink escalators reflected in the mirrors look like a labyrinthian Escher painting. This image is mirrored in the amount of shops with heaps of clothing that made me feel as if I were in a maze, searching for the perfect item. The stores’ messiness makes for an engaging experience, searching for the right item in vast amounts of clothing.
Some of my favorite and most unique clothing items come from this warehouse — the printed button-ups and a green floral dress that I wear often, the combined cost of which was less than ten dirhams. Filipinas chatter between storefronts allowing me to dip into one of the cultures that remains underrepresented here in the UAE, a necessary reminder of what makes this country unique.
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Image by Emily Broad
After a tiring, yet adventurous, night of exploration, I took the public bus back to campus from the Hamdan Street bus stop near the Mosque Of Sheikh Hazza Bin Sultan. The buses run every 28 minutes past the hour from this stop, but after 11 p.m., taxis are the only option.
I arrived to campus feeling accomplished for meeting my goal of 50 AED. As we get caught up in our hectic lives on campus, we tend to drift towards accessible options near Saadiyat, forgetting about the fun — and cheaper — options in Abu Dhabi. There are a variety of cultures in the city worthwhile to delve into during the limited time we have here, at an affordable price and just a short bus ride away.
Emily Broad is Photography Editor. Email her at
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