Unlike the rising skyline of Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island still has a low-rise aesthetic. Can it last, asks Deborah Williams? (Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National)
Unlike the rising skyline of Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island still has a low-rise aesthetic. Can it last, asks Deborah Williams? (Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National)

Old buildings root a city’s understanding of itself



notebook

I saw a car the other day with side-view mirror stanchions covered in sparkly crystals. They gleamed, even in the dim car park. Out on the road in the noonday sun, all that bling must look like mini disco balls.

Those mirrors seemed of a piece with much of the building that’s happening around Abu Dhabi. Skyscrapers are popping up as if in a race to see which building can be the tallest and shiniest. Each new building gets wrapped in a gleaming expanse of glass, a defiant rejection of the realities of the UAE – heat, dust, wind. Inevitably, within a few weeks of completion, these sparkling spires become buildings en croute each with a flaky crust of sand, salt and humidity. In order to make room for these new towers, whatever is at their base must be pushed aside or, in some instances, ploughed under. The towers rest on a swath of Abu Dhabi’s past that is in danger of being lost, although artists and scholars in the region have begun to raise awareness about the need to preserve these urban markers from the city’s early days as the new nation’s capital. The recent UAE Pavilion at the Venice Architectural Biennale, for example, highlighted the importance of engaging with multiple layers of history and culture rather than just the newest, uppermost one. Without the anchor of older buildings and older neighbourhoods, what will root these new towers? What will root the city’s understanding of itself?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been discussing similar questions with students in my literature classes. How do we engage with the past, particularly, with multiple histories around a single event? How does personal history link to national history, and how do these connections (and disjunctions) get described? Much to my students’ collective chagrin, I tell them that I don’t have answers to these questions.

This April, we are planning a trip to Bhutan, a country where I won’t find any skyscrapers, new or old. Bhutan famously measures its national well-being by the Gross National Happiness index, a set of principles that focusses on sustainable and equitable development in conjunction with environmental and cultural conservation. I suppose the balance between development and conservation might be easier in a country like Bhutan, which has a relatively homogenous population of fewer than a million people. That said, the Bhutanese model has attracted enough attention for the United Nations to endorse it. It will be interesting to see how, or if, other countries can adapt the Bhutanese principles for their own people. What would happen if economics stopped being the primary means by which countries measured their stability and well-being?

On Saadiyat Island, where I live, it seems at first glance that perhaps the balance between conservation and development has been achieved. Development sprawls low out here; the towers of Abu Dhabi aren’t rising along the beachfront. Much of the development slated for the island centres around museums and schools, institutions devoted to history and culture, contemplation and study. Developing Saadiyat seems simple, you might think, because it’s not as if there are landmark buildings or old neighbourhoods out here to preserve – there’s nothing but sand, water and sky. But that, of course, is among the thorniest of conservation questions: how to preserve open space against the pressures of urban development?

In my mind Saadiyat has become a test case for Abu Dhabi urban expansion. Can conservation win out against development? After all, there are plans to build a mall out here too. I can see it already: a big shopping centre, surrounded by parking lots filled with cars, their mirrors glittering in the sun.

Deborah Lindsay Williams is a professor of literature at NYU Abu Dhabi. Her novel The Time Locket (written as Deborah Quinn) is now available on Amazon

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
The biog

First Job: Abu Dhabi Department of Petroleum in 1974  
Current role: Chairperson of Al Maskari Holding since 2008
Career high: Regularly cited on Forbes list of 100 most powerful Arab Businesswomen
Achievement: Helped establish Al Maskari Medical Centre in 1969 in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region
Future plan: Will now concentrate on her charitable work

RESULT

Brazil 2 Croatia 0
Brazil: 
Neymar (69'), Firmino (90'+3)    

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

TCL INFO

Teams:
Punjabi Legends 
Owners: Inzamam-ul-Haq and Intizar-ul-Haq; Key player: Misbah-ul-Haq
Pakhtoons Owners: Habib Khan and Tajuddin Khan; Key player: Shahid Afridi
Maratha Arabians Owners: Sohail Khan, Ali Tumbi, Parvez Khan; Key player: Virender Sehwag
Bangla Tigers Owners: Shirajuddin Alam, Yasin Choudhary, Neelesh Bhatnager, Anis and Rizwan Sajan; Key player: TBC
Colombo Lions Owners: Sri Lanka Cricket; Key player: TBC
Kerala Kings Owners: Hussain Adam Ali and Shafi Ul Mulk; Key player: Eoin Morgan

Venue Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Format 10 overs per side, matches last for 90 minutes
Timeline October 25: Around 120 players to be entered into a draft, to be held in Dubai; December 21: Matches start; December 24: Finals

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Nausea
Vomiting
Swollen glands
Rash

The specs

Engine: 3.6-litre, V6
Transmission: eight-speed auto
Power: 285hp
Torque: 353Nm
Price: Dh159,900
On sale: now

Results

6.30pm: Madjani Stakes Group 2 (PA) Dh97,500 (Dirt) 1,900m, Winner: RB Frynchh Dude, Pat Cosgrave (jockey), Helal Al Alawi (trainer)

7.05pm: Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (D) 1,400m, Winner: Mnasek, Dane O’Neill, Doug Watson.

