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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Initial Impressions

It's hard to explain. but I was comfortable with Abu Dhabi right away. It is truly a bilingual city as all the signs are in Arabic and English. I think this had something to do with the history of the British being involved a long time ago in the development of this country which they then called the Trucial States. When they left in the early 70's, that is when the independent U.A.E. was formed. Again, a subject for another post.

The City of Abu Dhabi is located on an island and is connected by several bridges to the mainland (which is the Emirate of Abu Dhabi). It's like Manhattan Island in New York. You have New York City in the State of New York as you have Abu Dhabi City in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, see the parallel? Abu Dhabi City is also the federal capitol (like Washington, D.C) of the U.A.E that consists of seven Emirates of which Dubai is one. Well, enough of the history and geography lessons before you nod off and start drooling on your keyboard.

Being on an island with finite boundaries, the City of Abu Dhabi is extremely compact and crowded. Driving (a future post!!!) is hairy to say the least and parking is a survival game meant only for the fittest. I used to sip a couple of Wild Turkeys on the rocks and watch the drama unfold from my 3rd floor hotel window at nights and be entertained for hours.

The city is very vibrant until late in the night and I would enjoy just walking around exploring after work hours. There were several cool nightclubs (Novotel and Crowne Plaza) within walk-to, stagger-back distance from my hotel. Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC and Mc Donalds were right around the corner. Not that I frequented these. You can avail yourself of the resort hotel's spas and pool areas for a small fee even though you are not a guest.

Crime is almost non-existent here and I never felt any danger in my late night journeys. I never saw any bums, grafitti, unruly gangstas and nobody ever even asked me for so much as a cigarette or spare change. I think the reason for this is that everyone here has to have a job to stay in the country. To reside here you must have sponsorship from your employer and a residence visa, no matter how menial the job. The U. A. E. is VERY strict on this.

Also, crime is just not tolerated. Commit a crime and you spend an undetermined amount of time in an unairconditioned cinder block box with 86 other inmates and when you do get a court date and you are a foreigner on a residence visa, you are usually unceremononiously kicked out of the country so hard and fast that the boot marks will be on your ass for years. 80% of the foreigners living here are from India and Pakistan which means that they have it good here and will do anything not to get deported back to a crappy existence back home. So people are usually on there best behavior.

The city is clean. There are literally armies of guys in gray overalls constantly sweeping and picking up trash in the streets. Even the pigeons are skinny because they cannot find enough scraps to eat.

Parts of the city that were built in the 70's are starting to look crappy. Some of the older buidings are being torn down but some areas look like Mexico.

The city is full of mid-rises that have dozens of small shops at street level. These are where you can get everything. Food, haircuts, groceries, dry cleaners, rental cars, photos, curtains, etc., all within a few blocks area. This is what i thought was the coolest while I lived downtown. These small time entrepreneurs are friendly and fun to talk to and they really appreciate your business. One time I had to get an official translation of my U. S. drivers licence and I went to a small legal office near my hotel, I ended up talking politics and drinking tea with the owner and his son for over an hour. That was fun and I felt like I had made some new friends. They were from Palastine.

Another time I had to rent a car and found another small shop near my hotel. The owners were 2 women from Ethiopia. They made me comfortable with a newspaper and a cup of tea while the car was being made ready. We had a discussion about cars and they said American cars were shit and didn't hold up in the heat here, they tried Fords but the Japanese cars were best. Who was I to argue against experience? I didn't tell them that in a few weeks I was going to purchase a new Jeep imported from Detroit!

I had fun when I lived in the city. My new apartment is about 15 miles away and although nice with good parking, there is nothing out here yet but sand dunes. I miss the city!

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