This week, the inaugural Semi Permanent Middle East launches in Abu Dhabi, for which we’ve brought together a sterling lineup of some of the world’s leading creatives (Mark Ronson! Daniel Arsham! Dana Hourani! Refik Anadol!) and experiences (The Flower Shop! La Rosa Social Club!) for what is our big return to live events after more than 18 months of pandemic-induced isolation. We couldn’t be more excited, and as the Semi Permanent team descends on the UAE capital, we’ve pull together our guide to enjoying the best of what Abu Dhabi has to offer.
The pandemic has put immense pressure on the airline industry, with many operators pausing operations for extended lengths at a time. Thankfully, Etihad has remained in service as the flagship airline for Abu Dhabi, helping to get the Semi Permanent team and our many artists from around the world to the Middle East for the event.
Fittingly for Semi Permanent, where we’re all about creativity as a solution for the challenges facing contemporary society, Etihad has many arts and sustainability initiatives that we admire. It’s partnering with local artists to upcycle obsolete aircraft parts that would otherwise go to landfill, with recent pieces crafted from old cabin interiors and seat flooring.
Where to stay
We’re headed offsite during Semi Permanent Middle East for the exclusive DJ set of the multi-award-winning musician Mark Ronson, for which we’ll be taking over the WET Deck at W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island. With its spectacular views of the race track and marina, the Marriott-operated establishment has countless amenities (dining, fitness, relaxation and more) but being located on Yas Island, it offers a different take on a typical Abu Dhabi stay.
Where to shop
If you know Semi Permanent’s founder Murray Bell, you know that sneakers are top of the list when it comes to shopping. It’s little wonder, then, that on arriving in Abu Dhabi, Bell and the Semi Permanent team made the pilgrimage to Sneaker District. Opened earlier this year in collaboration with consignment store YouBetterFly, the store is, as its name suggests, pretty much heaven for sneakerheads, with an offering of some of the most-sought after drops and a museum-worthy showcase of some of streetwear’s highly coveted releases of the past.
We’re also completely here for the offering at Shop Bauhaus, a streetwear concept selling the likes of Supreme, Champion and Anti Social Social Club, which has stores in both The Galleria and Yas Mall, and bills itself as the hottest multi-brand concept in the GCC. We can confirm.
Drink and dine
Equal parts coffee shop, barbershop and sneaker consignment store, LOCAL Zeina is a concept store redefining Abu Dhabi’s hybrid retail-service-culinary scene. It undoubtedly serves up some of the best coffee in Abu Dhabi – so much so we partnered with them on the artist Tom Sachs’ incredible bodega-coffee cart as part of Semi Permanent Middle East – but you’ll stay for the laidback energy of the space and its team.
Created by a team of chefs, nutritionists and naturopaths, the motto at Wild & the Moon is that food should be good for you and good for the planet – as well as delicious. And here, it really is. Through its use of local, seasonal, organic and ethically-sourced ingredients, Wild & the Moon uses traditional cooking techniques to protect the vitality and potency of everything that goes into its dishes.
A spot of culture
We’re certainly not the first to visit and write about the Louvre Abu Dhabi, but since it opened in late 2017 the UAE output of the famed French museum has firmly established Abu Dhabi as a destination for arts and culture. With its mix of traditional western highlights (Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere, for example) and regional offerings (a current exhibition showcases centuries of exchange between Islamic and Chinese culture), there’s much to see, but so much of the appeal is in the design of the building itself. Architect Jean Nouvel’s vision, inspired by the light play of regional architecture, creates a microclimate and passively cools the space, achieving environmental excellence in its desert location.