Tuesday, April 29, 2008

United Arab Emirates

This is my third time into the UAE. On my first visit, it was during the Second Gulf War in Iraq. Many major construction projects were put on hold.
During my second visit a two years ago, Dubai was in a construction frenzy. The frenzy did not stop. It may have even accelerated considering the number of cranes we see around us. Twenty-four percent of the world construction cranes are currently operating in Dubai. Property analysts reckon that this market optimism will go on till the Year 2010.
. . Like Singapore, the UAE is a relatively small place compared to their neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman and Iraq. Like Singapore, it has to make it up with its open policies towards trade and investments. I heard the residential properties that they construct attract buyers from Iran, Pakistan and India, among others. It is said that there are many tax avoided money amongst such investments in Dubai. Rich Pakistani businessmen are said to run their factories by wire from Dubai and enjoy the security of Dubai.
Our trip is a business trip to Abu Dhabi, with a stop-over in Dubai. From Dubai, we took a bus to Abu Dhabi.

pix from ESPN.com
When we hear the place "Dubai" uttered these days, the first image we have is of a place full of construction sites and magnificient modern high-rise architecture, like the famous "The Sail" above.
Before all the construction sites, much of Dubai was just sand and desert. Desert land is cheap. So the trick is to buy a big piece of desert land, spend lots of money building an icon like "The Sail" and see the surrounding land (owned by you) appreciates; then sell the surrounding land parcels. That's where you make your money. The cost of constructing an architectural icon like "The Sail" is more than likely an unrecoverable cost, if considered in isolation.

So, you have other minor icons like this one above. Everyone competing for attention.
. All of them look pristine and futuristic with all the curved metal and glass forms.

This is a foundation pile for a new site. Notice that they are using bore the hole before lowering the steel cage reinforcements in? This is because you can hammer a pile in, as the ground is all sand. :)

More interesting architectures.


This one is a major icon coming up. It's going to be the tallest tower in the world.

.pix from vixed.com

This is the artist impression of when it is completed. Complete with surrounding waters, which is a symbol of wealth in Arabic culture.

pix from sightsofdubai.com


The Burj Dubai tower will be more than 800m tall. To get an idea, the Petronas Tower is only slightly more than half its heights; and I remember in the mornings I could see clouds that hovers at two-thirds of the height of Petronas Tower, probably at 300metres.

Despite the rapid modernisation of the UAE, their women are still veiled up.

.However, UAE women are allowed to drive. Saudi women only got this right last month.

Compared to my first trip to the UAE in 2003, I find the local men more relaxed in the presence of unveiled women. They do not ogle at them anymore. This is not the case in Saudi Arabia where they are more repressed

.This is the long morning queue for the bus in Dubai. Most of them are foreign workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


This is the famous Royal mosque where the late Emir was buried. It looks collosal. We didn't have time to visit it though.

.Here's the bus station. I love those curves! :)

The pixs of the Emir and the late Emir in the station.

.We discover this charming restaurant in the station. They sell mostly roti prata, popular among the Pakistani and Afghan taxi drivers.

.This impressive pix was capture by chance. He didn't know I was pointing my camera his direction and just wanted to take the chair.

This is the delicious roti prata - I think Pashtun or Pakistani style.

.This is a cute looking mosque besieged by the tall new buildings.

.We happen to pass by the office of the Social Security Fund. My contact in Abu Dhabi tells me there are no poor citizens in UAE. When the find someone poor, they call them in and asks what they need. If they do not have a house, they will give them a house.

But these 'poor ones' are mostly desert bedouins. They are used to living in tents in the desert and soon return to the deserts. Some bring sand into their house to make themselves feel at home.

Many native city folks are related or connected to a sheikh one way or another. From there, they get jobs or part of a business. The young ones who are able are sent to study in universities in the US and the UK on government scholarships.

.Soon evening falls. Our friend in Abu Dhabi brought us around to see the sights by the sea.

.This is their six-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. The only one there.

.This is a monument of the late Emir. A Pakistani businessman built this.

. This is the Marina Mall, by the sea. It is plushed with marble. It even has a indoor Parisian mall, that 'rains'!


This is the building housing the famously wealthy Abu Dhabi Investment Fund, one of the five big Souverign Wealth Funds in the world that the USA and EU is apprehensive about, as it went round buying US banks and assets.

.Next morning, we woke up early to go to our business meeting near the airport. To save time, we went to this Turkish bakery to get some sandwiches and eat them in the car.

