x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Big plans for Abu Dhabi's Corniche welcomed

People who frequent the public beach have said they would like to have more to do there and experts in branding and urban planning have spoken of the importance of the Corniche as an asset to the city.

ABU DHABI // Beach-goers have welcomed plans to stage more events and activities on the capital's picturesque seafront.

Community events and additional sporting activities are in the pipeline for the Corniche.

Users of the public beach have said they would like to have more to do there and experts in branding and urban planning have spoken of the importance of the Corniche as an asset to the city, as well as a link to its past.

"I would like to see more watersports in the public area. At the moment you have to go to the family beach where you have to pay," said Abu Dhabi resident Marissa McCormack.

The 30-year-old teacher from Scotland said she and her partner would enjoy the opportunity to do jet skiing, parasailing and go on a banana boat from the stretch of sand that is open to all and free.

"I think we would come here more if there was more to do," she added.

Emirati Akram Ahmad, 20, has jet skis and music on his wish list for the public beach, which he visits every weekend.

He acknowledged how important the area is.

"Some people play games, some lie down and some eat. It's good because it's free," said the Abu Dhabi resident.

English mother of three Kay Jones-Swift would like more for children to do.

"I would like to see more activities and family events. They could have stationary children's toys for the sand, like they do in England," said the 36-year-old, who added: "It would be nice to have barbecues that are on the beach which people can use."

Shaded areas for children was a suggestion made by British mother of two Jess Hill, 34.

"Water taxis going over to Lulu Island would be great," she added.

Dr Adnan Husnein, assistant professor in the urban planning department at Abu Dhabi's Alhosn University, said the Corniche forms an important element of the public realm in the city.

"There aren't many places where people can go out and meet and congregate, except for malls, and shopping malls should not be considered the only option that people have," he said.

Dr Husnein added that the Corniche is an important part of Abu Dhabi's history and he would like to see more there that marks this heritage.

"It doesn't really provide that authentic experience that reflects the history and local culture, which was the hallmark of Abu Dhabi pre-oil boom. The fishing boats are gone and replaced by jet skis. I would like to see anything that would remind people of the history of the place," he said, adding: "I would like to see fishermen repairing their nets along part of the Corniche, for instance. I would like to see boats going off to fish."

Dr Husnein also said that a demonstration in pearling could be a possibility.

Clive Woodger, chairman of SCG London, an international strategic branding and design consultancy that has worked in the UAE, thinks the Corniche is a major asset for Abu Dhabi.

"It's like rivers in cities or, if you have a coastline, then you obviously make the most of it," he said.

"It always goes back to what makes it, in this case, fairly unique. It's something for the locals but also very much for a wider public."

There are plans to offer more to do, such as kayaking and boating, on the Corniche, in response to a big demand for sports activities, Nahla Al Muhairi, head of the events and beaches section at Abu Dhabi Municipality said earlier this month.

Although a section will be kept just for swimming, away from distractions, she said. More community events, as well as more activities with an environmental theme, will also be held there, she added.

A new public beach will open on the seafront by August. The 1.5 kilometre stretch will be free to use and open to everyone.

ecleland@thenational.ae