I moved to the UAE last year with my family. We live in Abu Dhabi on the 35th floor of a highrise building that overlooks the Arabian Gulf.
I’ve woken up inside a cloud and seen the tops of buildings emerge through the fog.
I’ve seen the National Day fireworks through our window and the green lights of the Emirates Palace reaching into the night sky.
But one of my favorite places in Abu Dhabi is the bus station.
I first discovered the bus station last spring when I was co-teaching a class on public art with a colleague from NYU. The bus station lies low to the ground, like a crab in the sand, amidst highrises, a Lamborghini car dealership, and electronic stores.
Many different nationalities and social classes frequent the bus station. Occasionally, I would see young tourists taking pictures beside their luggage outside of a bus, but most of the people I met used the buses for transportation to and from work.
The bus station is one of the rare reversible spaces in Abu Dhabi - a place where one can experience the inside out. These men could be playing backgammon, drinking tea, or having a meeting. I wonder if the rolling filing cabinet was brought in for the occasion or is permanent part of the landscape.
An Indian woman and her daughter come into the station from the bright midday light. Curtains of heavy plastic keep the cool air inside and the heat out.
The dark air-conditioned interior provides a refuge from the sun blasted world outside. I love the dated institutional interior, the yellow light and the waffled ceilings.
This is the Pakistani side of the bus station that shuttles people from Abu Dhabi to the other emirates for a fraction of the cost. You can hear the men shouting out their destinations from beneath the green overhang. Buses have a loose departure schedule and leave once they are somewhat full.
The men on this side of the bus station all seem to know one another. They have gathered furniture beneath the overhang and set out rugs to create make-shift outdoor living rooms. Most of the men are from Pakistan and in some ways this bus station functions as a community center. The men want me to take their pictures, and I could be there all day while they pose for the camera. Unlike the other side of the bus station that is quiet and more formal, this side is filled with laughter, shouting, and human connection.
They’ve created makeshift living rooms and beds out of found furniture. I wonder how this couch arrived at the bus station. Did two men bring it in the middle of the night? Was it rescued from the street and given a second life?
The restaurant/dukkan where the drivers and passengers get their morning tea, breakfast, water, and cigarettes. One often finds abandoned shopping carts in Abu Dhabi on side streets, back alleys, and here at the bus station.
Omar, the head cook at the dukkan, moved from Iraq to Abu Dhabi.
Men from all over Abu Dhabi come and wash here before they pray beneath the overhang at the bus station.
One of the most sacred spaces in Abu Dhabi is beneath the green overhang of the bus station.
Created by — Mo Ogrodnik