A children's play area along the Corniche. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The sparkling blue-green waves lap up the shore, shifting the fine sands into infinite patterns. The wind rustles the leaves of numerous palm trees along the shore, while people from all walks of life enjoy the soothing atmosphere that has always defined the iconic Abu Dhabi Corniche.

Situated along the northwestern shore of the capital, this lengthy stretch of beach has always been a popular location for rest and recreation, as well as a signature destination for many high-profile entertainment and sporting events in recent years. Therefore, its depiction on the Dh1,000 currency note is entirely appropriate.

Presently, the Corniche is marked at one end by the breakwater that includes the Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi theatre, while the other tip is known for its traditional port and Iranian souq.

Maintaining its reputation for being a place for quality leisure, the recreation-based location has seen thousands of visitors flock to it, including residents from across the UAE.

"I relocated to Ajman a few years ago, but my wife and I make it a point to come down every weekend to get a few hours of relaxation," Mohammad Abbas, a 30-year-old accountant from Jordan told Gulf News.

"It may be Ramadan right now but the Abu Dhabi Corniche feels like an essential part of our lives," he added.

He also recounted times when he and his friends had spent hours fishing at the breakwater.

"My wife and I have also spent many happy, magical weekends organising picnics and barbecues with her relatives," Abbas said, as he spent an hour by the waterfront on a weekday.

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Long-time residents also harbour many fond memories of the Corniche, including the historically significant Volcano Fountain, while the newly-refurbished waterfront includes special sections for families, barbecues, entertainment events and beach activities. Many residents still get nostalgic when speaking of the once-iconic waterfront landmarks.

"I have been a resident of the capital since the mid-'70s, and the Corniche holds a special place in our memories. When my three sons were young children, they used to enjoy playing around the waters of the Volcano Fountain and the Pearl Fountain for hours," said Maeda Al Kishmeri, a 59-year-old homemaker from Iraq.

"These fountains added a touch of colour and tradition to the city, and we were very sad to see them go. However, we do have many pictures to remind us of these wonderful structures," she added.

Al Kishmeri also said that she loved how the Corniche had developed into a hub of activity during her stay.

"I still however prefer the quieter areas along the Corniche, and my family and I sometimes go down for a quick ice cream treat by the waters," she said.

The homemaker added that she also missed the wider Corniche beaches of the past, and lamented the lack of parking spaces along the popular waterfront venue.

The Corniche does indeed incorporate some of the most well-known hotels in the city, like the long-standing Sheraton and the Hilton. In addition, the Emirates Palace Hotel which opened its doors in 2005 has already become an iconic representation of the capital, hosting significant regional meets like the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sessions, as well as purely entertainment and culturally-themed events like the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Abu Dhabi Classics.

Various concerts and festivals also draw thousands to the Corniche annually, keeping the city alive till the wee hours of the morning. Among them, the free Yasalam concerts and workshops, part of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that runs from October to November every year, feature international musical celebrities.

In the spring, the World of Music, Art and Dance (WOMAD) makes the Corniche the hub of culture in Abu Dhabi, as international artistes highlight their traditions and arts.

But the Corniche has its own serious side. Home to many prominent financial institutions such as the Arab Monetary Fund, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, it also includes dozens of local and international banks.

In addition, the premier maternity hospital in the emirate, Corniche Hospital, is also situated along this stretch, with numerous young residents having been born in the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) facility.

While always having been a major part of the community landscape in the capital, the management of the hospital that specialises in obstetric and neonatal care was taken over by Johns Hopkins Medicine International in 2008.

Other long-standing structures also dot the avenues of the Corniche, including two circular mosques which have attracted worshippers for nearly three decades.

Ali Abdullah Jaddawi, an Iranian imam at the men's mosque, said he had been leading prayers for over 27 years at the Corniche mosque.

"My mosque fills up over the weekend, when hundreds of people come to the Corniche with their families," he said.

Jaddawi added that he had seen the Corniche grow during his stay in Abu Dhabi.

"I have also had a chance to get to know the imams of most of the neighbouring mosques in the Corniche, including the mosque down the road, which is one of the oldest places of worship for women in the capital," he said.

Among the many facets of the Corniche is also its repute as a premium housing location in the capital, with many high-rises, such as the 42-storey Bainounah Tower and Hotel depicted prominently on the Dh1,000 note, offering luxurious apartments for residents.

Shoppers are also spoilt for choice with hypermarkets lining the Corniche, including the ever-popular stores in Marina Mall and premium supermarket brands such as Spinneys and Abela.

Also, residents and visitors look forward to the time when avenues of the Corniche and the trees along it are decorated with thousands of lights and motifs for special occasions such as National Day and Ramadan.

As a result of the many lively events that take place along it and because residents feel it is an important part of their lives, it is evident that the Corniche will always hold a special place for all who come to spend a few moments along this picturesque stretch.

Sought after

The Abu Dhabi Corniche is marked at one end by the breakwater, while the other tip is known for its traditional port and Iranian souq. Situated along the northwestern shore of the capital, this lengthy stretch of beach has always been a popular location for rest and recreation, as well as a signature destination for many high-profile entertainment and sporting events in recent years.