Monday, November 10, 2008

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai - The balancing Act

Last Saturday, I drove to Abu Dhabi for a session with some corporate men that given the tasks to further develop Abu Dhabi as a major destination by 2030. It was a very good session with vision of Abu Dhabi presented through a frank and lively discussion.

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has a vision for his sheikhdom. Developed by his vision with the help of an international planning task force, Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 will govern the growth of Abu Dhabi over the next 20 odd years to develop the city by means of regulations that control land use, transport plans and the height of buildings.

The plan is divided into individual segments that informs about controlled ways to growth Abu Dhabi into a city of 3 million people by 2030 without loosing its appeal of modern and comfortable living it has now.

The whole context of the plan is to place a lot of weight onto environmental issues making sure that despite the imminent building boom the Emirate and city stay in touch with nature and all aspects of it.

The building block development incorporates new roads, urban living, villages, ecology, education, infrastructure and much more. Basically the vision of the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 is to create a natural harmonic community that appreciates the environment while having at their fingertips the best of modern living with all the trimmings.

The Urban Planning Council will endeavour to work with both developers, local council and public and private sectors to make sure that the plan is being executed at its utmost best.
The plan has also been developed to inhibit certain objectives that endanger many popular and fast growing cities, such as:

  • a loss of components of the traditional Emirati family lifestyle
  • a loss of the unique Abu Dhabi civic identity
  • intrusion of development into key natural areas
  • a loss of natural connections and nature’s amenities in the core of the city and
  • potential stagnation and neglect in the core of the city

    The plan will also ensure that locals are provided with plenty of affordable housing to ensure that they are not driven from their homes by overzealous developers.
    The whole idea really is ingenious and we wish that more trendy cities would incorporate such strategies to further their growth in a positive manner.

Dubai Vs Abu Dhabi

As recently as the late 1970s, Dubai’s population hovered around the quarter of a million mark, with Abu Dhabi home at the time to a similar number.
Fast forward three decades, and we have two cities playing host to 1.5 million people, not to mention the millions of tourists who have visited and will be visiting over the coming years.
The growth of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in terms of size, population and economy is all the more remarkable when you consider that here lie two cities separated by only 120 kms – a small footstep in GCC terms.
There is no doubt that oil wealth has played its part in the remarkable transformation of both cities, but there is another factor that has without a doubt contributed in a big way. The concept of friendly competition, and, perhaps more importantly, how competition has been managed.
In this respect, the UAE’s two principle cities have excelled.
Tourism is going to play a vital role in the future of both cities’ economic prosperity. But rather than lock horns in pursuit of the exact same tourist dollar, each city presents itself to a very different audience.
Dubai is the family-friendly, fun in the sun, luxury destination. Abu Dhabi, as national capital, adopts the “big-brother” approach, seeking to cater to a more cultured and refined audience.
The construction boom that is driving both cities is itself driven by a need for each to diversify its economy away from an over reliance on oil. The key to success lies not in how you build, where you build, or how fast you build – though try telling that to both cities – it lies in what you build. In that respect, and with the world looking on in turbulent times, Dubai and Abu Dhabi stand as proof that competition, when managed correctly, is always good.
Certainly, many expats and citizens believe that Dubai is guilty of excess from time to time. But at the end of the day the key to longevity, prosperity and even relevance in the international community comes down to reinvention. And both cities, recognising that the region’s natural resources can only go so far, see reinvention as a positive step in becoming a thriving community, whether it’s to be a tourist destination or the cultural center of the region.
And we can’t ignore the fact that the perceptions of foreigners, who flock to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and spend their tourist dollars, are also important to successful reinvention.
As Rashid Galadari, chairman of GIO Developments, told Construction Week assistant editor Jamie Stewart, “I don’t want to sound like a politician, but Dubai has created a very good mix. It has shown the world that we are not all extremists, we are not all psychopathic. The truth is it has shown that there can be a balance.”
Rob Wagner is the editor of Construction week

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