No Arab loves the desert. We love water and green trees. There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing

(Prince Feisal, Lawrence of Arabia)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A green and pleasant land?

"They used to say that agriculture has no future [in the UAE], but with God's blessing and our determination, we have succeeded in transforming this desert into a green land."

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

 This year, marked the sixth anniversary of the death of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former president and founder of the UAE. He believed then, six years ago, that he had managed to successfully create a 'green land'. A green land of wealth and prosperity perhaps however the constant view of sand and dust within this ever growing building site would appear to contradict this.

 Unfortunately the city of Abu Dhabi is not quite the oasis the late Sheikh Zayed had hoped for however his grand masterplan for the area still remains - as every week a new road is finished, building opened, and tree erected. If only the government departments responsible for these changes knew how to communicate internally they could possibley create the land Sheikh Zayed dreamed of more efficiently.

 A couple of months ago PB and I were lucky enough to have a week long vacation in Beirut where we saw a sharp contrast to Abu Dhabi in the efficiency of renovation and construction. Beirut was, as most of you know, heavily bombed during it's civil war - evidence of which is still present throughout the city.

 Once the war was over in 1990, what was once Beirut's Central District was left for dead, flattened by over 25 years of fighting. Our guides books described what we were about to see as post-appocolyptic Paris. Imagine then, our suprised when Beirut's Central District, now reffered to as Downtown, more closely resembled the stylish fashion avenues of Rome or Barcelona. In only 15 years the part public, part private initiative, Solidere, has turned what was 'no mans land' into a bustling hub of exclusivity.

 On our return to Abu Dhabi we immediately longed for the Mediterranean vibe that flows through Beirut but quickly reminded ourselves that we can not compare the two cities as this country is a mere 38 years old. To compare it to those places in the world that we love is unreasonable and I have no doubt that in another 38 years, if that, people will be sad to leave this place - myself included.