In the heart of the capital, there is gold. An abundance of gold. Rings, bracelets and necklaces sparkle in the window as hundreds of vehicles pound the baking hot asphalt outside.
Flashes of silver are apparent, as are thousands of sparkling diamonds. A couple of hundred metres down the road, you'll find bursts of red, green, yellow and orange.
This is Madinat Zayed; an area of Abu Dhabi literally awash with colour. The massive cream-walled structure of the Madinat Zayed Shopping and Gold Centre is the focal point of the district; it towers above the usual assortment of Lebanese bakeries, salons and tailors that characterise many a district in the UAE.
But explore the myriad of streets around this area, sandwiched between Al Falah Street and Electra Street, and you will find plenty of quirks and idiosyncrasies. None more so than in the Shopping and Gold Centre; a vast retail complex covering about 600,000 square feet.
The Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre itself is the perfect antidote for those who have no time for the massive Western-style malls dotted around Abu Dhabi. Apart from a couple of household names, such as Nine West and Charles and Keith, the mall's main characteristic is reams of stores and tiny stalls selling, among other things, watches, mobile phones, perfume, lingerie and jewellery. The centre retains more of a traditional feel than other malls and haggling is most definitely welcome.
Residents and tourists mill around on a daily basis looking for the best deals. Jayaraj Achu, a 28-year-old chef was looking for a bangle as a gift for his mother. He said: "I have a day off work so I decided to go shopping. There are so many jewellers to choose from here so I am sure I will find what I am looking for.
Something for everyone
"Madinat Zayed is a real bustling area of Abu Dhabi with lots of nice people around. The Gold Souk is also an excellent place to shop; there is something for everyone here."
Perhaps the real diamond of the Gold Centre lies above this sprawling mass of consumerism in the form of Daiso, a Japanese budget store that offers majority of its items for only Dh6.
Just like the country it originates from, Daiso is a haven for lovers of everything that is quirky and kitsch. A franchise of the popular 100-yen shops in Japan, most of the products only have Japanese instructions and labelling, which all adds to the fun. You could fill a basket with a huge assortment of weird and wonderful oddities — flowers for your mum, a bag of apple sweets and a water pistol — and still pay less than Dh100 at the till.
Louise Pineda, a 35-year-old sales assistant at Daiso from the Philippines, said: "Residents of all different nationalities visit our store, especially Japanese expatriates because they feel at home. We stock a huge range of Japanese products including kitchenware, toys and cosmetic products.
"Everything is extremely affordable as most of our items are only Dh6, which is one of the reasons why the store gets extremely busy at weekends."
A large branch of the Homes R Us takes up the rest of the Gold Centre's upper floor. Meanwhile, back on street level the lunchtime crowd file out of bakeries armed with cheese and zaatar manakish, cars jostle for rare parking spaces and Arab women shop for sheilas and abayas.
They are spoilt for choice with tailors around every street corner. It is a competitive business and only the highest quality material keeps customers coming back for more.
Ahmad Balayet Hussain, a 36-year-old fashion designer from Bangladesh, was keen to show off some of his favourite designs. He said: "Look at this one, it is quality material with original Swarovski crystals; very expensive. My job involves designing, handiwork, cutting and embroidery. Inshallah, customers will continue to shop at our store and business will remain good.
"Arab women take many different things into account when shopping for a new abaya. They are looking for good material, good cloth, good handiwork and good stitching."
A few hundred yards down the road, away from the glittery purple and turquoise sequins, lies the Madinat Zayed Market. Inside the fruit and vegetable market, sweet oranges, cool green cucumbers and ripe yellow bananas lie side by side in a kaleidoscope of colours.
Merchants wave watermelons, pineapples and coconuts around in a frantic manner in a bid to gain your attention while workers sit cross-legged on the floor chopping up various herbs and vegetables.
Around a dozen butchers have also set up home within the same building; all of them displaying various different carcasses of hanging meat. Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Fishermen Cooperative Society sells a wide range of freshly caught fish, prawns and squid. All in all, it is a fresh produce haven.
As darkness falls over this chaotic, eclectic part of the capital, the green topped minaret of the nearby mosque begins to glow and the district transforms into a neon-lit concrete jungle.
The sky may have turned black but there is always colour to be found in Madinat Zayed.
- Restaurants: There is a plethora of small cafes and restaurants to choose from in the Madinat Zayed area. The predominant cuisine on offer is Indian although Arabic, Chinese and International dishes are all available.
- Hospitals: Healthcare options in Madinat Zayed are excellent with a wide range of medical institutions based in and around the area. Shaikh Khalifa Medical City, just southeast of the district, has approximately 600 beds and employs around 4,000 staff. It boasts a wide range of surgical treatment and diagnostic facilities. The New Medical Centre Hospital is also in the area.
- Malls: Madinat Zayed Shopping and Gold Centre has enough retail outlets to keep shoppers amused for hours. Among the items on offer are electronics, cosmetics, furniture, textiles, jewellery and household items. Abu Dhabi Central Post Office is also in the vicinity while the Gold Souk features a Home Centre and Japanese budget store Daiso.
- Hotels: Nearby accommodation options include the Sands Hotel and the Cristal Hotel, which includes an all day dining restaurant called Gems. The Mourouj Hotel Apartments are also a short drive away.
- Grocery Stores: The Madinat Zayed Market is the place to go for fresh produce, whether it be fruit, vegetables, meat or fish.
Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and the Gold Centre is a massive retail complex in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi. The Gold Centre is one of the largest in the UAE. Haggling over prices is half the fun in this gold market which offers unique wedding jewellery. The Shopping Centre is also home to local and international stores selling perfumes, cosmetics and electrical goods. This is also the place to look for colourful fabrics and gifts. The back streets are full of interesting shops selling musical instruments like oudh.