Since arriving in the UAE a number of years ago, we have consistently heard great things about the Ripe Markets that take place at various locations throughout the Emirates. With the weather finally cooling down and the fact that we were yet to visit the newly renovated Mother Of The Nation Park (formally Mushrif Central Park) in Abu Dhabi – we finally decided that it was about time that we went to check it out for ourselves.
Arriving at the park we were pleased to find that there was ample parking on offer and it was great to see that the place was buzzing with people – I think we can safely say that this is the first time that we have ever had to queue to get into a park before! The entry fee is five dirhams per person, and for children under three years entrance is free.
Once inside the gates we were greeted with a very pleasant and serene ambiance – the park has been meticulously designed and each element has been thought out and implemented to perfection – it is truly a beautiful space to visit and the recent re-development of the area can only be described as a resounding success. The walkways are lined with palm trees, and man made rivers meander along the paths, punctuated with the occasional shallow pool of fountains. The UAE is renowned for creating everything with a distinct wow factor and this is definitely the nicest park that we have ever visited (and having kids, trust us we have visited many many parks)! The entrance-way leads to a cafe and the Wisdom Garden, dedicated to the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a beautiful space of waterfalled walls, reflective pools and palm groves.
The parkland covers a relatively large space and contains a number of zones worth visiting, so ensure that you take the time to wander around and see all of the different elements that Mother Of The Nation Park has to offer. We began our visit in the children’s park which contains an animal barn featuring donkeys, cows, goats, sheep and a camel. In our experience these petting zoos can be pretty grim places, but this one is different – the animals all looked very happy and well looked after, with space to roam around and even fans and shade to keep them cool! Children have the opportunity to feed the animals and get up close to them which is lovely. The children’s park also has a number of educational exhibits, a replication of a wadi that can be explored and used for interactive play, and some dancing fountains which can be played in (don’t forget the swimwear).
Continuing our exploration of the park we headed towards the shade house via a cactus filled meadow, The shade house is the stand-out feature of the park and is a wonderful piece of architecture. The shade provided by this iconic structure creates a cooler atmosphere for the plant life that dwells below, nurturing a beautiful botanical garden and a quite space to relax and gather your thoughts. One of the great things about the shade house is that you can experience it from different perspectives, from ground level you can really appreciate the flora and architecture, but ascend the lift/stairs and you are greeted with some spectacular views of the park (and beyond to Abu Dhabi cityscape) over the canopy of trees below.
Following the paths we ended up on the great lawn which is exactly as the name suggests, a large grass area great for games, running or a family picnic. A great social gathering space that leads up to the amphitheater which is used for community events and concerts. The area is backed by a large children’s playground which caters to all ages and has a number of climbing structures, a sand pit and an area for making music – which is by far the busiest section of the park. This is where we decided to settle for the afternoon, which turned out to be the perfect place for exploring the Ripe Market.
“Set amongst the beautiful palm tree walk ways inside Mushrif Central Park, The Ripe Food & Craft Market will bring the Abu Dhabi community together to experience a whole host of talented local food businesses. Comprising of live cooking stations, take home retail items (including locally grown organic fruit and vegetables) artists, designers, live musicians, local Emirati talent and fitness workshops. Offering everything from unique hand crafted items for the home, boutique fashion for adults and children, bespoke jewellery and entertainment..” The Ripe Market Website
We were aware of the concept of the Ripe Market prior to our visit – organic produce, locally crafted items and a real sense of community – but we were not entirely sure of what to expect. Firstly we were surprised by just how busy it was and it was nice to see so many people supporting such an event. The market begins with the Ripe stall which sells organic fruit and vegetables at very reasonable prices – we were astounded that these organic items cost only a few dirhams more than their supermarket counterparts.
The market is a great showcase for local businesses and artisans with some lovely products on offer, that you will be unlikely to find elsewhere. From the beautiful fairy lights, to wooden children’s toys and customized cushions and fashions – these are unique products that are original and (thankfully) not mass-produced. Its good to see that these businesses can thrive in a country full of mega-malls, as consumers look for originality and quality in their purchases.
The market stalls follow the trajectory of the river promenade running through the park and the craft stalls soon give way to the food and beverage items. Some of our favourite retailers are on site and we were pleased to see Masdar City’s Barbacoa, Mushrif Mall’s Frostbite, Monkey Cookies, Circle Cafe and the great Biriyani Pot all present. There are were also stalls for purchasing alcohol-free mojitos, coconut juice and other thirst quenching refreshments. The market culminates in a communal seating area with live music, lanterns hung from trees, with families and friends socialising beneath. There are also crafting opportunities for children and a mini train for those who do not feel like walking.
The park and market create a lovely community space and its exceptionally nice to see people really embracing the concept and helping to make Abu Dhabi a fantastic place to live. We truly appreciate the sense of community that an event like this provides and it was great to see the mixture of Emirati and Expat families enjoying the occasion. During our visit things didn’t get too busy, as people disperse throughout the different areas of the park, and we didn’t really have to wait too long at any of the stalls.
As night falls the park comes to life with purple illuminations. The fountains and rivers light up, as does the shade house and amphitheater – creating a visual spectacle and lovely atmosphere. The music from the children’s playground carries on the breeze to create a nice chilled vibe to perfectly accentuate the mood.
To summarise – our first experience of Mother Of The Nation Park and The Ripe Market was an exceptional one. We can see ourselves becoming regular visitors and we believe the if this park were a hotel, it would definitely be rated five star for its cleanliness, well thought-out design, atmosphere and sense of luxury.
Location: 15th Street (between Airport Road and Karamah Street), Abu Dhabi
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.