It was a bright and sunny day when we took the shuttle from Saadiyat Island to the World Trade Center mall, where senior Iryna Nadyukova and I began our tour around the streets of Abu Dhabi. The goal was to follow a circuit of old shops, restaurants and spots frequented by past NYU Abu Dhabi students, in the hopes of getting a glimpse of what living in the city was like before the move to the new campus.

We first walked to NYUAD’s old Downtown Campus, with its little garden and cozy park benches. Before the days of NYUAD, this area had been used as a fish market, and was then repurposed for the construction of the university’s class buildings.

The once purple-painted building is now cloaked in silver and white, although the bookshop still has its original NYUAD logo. The mosque right opposite campus meant that hearing the call to prayer was an essential part of pre-Saadiyat student life.

Our next stop was L’Atelier Des Arts, an arts and crafts store in the Marks and Spencer shopping center. Although somewhat expensive, L’Atelier Des Arts is a good place for a budding artist to shop, and is also where NYUAD students often went for art workshops.

Walking toward the intersection of Sheikh Bin Saeed Street, often known as Airport Road and Zayed the First Street, we then came across Sama Tower, a 50-floor building where students and faculty used to reside and even have classes. With its front entrance squeezed between a Baskin Robins and a Subway restaurant, Sama Tower is now just a regular residence.

The tour around Sama would have been incomplete without a visit to neighboring Al Safa, a 24-7 convenience store that used to be haunted by students on the hunt for midnight snacks.

Next up was Butt Sweets shop. Among the numerous sweet items on display, the dessert store sells samosas for two dirhams along with one of my favorite South Asian sweets, gulab jamun, a sweet, milky globe soaked in rose water. You can also grab some three dirham jalebi, a circle-shaped sweet soaked in syrup.

We continued walking towards Madinat Zayed and passed by Cristal Hotel, a site of memories among all students, excluding the current freshmen, for its central role during Candidate Weekends. Walk around a little and you’ll find a string of shops that you can stop at for a fresh fruit smoothie, priced from six to ten dirhams.

Next, we stopped for a while in front of the large orange-colored mosque behind Sama Tower. According to Nadyukova, this area made the ultimate photo spot, what the with the mosque — an essential part of Abu Dhabi architecture — and NYUAD’s old home on the same horizon.

orange-colored mosque

Of course, Foodlands is just around the corner, and is a necessary part of any NYUAD-themed tour. For six dirhams, you can stop by this restaurant to pick up either a non-spicy or spicy shawarma or falafel sandwich.

Finally, with the sunset resting above the tall buildings and the call to prayer issuing over loudspeakers, we circled back to the World Trade Center mall to get some dates and end our NYUAD nostalgia tour.

Originally published by ‘The Gazelle’, an NYUAD student publication on 03rd October, 2015.