Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Last Days in the UAE

I have but a couple of days left in the UAE.  It is nearly a year since my arrival in Abu Dhabi back in 18 March 2010.  It is with great trepidation that I leave UAE because it has been a good stay over here.  My stay turned out shorter than I expected.  I did not explore outside the UAE as I had planned to do.  When I wanted to visit other places in the region, I was either too busy with work or the recent turmoil in the region prevented me from visiting a few places.  There are many locations here in the region that are well worth visiting.  I still aspire to see some of these places in future visits.

On several trips to the western region desert in the UAE, I have come to admire the beauty of the desolate landscape.  I relished the numerous one day visits to Dubai visiting the old (Bur Dubai, traditional souks, and Bastikiya) and the new (the countless super-megamalls, Palm Jumeirah, Burj Khalifa, and the myriad of ongoing high rise construction).  I enjoyed exploring the more sedate Abu Dhabi, where I live.  Visiting the oases in Al Ain and the nearby rocky, mountainous terrain of Jabel Hafeet was always a treat.

What I will not miss are the horrendous drivers.  I have been lucky that I have not had any vehicle accidents here; I have had several near misses.  I will not miss the lack of parking in downtown Abu Dhabi.  It is always difficult finding parking spaces in Abu Dhabi.  If you do find one, it may be difficult to drive off from the parking spot later on because of the common practice of double parking or people parking anywhere, including blocking off parked cars, when there is nowhere else to park.  I did not go to downtown Abu Dhabi as much as I would have liked because of this issue.  I will not miss cleaning sand off from my hair, face, eyes, ears, nose, etc. especially after a sand storm.  And lastly, I can now wear brown or black shoes and not be concerned about them getting dirty.

While the region is awash in pockets of unrest, the UAE has been relatively quiet.  The UAE is not a democracy; it is more like a monarchy.  Most Emiratis enjoy a decent way of life.  Its citizens have not suffered thru the economic downturn that is augmented with poverty, high unemployment, and limited opportunities as have most of the Middle East and North Africa.  The government has ensured that its citizens, for the most part, are provided assistance and benefits such as health insurance and job prospects.  You will probably not see any protest here anytime soon by the locals.  If protests were to occur, it will be by the millions of laborers from third world countries who have toiled with little pay to modernize the UAE.  But if they do start to protest, the UAE government can simply send them back to their homeland.

The region is undergoing political and social transformation of historic proportions; it will be interesting how it will all turn out.  The more affluent nations in the region have undergone and continue to undergo major makeovers to modernize.  I have seen such examples in the building boom of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  There is simply a bounty of construction in these two cities even if the worldwide economic downturn has slowed down the pace a bit.  There are a few projects in Abu Dhabi and Dubai currently under construction or planned for the near future that will merit a visit.  I am sure I will be back for another visit, whether as a tourist or for work.

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