Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blogging problems

OK, so I found a few problems with what I had been doing:
  1. The pictures I'm putting on the blog are too large.
  2. Picassa only puts on four pictures at a time.
  3. There is no way to set the default template for uploaded pictures.
  4. When publishing to an FTP server, edits aren't correctly saved.
There are ways of working around all these of course. It's just more of a pain.

Abu Dhabi Corniche

The Abu Dhabi corniche is a seafront park that runs along the side of the city that faces the Persian Gulf. That used to be an accurate description, but it has slowly changed as more and more of the coast has been filled in to make more room for the city. This work, done at enormous expense, does not go toward any actual economic activity, but toward leisure and pleasure. I haven't ever come across anything like this. I can't imagine any other country spending money this way.

I took these photographs on June 17th, which happens to be a day heading into peak summer. The day was relatively dry and clear, a situation that changes rapidly as June comes to a close.

This is where I had gotten off the taxi. The corniche, as I remember it when I first arrived in Abu Dhabi, had a few buildings, a few villas, a small grassy area, a path along the sea. It was simple. Now it has become an immense undertaking, a garden like one in any country with plenty of water, lined with a wall of buildings. It had changed a lot while I had been living here, but the change since 1999 (the last time I was in Abu Dhabi) is amazing.

Stepping a bit toward the sea, we have a fountain. And green, springy grass.

I could take endless pictures of the corniche and fail to communicate what Abu Dhabi has created. Here's a last one of the city's view from the corniche, showing a bit of the garden.

A shot of the water. Amazing how clear it is. Just like a desert.

A longer view of the water, with a view of the breakwater. This used to be a simple breakwater, some structure in the water, to keep the waves at bay. Now there's a mall and housing going up there. More photographs of that another time.

Here's a view of a pedenstrian subway. The tilework is amazing. All the tiles seem to have been individually glazed. Not painted. All the pedestrian walkways seem to have been done this way.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The homes my parents have had

So I thought I'd put together a series on the homes I've lived in and visited in Abu Dhabi. Here's a little photo journey. I'm actually fortunate to be able to put this together. Many buildings in Abu Dhabi have changed rather drastically.

Here's the first. This building was amazing back in the day. It was one of the few in Abu Dhabi with central air conditioning, practically a necessity out here. We had inherited it from an English family. We thought them a bit stiff when they had visited us. I was.... nine? I don't even remember how many bedrooms it had. Three, I think. Of the interior I remember nothing, save that it came with two thick rugs made of the skin of some animal. My brother still has them.

It is a bit of a miracle the building's still standing. There was an empty space in front of the building when we had first moved in, and the one to the left was much shorter. This all changed while we were still living there. I remember seeing the one in front (with the KFC sign) come up.

The second and third apartments were in the building in the center. Once again, this building dwarfed the other two on either side. The first place was a three-bedroomer on the tenth floor. My father got promoted, and we moved up to the fifteenth floor, the penthouse. That was the first time I got my own bedroom. The view from the building was nice. (It's no longer there, more on that matter in another post.) We had a view of the Marina (a sports and social club) and a bit of water. That was where we were living when I came to the US to study. It was around the time of the first Gulf War. I saw US ships in port from my home.

While living in the penthouse, we saw the building on the left grow up from a two story deal. The building on the right was replaced after we had moved out.

This is I believe the last building my parents had occupied before his brief stint in Dubai. (Unfortunately I didn't visit while they were in Dubai, a much more happening city than Abu Dhabi.) When my parents had moved in, the building was new, the apartment was huge (four bedrooms, a huge living room, a dining room, a lobby). I think I visited there twice.

After returning from Dubai, my parents moved into this building. It apparently has been here a long time, though I can't remember. Again, the place is huge. I have emphasized the hugeness of the third and fourth place because my parents now live by themselves. Four bedrooms for two people seems a bit excessive to me. Maybe I'll change my mind as I get where they are.

What doesn't come through here is that all these buildings are in a two block area. You could visit all four in about a fifteen minute walk.

Monday, June 12, 2006

City changed

I'm finally ready to write something more substantial about Abu Dhabi, after having been here for a few days, getting my visa papers straightened out, and taking care of a tooth that started acting up right after I had arrived.

I tried thinking back to when I had first arrived here as a child. I knew only a small part of this small city. There were slums here. Not poor slums. Rather, houses in the middle of the city that looked like shacks, complete with corrugated sheets. Only that there was this one I had spotted with a Rolls out front. All that is now gone.

Near where we lived, there was a sandy open space. It wasn't quite a playground, but it had become one. We used to play football (not the American kind), cricket, whatever else we could. That playground sprouted buildings before I had left for the US. Now those buildings look rather old and run down.

The housing market here has always struck me as odd, but I think that's a reflection of the overall economy. Buildings are put, or rather squeezed into improbable corners and spaces. There is little consideration given to, say, planning or quality of life. Having a car is practically a necessity, and parking is impossible. Housing is priced at levels that are unaffordable. But that's OK, because it's paid for by employers anyway. At least if you've got a job worth having. Now they've started trying to sell properties here too. An apartment costs here as much as it would in Chicago. I'm not sure why I'd pick this place over Chicago.

Luxury is expensive. Coffee (as in coffee shops one finds in practically any major US city) is a luxury. So coffee is expensive. Take a trip to a mall, spot a coffee shop. Say a Starbucks, or a Seattle's Best. Instead of going up to a counter and getting something quick, you sit down at a table. You get table service. You pay twice as much for a regular coffee as you would in the US. Spend some time there, relax, only the relatively well off will be found at such an establishment. Having a coffee is partaking is something special and excusive.

Abu Dhabi is overrun with concrete and steel and glass construction. It is a place that fantasizes of Manhattan, reminds me most of the Gulf coast of Florida. It is an improbable city, supported by oil and gas. I was out this morning for a walk, and started thinking about how this city could possibly be sustained without that oil money. I had visions of all the greens turning to desert, all the buildings becoming run down and dusty. It seems unlikely that the economy can be transformed to be sustained without oil, and support everything they have built here. I hope this is more than a temporary dream in the desert.

Speaking of taking a walk, doing so is rather difficult for any extended period. The temperature during the day seems to hit 100 F quite regularly. I want to start running here again, the only time to do so seems to be before the sun comes up. Before 6am. I've never been one to get up that early. I'm right now riding on my jet lag. As expected, there were many others out taking their morning walk. The sun wasn't yet up, the air was heavy with humidity and still far from cool. It all felt very familiar. Only that the path I was walking on had been water the last time I had visited Abu Dhabi.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Back in Abu Dhabi

I'm presently on vacation, suffering from 12 hours of jet lag. I got here yesterday, today I go to the US Embassy. My visa needs to be renewed. Always seems like a dangerous endeavor: they could refuse. Esepcially since I'm not getting it done in India. There are a lot more thoughts I could put down about this place, but that will be after I've recovered my orientation.