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24 June, 2005

Space ants of Abu Dhabi

"Beware of Road Surprises" says the bright yellow sign welcoming motorists to Abu Dhabi emirate. The only surprising thing about the Abu Dhabi road is that roadworks have been going on at Shahama for at least four years, with no apparent progress made. By comparison, Dubai has built half a dozen entire new intersections on its part of the road in the past two years.

The pace of life is generally described as "more relaxed" in Abu Dhabi, so the roadworks look safe for another decade or so. The UAE's capital has been busier building in its city centre, with the Grand Mosque nearly complete, the Emirates Palace already open, and land reclamation now extending the seafront. The skycrapers along the Corniche are flatter, glassier and more uniform than those in other emirates, giving a sort of space-age termite-mound effect.

The ants themselves are a fascinating study. At one beach hotel a local ladies' wedding party was finishing in the ballroom just as a western style nightclub opened. Crowds of full-face-veil abayas flowing out past an influx of mixed, tight-bright-skimpy multicultural types is a sight one never quite gets used to.



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