Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where The Streets Have No Name (in the UAE)


Till now in the modern era of 21st century, there is no proper address in the UAE. The best way to locate the building or villa is by certain landmarks which in proximity. There are street names but only 'visible' for major roads such as Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR), Emirates Road or Al Khail Road. The rest is just like U2 song, 'Where The Streets Have No Name'.

Confusions are unavoidable and sometimes hilarious. When they say, let's say like my villa, villa no 55, behind Emirates Co-op, Twar 3, it does not literally mean as simple as that. It could be a few kms behind and not exactly behind the mentioned landmark, most of the time out of the range.

But so far, we have to live with that idiosyncrasy and surviving the ordeals of locating the destination. The first rule, do not take the guide on landmark literally and have a bit of wild imaginations. Google map sometimes helps but the ground reality is different from the satellite images.
The best steps are to have ample time to be lost and keep your mobile handy, especially if it is your first trip to that destination (such as a friend's new house somewhere in Ajman...).

Read this news today:

ABU DHABI // The capital is to get a new address system to help everyone from residents to postal workers and emergency services locate streets, offices and houses quickly and logically.The system, to be designed with the help of a Norwegian company, should replace the traditional Middle Eastern method of identifying locations by their proximity to landmarks or intersections – plus a bit of guesswork and luck – which can make finding an address a frustrating experience.

Juma Mubarak al Junaibi, the director-general of Abu Dhabi Municipality, said the new system being developed should “eliminate misunderstanding” with respect to addresses and street directions.
The aim was to give all areas and streets unique names and logical and sequentially structured numbering, Mr Junaibi said in a statement issued in response to a query by The National.Norplan, a Norwegian company that specialises in urban planning and development, was selected as the consultant for designing the system after a tender by the municipality, the statement said.

Implementation of the system would begin by the end of the year or the beginning of next year, said Tor Overli, Norplan’s manager for the project. He said the company was preparing to start work, and the assessment and design phase was expected to be completed by October, but it was too early to say what the new system might look like.“We don’t know what will be implemented but it will be either an implementation of a new addressing system or upgrading of the existing one,” Mr Overli said.

Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council has established an Addressing System Committee to oversee and approve the project.“Over the next months, representatives of all stakeholder groups will be invited to contribute to the development of the new system.” The main challenge would be getting the public to use the addressing system once it was implemented, Mr Junaibi said.
“Any system, regardless of how good it looks on screen or paper, is worthless unless it is adopted and used by the public. An important part of the project will therefore be to design a campaign in order to make people aware of the new addressing system” and to ensure they understood its importance.

Mr Junaibi laid out the “guiding principles” for ensuring the new system “will be useful for residents and visitors to Abu Dhabi”.The first was that Abu Dhabi’s areas and streets should have unique names and logical numbering.The system should be simple to learn and remember, accurate and unambiguous, and easy to pronounce in Arabic and English.It should be flexible for extension to new developments and changes in existing areas. And it should be cost-efficient and implemented consistently throughout urban and rural areas, Mr Junaibi said.

Clark Beattie, a geographic information systems consultant, said Abu Dhabi had a “nice, orderly grid” street network with well numbered main streets but there was a need for a more “user friendly” system for interior streets.“In other cities, which have the same sort of grid pattern, it’s pretty easy to set it up so you know exactly where to go,” Mr Beattie said. Every building in Abu Dhabi municipality is numbered and sectored, but the green street signs which give a sector, zone number and street number are not commonly used and building numbers are not prominently displayed. Instead, major intersections and landmarks are used.

Mrs Beattie, who worked on a street addressing system in a rural town in Manitoba, Canada, said improving the street addressing system was critical for Abu Dhabi.

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