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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Timeframe: Abu Dhabi’s Special Cafés remembered

There was once three along the waterfront but they closed last year

The charcoal embers are long dulled, the shisha men departed and overgrown bushes obscure the views of the Corniche. This photograph shows what remains of one of the Special Cafés in Abu Dhabi.

The site of the old Special Cafe on Abu Dhabi Corniche, close to Spinneys in Khalidiya. John Dennehy / The National
The site of the old Special Cafe on Abu Dhabi Corniche, close to Spinneys in Khalidiya. John Dennehy / The National

This spot, beside Spinneys supermarket in Khalidiya, was once a favourite hangout for a languid late-night shisha. The first opened at some point in the 1990s, and three of them once dotted the Corniche. For a time they were open 24 hours a day. But they closed suddenly last year and in their place, a new “Special Marine” opened in Bateen Marina.

The Special cafe in the Al Bateen Marina has a shisha cafe on the ground floor, a Lebanese fine-dining restaurant on the first floor and a live cooking Asian restaurant on the second floor. Christopher Pike / The National / April 5, 2017
The Special cafe in the Al Bateen Marina has a shisha cafe on the ground floor, a Lebanese fine-dining restaurant on the first floor and a live cooking Asian restaurant on the second floor. Christopher Pike / The National / April 5, 2017

The three Specials have sat dormant since. It’s still unclear what’s going to happen at the old sites, but hoardings have been erected in recent weeks and construction workers have been spotted there – another enduring sign of the relentless pace of change in the city.

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