ABU DHABI // The Tourist Club Area, once the city’s centre for entertainment and recreation, is no more.
Abu Dhabi Municipality renamed one of the city’s oldest areas effective on Monday, and told government and private bodies to refer to it by its new name – Al Zahiyah.
It also changed the name of Zayed City to Al Danah.
The area became known as Tourist Club when a beach was built by the Government in the 1970s to provide more recreation for people in Abu Dhabi.
The beach was just left of Le Meridien hotel and included entertainment such as bowling and ice-skating.
While the beach section no longer exists as such, the name has lingered on.
Residents said they had been happy with the old name, and changing it to Al Zahiyah, which means “colourful” in Arabic, could initially lead to confusion for tourists.
“The name, of course, will lead to confusion among residents and people who travel to Abu Dhabi from outside, who could think this is some new locality,” said Mustapha Ahmed, who runs a shop in the area.
“For some time we will have to use both names, but I believe the public will gradually get familiarised.”
Haji Mohammad, who has lived in the Tourist Club for 17 years, said the old name reflected the many nationalities who lived there and the huge variety of restaurants that operated in the area.
“The area has been very popular among tourists as it offered visitors a variety of dining options, whether it is Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or European,” said Mr Mohammad, who runs a bakery.
“Tourist Club has a large number of coffee shops, restaurants and hotels. Tourists love to live in the heart of the city. The area has been the heart of Abu Dhabi for decades.
“The area also was a hub for traders. But I welcome the new name as it sounds good to me as well.”
Mohammed Rasheed welcomed the move but also warned against possible confusion.
“I love the old name but a new name for such a famous place will create problems for visitors,” said Mr Rasheed, who has lived in the area for 10 years.
In November last year, Abu Dhabi Municipality announced the renaming of 14 major streets in the capital under the Onwani (my address) project. The municipality said the names had been selected to reflect the country’s history and culture and said last month that plans were under way for a public awareness campaign on the new address system.
In Al Danah, people said they liked that the area had been named after the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.
But the new name, which means pearl in Arabic, was also welcome.
“Zayed was a good name as it was attached to our father of the nation. But the Government has decided to change it so there would be some wider interest to the community,” said one Emirati resident, Salem Al Harethi.
Nagheeb Al Hassan, a Lebanese national, who lives on Zayed the First Street, said the Arabic names were important.
“It happens everywhere around the world that old names changed to new ones as per the Government’s policy. We just need to adopt them,” said Mr Al Hassan.
“The new names are pure Arabic names and I love them. This is an Arab country so names should have an Arabic origin.”