ABU DHABI // It’s the wee small hours of a Friday, and the Corniche is quiet and dark. Empty cars line a silent street, their owners fast asleep in their homes.
But loud music is pumping away nearby at Zenith, the nightclub at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Resort & Towers.
Open from 9pm until 3.30am, the club is bustling, attracting guests who party late into the night, or early into the morning, depending on your perspective.
Harry Finch is one of them.
“It’s the best nightclub in town,” says Harry, 24, who is on holiday in the Emirates from Coventry.
He arrives with two friends about 2.30am to celebrate his birthday. “It has a nice vibe, a good mix and a great crowd,” Harry says.
The two-storey lounge venue, known for its theme nights and international crowd, is open every night except Sunday.
It is ’80s night every Thursday, but as the evening develops the DJ starts to play many of the latest tracks. The previous evening was ladies’ night.
“It’s our place every weekend,” says Amer Diab, 27, a Palestinian businessman in Abu Dhabi and one of Zenith’s regular guests for the past four years.
Amer arrives with four Emirati friends, 15 minutes before 3am.
“We’re just to here to listen to some good music and have fun,” he says.
DJ Ahmad, also known as DJ CK to regular guests, has been with the club for only nine months but says he loves working in Abu Dhabi.
“I’ve been a DJ for the past 15 years in Egypt,” he says. “I can’t sleep at night … I’m used to being awake at this time.”
Ahmad plays disco, soul, classic and some old-school R&B and rock ’n’ roll.
“They really loved Dancing Queen by Abba and the funky white horse song that goes something like this: ‘If you wanna ride, just ride the white horse’,” Ahmad says.
At 1am, the patrons have started dancing to a high-energy, up-tempo mix. The tracks feature lots of what Ahmad calls deep and funky house music.
A couple of hours later he continues his brand of music for about 95 guests. Twenty of them are Sheraton Hotel guests. The club has also welcomed a group of 18 from France who are staying at another hotel.
Raed Sadaqa, 36, Zenith’s manager, says it is one of the favoured nightspots in the capital and is known for its distinctive crowd.
“We’re a decent club and we’re known for our service and strict door policy,” Raed says.
As if to illustrate the point, a group arrives at the club’s doors a few minutes before 3am, only to be refused entry because some of them are below the minimum age. No one under 21 is allowed in.
A Lebanese woman wearing an abaya says she wants to see her friend inside. She unabashedly removes the garment in front of security when told she will not be allowed to enter.
A red, sleeveless blouse and a tight grey pair of jogging pants, now revealed, apparently serve as her entry pass.
Mohammed Hassan, the night manager at the Sheraton, says most of the guests in the nightclub arrive between 1am and 3am.
The regular guests, mostly couples and women, are from the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand. Some are from European and Asian countries, as well as Arab and Emirati VIPs.
“People are working here in the UAE, outside their home country,” Mohammed says. “They come to Zenith to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.”