While Abu Dhabi is an evolving city with all the modern-day trimmings that travellers and residents can enjoy, there are plenty of timeless spots which existed before the city's rapid urban development. Ranging from cafes and bakeries to small businesses, these places may be two decades old, but they continue to bring, serve or deliver joy even today.
Here is a selection of Abu Dhabi's most cherished establishments that are a treat to visit.
Bakeries and confectionaries
1. Al Sultan Bakeries and Markets
Established in 1990, Al Sultan Bakeries now has 13 branches across the country. The venue became one of the most reputable bakeries in the city, much-loved by its regular customers for the array of delicious Arabic sweets, cakes, fresh bread and Manakesh. The oldest branch, located in the Baniyas area, continues to operate and serve the local community to date!
2. Zahrat Lebnan Cafeteria & Restaurant
Since launching in 1972, Lebanon Flower Bakery has been a popular place for customers to enjoy authentic, traditional, and high-quality baked goods. With mouthwatering snacks that are perfect for picnics, parties or just to indulge in at home, the bakery now has branches in Al Zahiyah (Salam Street), Khalidiya, Musaffah and Hazza Bin Zayed Street (Defence Road).
3. Corniche Automatic Bakeries and Markets
The first outlet of Corniche Automatic Bakeries and Markets was situated on Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Street (Airport Road) back in 1988 and its main goal? To serve freshly baked goods and make their customers happy! The bakery is well-known for its premium quality and even for providing sometimes rare products (depending on the customer's request).
4. Tripoli Sweets
One of the city's most-loved establishments is Tripoli Sweets - just the place where you can find traditional Lebanese sweets and Kunafa. First set up in 1987 on Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Street (Airport Road), Tripoli Sweets moved to Khalidiya in 2000, where it continues to serve a wide range of speciality items.
5. Al Raiqa Date Fruit Trading
Based in the Mina Fruit and Vegetable Market, Al Raiqa Date Fruit Trading has been selling an extensive variety of dates that will leave you spinning (in joy, of course!) since 1982. Their aim has always been to showcase the importance of dates, which is an integral part of Arabian hospitality and culture, to a wider audience.
6. Al Aqsa Sweets
With its delicious confectionery, Al Aqsa Sweets delivers an authentic Palestinian experience. First opened in 1980, it now operates out of two popular branches in the Al Zahiyah and Khalidiya areas. It is renowned among long-term residents of Abu Dhabi as one of the best Kunafa and sweet shops.
7. Al Safa Carpet
Established in the Mina Zayed Port area in 1996, Al Safa Carpet Shop offers a wide range of rugs, from traditional Emirati ones to modern varieties. You can find and purchase a high-quality carpet from their store within Souq Al Mina.
8. All Prints
One of the most notable establishments in the UAE, known for selling books, stationery and various printing supplies since 1968, All Prints probably evokes nostalgia for Abu Dhabi-born kids. Operating from its main branch in Khalidiya, All Prints represents a crucial part of Abu Dhabi’s retail history.
9. Jashanmal National Company
Since its establishment in 1964, Jashanmal has been selling high-quality world-class products for homes including tableware, cookware, appliances, linen, gifts, luggage and more. Offering more than 100 brands, 30 of which are exclusive to the region, Jashanmal has been unwavering in providing innovation and value across the UAE.
10. Malik and Shaheed Stores
Located in the Madinat Zayed area, Malik and Shaheed Stores has been one of the main suppliers of tailoring equipment and textiles for the local community since 1992. The store remains a key player in the textile industry in the UAE with its highly sought-after services.
11. Al Ibrahimi Restaurant
Launched in 1993, Al Ibrahimi Restaurant serves the best, finger-licking Pakistani and Arabic food there is. The bonus point? It sits under the cylindrical Saeed Al Kalili Building, which colloquially became known as the Al Ibrahimi Building, an architectural landmark on Electra Street. To date, it maintains its position as one of the best-known restaurants in Abu Dhabi for the unfazed quality of its food.
12. Bu Tafish
First opened in 1968, Bu Tafish restaurant is one of the oldest dining establishments in Abu Dhabi. It is a famous part of Abu Dhabi’s history after being named by the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, himself when it was launched as a floating boat kiosk. Bu Tafish has become one of the most reputable seafood establishments with four branches across the country.
13. India Palace Restaurant
One of the most popular restaurants in Abu Dhabi celebrated for its traditional Indian fine dining experience, India Palace has seen it all. From celebratory occasions to family get-togethers, the venue's first branch in Salam Street, Al Zahiyah has been serving authentic Indian food to its customers since 1997.
14. Zahrat Lebnan
Since its opening in 1983, Zahrat Lebnan has gained a worthy reputation for serving the finest traditional Arabian cuisine. It is a firm favourite among the older generations for its quality and authentic dishes. Today, they have seven retail establishments in key locales in Abu Dhabi, with the first outlet opening in Tourist Club in Abu Dhabi.
15. Al Dhafra Restaurant
In 1993, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Founding Father, directed Abdullah Hareb Al Falahi to launch a restaurant in the Mina Zayed area that would reflect Emirati heritage. That is when Al Dhafra Restaurant was born - a bustling venue that serves local and international cuisine, seafood, Mediterranean and Asian dishes - all with an Emirati touch.
The restaurant has since moved to the Heritage Park on the Corniche, however, the uniqueness and spirit of the original restaurant are still preserved.