.The shop attendants are very friendly. They all asks for their pixs to be taken! :)

.Beware of their desserts though. They are very sweet!!!

.Al Raha Beach Hotel, near Abu Dhabi airport. This pix may look ordinary to most, but remember we are looking at green grass, shrubs, flowers and a fountain pond in a desert.

.Traditional wall motif.

.I love the bright colours used in this hotel...

. Retro...


. Here, we went about 30kms away from city centre into the 'cottage industry' zone.

. We soon find ourselves far from the posh glossy lobbies and showrooms of Abu Dhabi to a place where work actually gets done. :)


This is my friend's workshop. He makes aluminium frames. Good and steady business.
After our business meetings, we headed back to Dubai. Instead of the ubiquitous marble and glass hotels, we decided to stay in the old town.


I took this pix in the morning, where a mother accompanies her son waiting for the school bus. Notice the buildings in the backdrop are built in the traditional architecture, where they have tall ventilation cooling towers for the hot air to get out of the building.

Here's the old town where they sell gold jewelry.


It is a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the more touristy and modern part of Dubai.

. A typical goldsmith.


The backlanes of old Dubai.

Goods are still carted by hand as some of the shops are along small zig-zagged lanes where it is hard for motorised vehicles to reach. Backlanes are built zig-zagged to keep itself cool from hot winds of the desert. Same principles as the cooling fins of an air-conditioner.

.Pakistani workers resting in between ferrying goods from the trucks to the shops.

Most of the shops here are wholesale centres. The displays are mostly samples for smaller shops in the region to see and make orders on.

. This shop has refurbished its shop front with chrome metal, but still keeps its protective plastic covers. Perhaps, to keep the chrome metal new! :)


Amid the shops, we found one or two buildings entirely occupied by Chinese shops wholesaling shoes, bags, and Chinese products.

. Funny enough, we even found a "Singapore Shop" with many people waiting outside, probably for some goodies.


One of the many mosques amid the old town residents and shops.

Some of the mosques are above commercial shops.


We stayed in a small traditional hotel next to the Admadiya School. It is a heritage area.


Note the lovely air vents. Everyone is different.This is the front door of the old Al Ahmadiya School.

.The sleepy charm of the area is surreal amid the busy surroundings of the old city with wholesale shops and goldsmiths.

.Outside the hotel.

.This is the place we stayed. Lovely!

.Hotel courtyard.

.Checking in...

.The interiors are kept in the old traditional designs.

.This is the close-up of the cupboard.

Lunch at the hotel courtyard. We had traditional Lamb Birani Arab style. By the way, Rice Birani has its origins from here.

. Mint tea - an essential drink for me after every meal in Arabia, otherwise, I would not be able to digest the food and have a bloated stomach.


This is the school courtyard. Now a museum.


The Al Ahmadiya school is the first school for public education in Dubai and was first constructed in 1912. The school was started by Ahmed Bin Dalmouk, a philanthropist pearl merchant. At first the Al-Ahmadiya School taught only limited subjects including basic math, Islamic studies as well as Arabic language and grammar to about 200 boys.


This is the grand entrance of the Bank of Iran. Luxurious entrances like these are common place in Dubai. I was told that if you are to open a business in Dubai, they all have to look really posh and slick.

.At the creek, I spotted this dhouw. A dhouw is a boat made of wood and tarred over.

.Look at the intricate joints and wooden rivets. It's a work of art.

.Goods are still loaded and unloaded along the banks of this creek.

. Soon it is sunset and the lights of the mosques and building along the opposite banks glitter amid the fading sun.


Boats like these ferry workers from the old town to the new town and vice versa, together with the tourists.
. Back in the hotel.


Our lunch in a restaurant in the old town before we leave for the airport.
The flying saucer.

... and the dispersed light...

We are going home...


euveng said...

This is a very nice and concise review of your travelling in UAE. What dealings do you have there by the way?

Beau Lotus said...

The veiled woman driving made me laugh. Not going to help her gain more visibilty. And will only worsen women's reputation for bad driving.

They may have the tallest buildings in gold or marble or whatever, but if a woman has no right to walk out of her home in a bareback if she so wishes, it can be as bare as a concrete wall to me. Besides, when you think of all the poverty and suffering in this world, having such ostentatious signs of wealth is irresponsible.

Otherwise, really nice photo blog. Thanks for sharing.

jupilier said...


We were there to sell a personalised rapid transit (PRT) transportation system.

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