There is a part of certain city’s neglected by most. It lies at the outskirts of the population. It is old, decrepit, worn down, forgotten, but today… that’s exactly where we went.
My patient companions and I went in search of groceries, but getting in the car with Mr. McShain rarely doesn’t end in an adventure. Past the supermarkets and mega stores we drove, U-turn after U-turn we circled, in order to get to a place at the far side of Port Zayed and the Dhow Harbor, where fish and ships are served daily. Huge brown storage facilities lined the small road as we ventured forth through deserted space to unknown areas of Abu Dhabi.
When we hit the end, where roads ceased and shipping lanes began, we found a collection of hodge-podge boutiques. Cute they were not. 50 percent were completely void of anything, while 25 percent of the rest were either closed or abandoned. We did find a few stores being manned by weather torn and faithful locals, but unlike other over zealous shop owners who itch at a chance to corral you into their domain, these shop owners seemed content in their seated accommodations. I can’t explain exactly what the stores were, but I now know where to go to if I need cheap bicycles for my future children, or no-name brand suitcases. We thought our trek would simply end as one of authentic but unpractical exploration, limited to this singular trip with no plan of possible return. We were wrong.
Feeling a bit peckish we searched for something to satisfy our appetites. Set apart from those shaky shops we’d walked by these last 20 minutes stood a building somewhat similar. Windows covered up. Signs dilapidated. Dust accumulating on the ledges and paths embracing the corroded constructions. Similar indeed. Above these shown a larger sign, Casttello it read. Equally as worn, but beckoning us towards it doors with two words: CAFÉ – RESTAURANT. We did NOT expect much.
We definitely didn’t expect to find a fine dining experience in the middle of such aged conditions. White table-cloths, surrounding windows reaching from floor to ceiling, waiters in suits? Maybe that was the owner’splan. Set up shop in a neighborhood no one expects anything.
Lower diner’s hopes and then hit ‘em in the gut with Ghoulash. We didn’t eat any Ghoulash, but we could’ve. They had it on the menu.
Instead, on the suited server’s advice, we ordered the seafood platter. We were 30 feet from the water and less than a mile from where all the fish in Abu Dhabi first touched soil, seafood was a safe bet. For less than 120 dirhams (approx. 40$), the three of us fed our walked and weakened bodies on pickled vegetables, calamari, shrimp, mussels, tilapia, lobster, and a delightful hummus platter. We hungrily ambled into Casttello’s expecting little. We strutted out of Casttello’s pleasantly plump and pleased.
Stepping towards the water’s edge you can see amazing things in the blues of the deep, and if you look in the right direction, you might even glimpse a bit of yourself. Today, we tiptoed through the sprays few seem to swim, and it paid off. Maybe we should all swim in seas of uncertainty a bit more.