A sandy haze hangs heavy in the air as I take an afternoon stroll across the geometric paving stones of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Road. Sweat beads spring up across my forehead as I tackle just a fraction of the famous road’s eight kilometre length that stretches along the main island’s western edge from the Hilton all the way down to Zayed port. To my left, the neatly manicured patches of lawn and palm trees that divide the city’s glittering skyscrapers and luxury hotels from the island’s edge are broken up with the occasional workout machine and to the right, the Arabian Gulf and the bustling Marina Mall.
I pass groups of young men discussing business in the shade of the palm trees, and am overtaken by the whirring blur of a cycle – one of the many cyclists to take advantage of the trail that runs alongside the pavement. Later on, as the intense temperatures calm with the onset of evening, the cyclists are joined by runners, ditching the gym to get their health fix in the scenic outdoors instead.
But that’s all far too energetic for me, particularly in this heat. Instead, I make a beeline for the sand to cool down in the water.
This waterfront promenade has long been a life vein of the city but, just like the city of Abu Dhabi itself, it is constantly evolving.
Just over ten years ago, it was extended using land reclaimed from the sea. Now the latest phase of its redevelopment has seen its status as a social hub enhanced further with the addition of new cafes, restaurants and even a new beach.
The 1.5 kilometre stretch of imported sand at the western end of the Corniche opened to the general public in July 2013, with the public development plan also promising “cultural and environmental activities and promotions” to enhance the appeal of the already popular Corniche which attracts between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors each month.