7.40pm: Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Grand Dubai, Sandro Paiva, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

8.15pm: Handicap (TB) Dh87,500 (D) 2,200m, Winner: Meqdam, Sam Hitchcock, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: Dubai Creek Mile Listed (TB) Dh132,500 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Thegreatcollection, Pat Cosgrave, Doug Watson.

9.25pm: Conditions (TB) Dh120,000 (D) 1,900m, Winner: Sanad Libya, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

10pm: Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (D) 1,400m, Winner: Madkhal, Adrie de Vries, Fawzi Nass.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Essentials

The flights
Emirates and Etihad fly direct from the UAE to Los Angeles, from Dh4,975 return, including taxes. The flight time is 16 hours. Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Aeromexico and Southwest all fly direct from Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo from Dh1,243 return, including taxes. The flight time is two-and-a-half hours.

The trip
Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic’s eight-day Whales Wilderness itinerary costs from US$6,190 (Dh22,736) per person, twin share, including meals, accommodation and excursions, with departures in March and April 2018.

 

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

COMPANY PROFILE:

Name: Envision
Started: 2017
Founders: Karthik Mahadevan and Karthik Kannan
Based: The Netherlands
Sector: Technology/Assistive Technology
Initial investment: $1.5 million
Current number of staff: 20
Investment stage: Seed
Investors: 4impact, ABN Amro, Impact Ventures and group of angels

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

Abu Dhabi GP Saturday schedule

12.30pm GP3 race (18 laps)

2pm Formula One final practice 

5pm Formula One qualifying

6.40pm Formula 2 race (31 laps)

South Africa squad

Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen (wicketkeeper), Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada.

Chef Nobu's advice for eating sushi

“One mistake people always make is adding extra wasabi. There is no need for this, because it should already be there between the rice and the fish.
“When eating nigiri, you must dip the fish – not the rice – in soy sauce, otherwise the rice will collapse. Also, don’t use too much soy sauce or it will make you thirsty. For sushi rolls, dip a little of the rice-covered roll lightly in soy sauce and eat in one bite.
“Chopsticks are acceptable, but really, I recommend using your fingers for sushi. Do use chopsticks for sashimi, though.
“The ginger should be eaten separately as a palette cleanser and used to clear the mouth when switching between different pieces of fish.”

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre V6

Power: 272hp at 6,400rpm

Torque: 331Nm from 5,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 9.7L/100km

On sale: now

Price: Dh149,000

 

SPECS

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol (V Class); electric motor with 60kW or 90kW powerpack (EQV)
Power: 233hp (V Class, best option); 204hp (EQV, best option)
Torque: 350Nm (V Class, best option); TBA (EQV)
On sale: Mid-2024
Price: TBA

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

The Pope's itinerary

Sunday, February 3, 2019 - Rome to Abu Dhabi
1pm: departure by plane from Rome / Fiumicino to Abu Dhabi
10pm: arrival at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport


Monday, February 4
12pm: welcome ceremony at the main entrance of the Presidential Palace
12.20pm: visit Abu Dhabi Crown Prince at Presidential Palace
5pm: private meeting with Muslim Council of Elders at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
6.10pm: Inter-religious in the Founder's Memorial


Tuesday, February 5 - Abu Dhabi to Rome
9.15am: private visit to undisclosed cathedral
10.30am: public mass at Zayed Sports City – with a homily by Pope Francis
12.40pm: farewell at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport
1pm: departure by plane to Rome
5pm: arrival at the Rome / Ciampino International Airport

Essentials
The flights: You can fly from the UAE to Iceland with one stop in Europe with a variety of airlines. Return flights with Emirates from Dubai to Stockholm, then Icelandair to Reykjavik, cost from Dh4,153 return. The whole trip takes 11 hours. British Airways flies from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Reykjavik, via London, with return flights taking 12 hours and costing from Dh2,490 return, including taxes. 
The activities: A half-day Silfra snorkelling trip costs 14,990 Icelandic kronur (Dh544) with Dive.is. Inside the Volcano also takes half a day and costs 42,000 kronur (Dh1,524). The Jokulsarlon small-boat cruise lasts about an hour and costs 9,800 kronur (Dh356). Into the Glacier costs 19,500 kronur (Dh708). It lasts three to four hours.
The tours: It’s often better to book a tailor-made trip through a specialist operator. UK-based Discover the World offers seven nights, self-driving, across the island from £892 (Dh4,505) per person. This includes three nights’ accommodation at Hotel Husafell near Into the Glacier, two nights at Hotel Ranga and two nights at the Icelandair Hotel Klaustur. It includes car rental, plus an iPad with itinerary and tourist information pre-loaded onto it, while activities can be booked as optional extras. More information inspiredbyiceland.com


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