Saturday, October 5, 2013

DAY TWO - A little bit about this place

When I told friends Doug and I were moving to Abu Dhabi for a year or so, the first question was "Why?" and the second question was "Where's that?" I wondered that myself because while I knew the general area, I certainly couldn't look at a map and immediately put my finger on it. I've done a lot of Googling and reading over the past few weeks, so here's a little info on my new home:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a very small country along the Arabian Gulf, bordered by Oman to the East and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE is made up of 7 Emirates of which Abu Dhabi is by far and away the largest and the richest. The city of Abu Dhabi is also the capital of the country. 

Most of the country is desert. Think Lawrence of Arabia kind of desert. During the Summer months the temperatures can get up to 115, but I am told the Winter months are very pleasant with daytime highs in the 70's. When we arrived yesterday it was 104, a personal Hottest Day Ever for me. When I told my daughter, Leah, about the heat she replied, "well at least it's a dry heat". I had to correct her because while this region gets very little rain, it is incredibly humid. I assume it's because the Gulf waters evaporate and steam things up. In the evening when you walk by buildings you can see all the windows fogged up and dripping from condensation. It is what Leah calls "wrinkle plumping weather". 

Up until the 1960's, when vast offshore oil reserves were discovered, there were only small fishing villages dotting the shoreline and a handful of oases settlements in the interior. In 1971 the UAE was born, and under the leadership of  Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nayan much of the oil money was directed into building cities from literally the sand up. The two best known are Abu Dahbi and Dubai. It explains why everything looks so brand, spanking new. 

Abu Dhabi today

One fact about this city does confuse me, especially considering it's so new. One would think it would have been laid out in a lovely grid or some logical pattern, that the streets and avenues would be numbered, and that business would have a corresponding address. Not so. Not even close. People navigate by landmarks. For example, when we were coming from the airport last night we told the driver that our apartment was on 9th Street next to the Nissan Showroom. That is literally how it's listed on their website, and as addresses go around here, that is pretty straightforward. Navigating by landmarks made sense where I grew up in the rural New York State, where some roads were unpaved, and there were no house numbers. "Go down the road for a quarter mile and turn right at the barn". But in a big city? I am confused. 

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