x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The rise of outdoor markets in Abu Dhabi

The team that introduced the concept of modern outdoor markets to Dubai nine years ago with the Dubai Marina Walk Market have now been invited to launch a weekend crafts market on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, starting February 6.

Yas Marina Market on Yas island. Several outdoor and indoor artisan markets are popping up in Abu Dhabi. A weekend crafts market will launch on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche this month. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Yas Marina Market on Yas island. Several outdoor and indoor artisan markets are popping up in Abu Dhabi. A weekend crafts market will launch on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche this month. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

It’s not only new shopping malls opening in the capital these days. Those with a taste for handcrafted, locally-produced goods can also enjoy the new artisan markets springing up.

The team that introduced the concept of modern outdoor markets to Dubai nine years ago with the Dubai Marina Walk Market has now been invited to launch a weekend crafts market on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, starting this month.

Roslynne Bourguignon and William Turner, who have lived in the region for almost 20 years, have been appointed to operate the market. “We already have about 30 stalls booked, and we’re hoping for 40 by the time the market opens for business,” says Ms Bourguignon.

The Market will run from February 6 until May 3 on Thursdays to Saturdays from 2pm to 10pm on the East Plaza (by the public beach and 30th street).

Stalls are now available for lease for the sale of locally sourced items such as home decor, gift items, art, home-baked goods, plants and organic fruit and vegetables.

For the entrepreneurs behind the markets, it’s another notch on their expanding market portfolio.

Ms Bourguignon and Mr Turner, both British, worked with Emaar to launch their first market at Dubai Marina, a medley of 50 stalls and an art area. They then collaborated with Dubai Properties to launch “Covent Garden Market Dubai’ in 2009 with 65 stalls on The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

“Since then we’ve gone on to work with Nakheel, Atlantis, Festival Centre and many other clients to create indoor themed markets and outdoor markets. Hence, we were invited to launch the Weekend Market on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Government”, says Ms Bourguignon.

“We try to create a place where emerging and experienced artists, designers and craft people can showcase their work and test their products in the market, before entering the retail arena.

“Outdoor markets are becoming more popular here as a place to find the unique and unusual while enjoying the outdoors, as unlike Europe we are almost guaranteed seven months of good weather.”

It’s not the first time a market has been held at the Corniche; back in 2011 a flea market was held twice a month at the formal park, but it didn’t recreate the success of Dubai’s popular Safa Park Flea Market, and failed to return the following year. Since then, the Sheraton Hotel has filled the gap with its own indoor flea market, which donates funds raised from the lease of tables to the hotel’s chosen charities.

Then two months ago the Yas Marina Market was launched by How Bazaar, a company run by Briton Eileen Swift, which is contracted to run the outdoor bazaar until April.

Running on Saturdays from 10am until 4pm, the event is billed as a place for local vendors to sell their handicrafts, jewellery, fashion items and local produce, with 15 to 20 stalls pitched each week.

Ms Swift has also organised markets at Al Zeina and Yas Links Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, and between running market has her own used clothing company, Love of Style, which she manages from home.

“I realised there are a lot of people in the same boat in Abu Dhabi, who create quirky crafts and need somewhere to sell them,” she says.

“We’re in collaboration with the managers of the Yas Marina restaurants, and it’s going really well. We had a couple of cracking days over Christmas.

“Outdoor markets are very well attended in Dubai, so the time is right now for regular outdoor markets in Abu Dhabi.”

Another new market initiative in the capital is the international-themed pavilions that make up part of the Six Continents attraction at Khalifa Park. It feature hundreds of market stalls selling goods that are produced in the respective countries they represent; currently open for business are Syria, China, Egypt, the UAE, Pakistan and Turkey. The event is set to run until April 12, and organisers hope it will become an annual feature for Abu Dhabi, as Global Village is for Dubai.

Aside from the annual artisan markets held throughout the festive period, Cafe Arabia in Al Mushrif also holds an arts and crafts community souq several times a year, in which local artisans sell their home-crafted wares. And last weekend, Masdar City held a two- day farmers’ market and crafts fair to promote sustainability.

As well as promoting local enterprise, these events also offer home-grown businesses a chance to sell their homemade goods legally.

“We have the right for them to trade underneath us,” adds Ms Bourguigon. “We have a permit on their behalf. Markets facilitate this for their tenants, to enable them to trade.”

business@thenational.ae