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Hala Krunz: Building a vibrant, adventurous community in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi thrill-seeker Hala Krunz, bottom right, is the founder of the Rolleristas. Her interests and lifestyle are as diverse as the city she calls home
Abu Dhabi thrill-seeker Hala Krunz, bottom right, is the founder of the Rolleristas. Her interests and lifestyle are as diverse as the city she calls home © Hala Krunz / Lonely Planet

There’s no shortage of adventure in Abu Dhabi. Whether it’s adrenaline-fueled water sports in the azure waters of the Gulf, a pedal-powered workout on the glistening pavement of the Corniche, or an exciting 4WD ride in the surrounding desert – action is a major part of the allure in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Well acquainted with it all is local thrill-seeker Hala Krunz ­– a graphic designer and social media influencer whose interests and lifestyle are as diverse as the city she calls home. By leading and experiencing a wide range of activities, she embodies the Abu Dhabi spirit of adventure.

Hala is the founder of the Rolleristas, a skating group whose mission is to spread joy on the city’s streets. We talked to her about the authentic Abu Dhabi, how it inspires her, and why there’s a deeper meaning in it all.

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"The first time I touched the horse, I immediately felt a connection to it and everything around me." © Hala Krunz / Lonely Planet

What’s the vibe in Abu Dhabi like?

It has a great balance of modernity and heritage. It’s the capital of the UAE and you can feel how well history is preserved here. The way the culture is honored is very authentic. You can go out on a dhow and learn about the ages-old seafaring traditions – the world’s earliest-known pearl diving took place here.

What else can you do to get a glimpse of what the city has to offer?

Go on a safari and see the best sand dunes in the country – they’re such a vibrant orange, just flowing and silky. There are all kinds of parks and activities in nature, whether that’s enjoying a long strip of beach along the Corniche, or kayaking among the natural, untouched beauty of the mangroves. You can soak up all the things about being in a big city (malls, restaurants, nightlife), without feeling like you’re in the middle of tons of skyscrapers.

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With the Rolleristas: "We all get inspired by each other when we’re out flowing, especially when we put on costumes" © Hala Krunz

You’re super active, and have helped others get active with the Rolleristas. What inspired you to start it?

I loved skating as a kid. But when you’re young you don’t really think about why you like it. You’re just on wheels, going fast. When I picked it back up during the pandemic, I literally felt negative energy leaving my body, and one word came to me: freedom.

I love shifting from side to side, twisting my legs around – I feel like I’m dancing, with my curly hair whipping around in the wind. That was the inspiration to start Rolleristas, because that’s what I feel when I skate. It’s freedom on wheels.

What does the Rolleristas community mean to you?

I’m all about spreading positive vibes and making people happy. When we go out, I get energized by blasting music and shouting “hi!” to all the people we pass. We all get inspired by each other when we’re out flowing, especially when we put on costumes. We do themed outfits, like during carnival season – some of us wore big headpieces with feathers, others decorated their t-shirts. It’s all about coming together as a community and doing our thing, regardless of how elaborate the costumes are. It’s a chance to express our creativity together, while mixing it with physical fitness. Having fun is what’s really important.

The Thrill-Seeker's Guide To Abu Dhabi
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"Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can live a beautiful life of ease." © Hala Krunz

You do so many cool things in Abu Dhabi that bring about different aspects of your personality. Where do you find inspiration?

Everything I do has to have a deeper meaning. Whether chasing adrenaline – I love skydiving, bungee jumping, anything that gives me some kind of rush in my body – or the peace I get from horseback riding on the beach. I didn’t care much for horses before I started, but the first time I tried it and I touched the horse, I immediately felt a connection to it and everything around me.

Mindfulness makes me appreciate skating more, as well as every sport I do, or even working out in the gym. I don’t do anything just to break a sweat – it’s very important that it helps me mentally more than physically.

You’ve been all around the world and visited lots of major cities. How is Abu Dhabi different?

Life here is calm, simple and uncomplicated. It's got a great mixture of things to do for everybody. Things are convenient and you can get anywhere you want fast – the traffic isn’t too bad and you can take the bus, which is really cheap and clean. And everyone is friendly.

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On Abu Dhabi: "Life here is calm, simple and uncomplicated. It's got a great mixture of things to do for everybody." © Zhukov Oleg / Shutterstock

What’s a common misconception about Abu Dhabi, and what’s the real deal?

Not everyone is rich! But life here makes you feel spoiled. What’s really beautiful is that even if things are cheap or free, everything in Abu Dhabi feels like five-star living. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can live a beautiful life of ease.

What do you love to do when you’re not working?

The first thing I do is go for a walk to the beach. It’s quite easy – just about everywhere in Abu Dhabi, you’re never too far from a beach. Sometimes I do my meditation there or go running. If I’m hungry afterward, I love going to the traditional fish market. You just pick what you want and they barbecue it there for you to eat on the spot. It’s so delicious and fresh, and just so easy. Even with all the luxury things I get to experience, I love the simple life – wearing whatever I want, hanging on the beach and relaxing, just getting messy eating fish.

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"Just about everywhere in Abu Dhabi, you’re never too far from a beach. Sometimes I do my meditation there or go running." © Hala Krunz / Lonely Planet

What else do you love to eat? What’s the food scene like in Abu Dhabi?

There’s so much diversity here and you can find every cuisine from around the world. What I eat often depends on who I’m spending time with. I was born in Abu Dhabi, but my mother is Palestinian, so when my family is together on the weekends, she cooks our traditional foods.

Many of my friends are expats from around the world. If I’m hanging out with my Colombian friend, we’ll eat arepas; or acai bowls with my Brazilian friend. Our running coach is from Morocco, so sometimes we’ll all have Moroccan food together.

As someone who is always on the go, what does recharging look like for you?

Sometimes I can be out for 12 hours a day. I’m super outgoing and upbeat – especially when I’m around other people. So when I’m home, I have to recharge to get my energy back. I enjoy just sitting and having quiet time with my family and my cats. Sometimes I just sleep, or I’ll do guided meditations or use my singing bowl.

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With a video crew: "I’m super outgoing and upbeat – especially when I’m around other people." © Hala Krunz / Lonely Planet

Traveling is also a big part of what you do. When you’re on your way back, once the plane touches down, how does it feel to come home to Abu Dhabi?

When I step out of the airport, there’s a warmth – literally, because of the weather here, and energetically. The way the air smells when I take a deep breath and the breeze fills my lungs, it’s just so comforting and familiar, unlike anywhere in the world. This is my home.

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