50 Dirhams a Day: Abu Dhabi

50 Dirhams a Day: Abu Dhabi


If you are looking to take a break from the overwhelming daily pace of Abu Dhabi, commit to an afternoon exploring the city. You’ll be surprised how far 50 dirhams will get you.

Catch the number 5 bus to the Al Mina Port. Get off at the Electra Street stop, which is about thirty minutes from Marina Mall.

Walk facing Electra, with your back to the park. Pay no mind to your fellow pedestrians’ hasty rhythm. Relax as you leisurely make your way down the street, watching people go by, and take note of all the little shops and restaurants that tickle your senses. Stop at any of them that strike your fancy, but I recommend you go on.

Keep going until you find yourself face to face with the majestic El Dorado Cinema. There’s no way to miss the vibrant lights on its facade. The city’s first-ever movie theater, the El Dorado stands as a proud memento from another era, completely out of place between the modern structures that surround it. A small number of dirhams will get you into a showing of one of the South Indian films they feature, from afternoon matinees to evening screenings.

The entrance to the theater is on the other side of its Electra St façade. Across from the El Dorado there is a restaurant of the same name. Complement your movie with a delicious Southern Indian traditional meal for no more 15 dirhams. Be sure to try their delicious masala tea and chat with the owner, Omer. He tells interesting stories about the theater if you ask!

Hang around the shops in this superblock until at least 6pm, when the sun has set and the monumental “El Dorado” neon sign of the theater is turned on. The radiance of its raw lightbulbs is awe-inspiring. The whole area gleams in shades of bright blue and pink, with the light reflecting off all kinds of surfaces under the splendor of the sign. With the flick of a lightswitch, the street is saturated in the glamor of the 80s. Only the sweet syrupy scent of kanafeh from neighboring street vendors will remind you that you’re on Electra Street.