12 August 2010

Sim City

Abu Dhabi Bicycle
So on the way home from Melbourne Felix and I stopped in Abu Dhabi for 6 days to enjoy some daddy/son bonding at a nice hotel with a pool. And not much else. Abu Daddy and Felix Dhabi we called ourselves.

Abu Dhabi. What a strange place. There were bicycles, as the photo attests, but the city itself is bizarre. I would guess that most people would be able to form a mental picture upon hearing 'Dubai' what with all the OTT projects they've developed and the massive press about the place. But Abu Dhabi, only a hour or so by car from Dubai, is lesser known. The story is similar. Abu Dhabi was settled in the 1700's when Beduins found water in the area. It got it's first paved road in the mid-Sixties.

Now it's just plain bizarre. If you've ever played the video game Sim City, this will make more sense. I used to play a lot. You could find cheat codes on the internet. You could just leave the game running and generate obscene amounts of cash while buildings and cities were built.

That's how I felt in Abu Dhabi. Like I was in a pause mode in the midst of a Sim City game using every cheat code available.

I've never seen so many skyscrapers in the process of being erected. (I've never been to Dubai) I think I lost count at 30. What struck me was that none of the buildings - not one - was architecturally interesting. They will all end up being anonymous skyscrapers.
Sim City 092
Generally, the whole damn place is Coming Soon! They should carve those words in the desert, visible when you're coming in to land. Ferrari World! Coming soon! Nameless faceless office buildings! Coming soon!

From what I gather, Abu Dhabi is aiming at becoming a business centre, whilst Dubai seems to want to be a Disneylandish tourist destination. There are outrageously wide and new motorways everywhere. Even Dubai is working on a metro to ease the instant congestion that has befallen the place, but Abu Dhabi is content with asphalt, it seems.
Crazy Speeds
80 km/h inside cities?! 60 km/h inside AIRPORTS? (watch out when you're duty free shopping...)

I didn't feel at all safe on the roads, sitting in taxis. While there I read about an extremely high number of traffic fatalities and checking this link I can ascertain that there have been 391 fatalties in Abu Dhabi in the first six months of 2010. So double that for the year. Almost 800.

There are only about 1.4 million people in Abu Dhabi. By contrast, the number of traffic fatalities is over three times higher than in Denmark, with her 5.4 million people. Madness. How about a 200 car pile up on the road to Dubai?

With all the focus all around the world on urban planning and with all the bad experiences with traffic congestion it's wild that Abu Dhabi have stuck their fingers in their ears and are singing "The oil is forever! The oil is forever!"
There is bicycle infrastructure along the long Corniche beachfront route - you have to cross eight lanes of traffic to get to the beach/cycle tracks but hey... - but these seem to be primarily recreational.
We didn't bother. To get anywhere and everywhere a taxi was required. So apart from a couple of trips to shopping mall hells (but it was low season so there were great sales! and arcades for Felix!) we stayed at the hotel and hung out in the pools and on the beach.
Abu Dhabi Bicycle 02
This ridiculously out of place billboard is complete fiction. Happy dad, happy child learing to ride a bicycle. I've never seen so many obese children in my life. At the hotel and at the shopping malls.

This blogpost seems to be a kind of city review of Abu Dhabi but really I felt the entire time that I was in some strange video game in some bizarre, fictional place trapped between the past and the apocalyptic future.

Our Father
Our father? Stop abusing your children.