INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for Places to go

Once and Future Happiness: This Decade on Saadiyat

It is essential that we have hope. For human beings to push forward we must have some confidence in the brighterhood of tomorrow — happiness is our fuel and our pot of gold. Saadiyat Island, the UAE’s Orwellianly marketed “Happiness Island” will host New York University beginning in 2014, and will has already begun selling villas to early birds with big nest eggs. The major museums are on the slate for five years Gulf time, or approximately 7-? years.

Here’s a blurry look at some major projects and where they stand.

Major Projects — اهم المشاريع

The Guggenheim

Future: Guggenheim

Now: Guggenheim

The Louvre

Future: Louvre

Now: The Louvre

Now: The Louvre

Saadiyat Beach Villas

Future: Saadiyat Beach Villas

Now: Saadiyat Beach Villas

Monte Carlo Beach Club

Future: Monte Carlo Beach Club

Now: Monte Carlo Beach Club

Park Hyatt Hotel and Villas

Future: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas

Now: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas

Shangri-La Hotel

Future: Shangri-La Hotel, Saadiyat

Now: Shangri-La Hotel, Saadiyat

Now: Shangri-La Hotel, Saadiyat

New York University Abu Dhabi

Future: New York University Abu Dhabi

NYUAD in 2014?

Now: New York University Abu Dhabi

Now: New York University Abu Dhabi

St. Regis Resort

Future: St. Regis Saadiyat Resort

Now: St. Regis Saadiyat Resort

Zayed National Museum

Future: Zayed National Museum

Now: Zayed National Museum

State of the Etihad — حالة الاتحاد

Housing for construction laborers.

Now: Khalifa Highway

Now: Saadiyat Marina

Saadiyat from Space

Now: Saadiyat Beach

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

Now: Manarat al-Saadiyat convention center

The Vision — الرؤية

(Buzzwords in the UAE: “vision” and “outlook” and “innovation” and “tomorrow”.)

Future: Cultural District (Inshallah)

Strolling — استراحة

Evening strolls along the breakwater
Near Le Boulanger
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi at Night

Click to make really big:


The Abu Dhabi National Theater and skyline

From the breakwater
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Ski Dubai Sucks — سكي دبي المصات

Ski Dubai sucks.

Whatever you want to make it: it ain’t. Whether you are an old timer looking to relive those far away moments on the slopes or a polar bear lost and seeking shelter, you’re going to be as disappointed as the kid at Chuckie Cheese’s that realizes the good prizes cost 8,000 jackpots worth of tickets. And if you’re a first timer — forget it. The 400-ft. slope lacks all of the things that make first-time skiers want to come back for a second. No scenery (it’s indoors); no choice of trails (it’s in a mall), no babes in the lodge (it’s Dubai); no hot chocolate at the bottom (cause fuck you, that’s why).
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سناميّ — My Humps

Transliterated Qur’anic phrases and Islamic benedictions make up most of the road signs on the straight highway out of Dubai. We headed towards the second stop in an epic three-part field trip that began early in the morning at the UAE’s only paper recycling plant and would end at its sole hydroponics farm, where veggies are grown without soil and taste like heaven on earth.

Our afternoon stop: Camelicious™, the largest camel dairy farm in the country, (and sister company Al Nassma, the elegant pioneering producer of camel milk chocolate) where farmers have harnessed one of the lesser tapped cameline resources in an experimental venture financed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE, and absolute monarch of Dubai.

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Welcome to the Desert, Call Me Sir

Sir Bani Yas is not the name of a long lost Arabian Knight, nor of an Englishman hidden away in the caves of the Emirates’ Western Region. It is a sizable island 250 kilometers down the coast from Abu Dhabi, reachable only by boat, and just a short ferry ride off the one road to Saudi Arabia.

Check-in for the resort — it is (of course) a resort — is on the mainland, miles away from the 34 square miles of desert island that was once as barren as its neighborhood coastline. But in 1971, the late ruler and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, built a palace on a hilltop, imported his favorite African animals à la carte, and established the island as a national reserve. And that — as they say in these parts — was that.

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منتصف الطريق — Middle of the Road

At the fish market near the port and harbor, Mina, everything is way too easy. A four-pound fish fresh from the morning catch, a half-kilo of calamari, another half pound of shrimp — all for about 80 dirham (22 bucks). And around the side of the market, half a dozen grilling and frying experts wait outside their restaurants to spice and cook everything you’ve just bought right on the spot (25 dirham). Get some minty, spicy arabic salad (from the same guys) and a couple lemons (from next door) and it’s without a doubt the best lunch in the city (priceless).

Abu Dhabi is a city that lacks a middle. There isn’t much of a middle class, or a stable one at least — the kind that spends christmases in the UAE. And there aren’t a whole lot of midrange places to eat where a sandwich might cost eight bucks, coffee would cost two, and everything else would be something else average. Everything is either high or low.

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A City Burjeoning — “مدينة في”تبريج

After a series of changed plans and cancellations, the World Economic Form (famous for meetings in Davos, Switzerland) issued a last minute invitation to our UAE Philharmonic Orchestra. We were to play at the opening banquet of the third annual Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai, where 600 economist-types from around the world discuss what’s going wrong, why, and what we’re all going to do about it.

We parked in the first level of the Dubai Mall parking, looking for the world’s only Armani Hotel in the world’s tallest building. But somehow, as easy as the Burj Khalifa is to find, the entrances remain hidden — and we walked for half an hour through the mall, past ice skating and thousand-dollar handbags, and around the massive foundation for half an hour trying to find the right way in. Like anywhere else in the Emirates, employees and passersby are often only experts in their immediate neighborhood: looking for Gatehouse 6, we were met with blank stares by the guards at Gatehouse 3.

Finally, we snaked through the back entrance and onto the massive “patio” of the Burj Khalifa, where the tower looms more incredibly than from any other perspective. This is not the kind of “hey, wow, that’s incredible” you feel when you look at the world’s biggest ball of yarn, or Italy’s biggest pizza — this is a kind of un-credibleness that makes your brain do a triple Salkow and faceplant into the ice cold reality of physics, still struggling to make sense of it all. For some reason, from some angles in bright daylight, the brain is sometimes able to shrink down the Burj — to convince itself that it’s just a shorter building that’s really, really skinny. But at night against the sky’s black backdrop, there’s no escape, and the mind capitulates to accept the new biggest thing it’s ever seen.

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يوم عند السباقات — A Day at the Races


Friday was the first day of racing season. Camel racing season.


Think of all the glamour, the maquillage, the frenzied betting and crowds screaming, the graceful galloping of horse races: it’s none of that. Some thousand camels run dozens at a time in back-to-back races around a horseshoe track near five miles long. Owners shadow their entries in crammed (white) SUVs from an internal track, paved for the first time this year. While the driver speeds ahead in what looks from the inside like rush hour in the desert, the owner clicks a remote control that triggers the camel’s whip.

Oh right — they’re ridden by robots.



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