Destination Abu Dhabi

Published: July 9, 2012
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All the the foreigners that I met in Abu Dhabi are glad to have shifted there. PHOTO: SAADIA QAMAR/ EXPRESS

It’s strange how an ordinary reporter’s perspective can change overnight with a single trip abroad. A reporter, according to the norms of a society, comes from them and lives amongst them and, thence, reports what he or she feels must be reported justifiably and correctly, about them.

The perks associated with being a reporter pull you in all directions; you are given many opportunities to advance in the field, globetrot occasionally and become a great writer. My recent adventure landed me in Abu Dhabi as I was on a Familiarisation Trip, hosted by Etihad Airways. I got to travel in the airline’s business class, which, of course, was a perk on its own. However, the experience that I had upon reaching Abu Dhabi was, perhaps, a more valuable one.

Once in Abu Dhabi, I visited several landmarks in the company of a group of journalists — from the globe’s only Ferrari World, to the white marble structure of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, to the simple Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum — which was once the simple abode of the late father of the nation, Sheikh Zayed — to a stopover at al Ain Oasis. The heritage and history combined at these sites made a great blend for a rich cultural experience.

Contrary to my thoughts and presumptions about people in the Middle East, they really know how to preserve their identities and honour their heritage, unlike Pakistanis, who are  critical of our identity and pay little heed to our rich heritage, down to the golden culture. We certainly are a lost cause, for we fail to signify strength in times of crisis and fail to stand up to protect our heritage sites — not only for other people and nations to marvel at but also for our next generation to admire.

Maybe Pakistan can follow in Abu Dhabi’s footsteps. One fascinating fact was that even though the recession bubble burst in Dubai, leading to several years of poor economic growth, the morale of the people in the seven emirates is still high; the foreigners that I met in Abu Dhabi are glad to have shifted there.

Great nations grace with time, elegance and refinement in their mannerism and that is what I found to be true for Abu Dhabi and its people.

Read more by Saadia here

Saadia.Qamar

Saadia Qamar

A reporter on the Life and Style desk of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • U M Syed

    Ferrari World is undoubtedly a great experience.Recommend

  • Sonya

    “Note: The reporter was recently on a Familiarisation Trip to Abu Dhabi 2012, hosted by Etihad Airways.”

    No wonder why a positive blog in favor of corporation-like dying country where hundreds of investors lost their billions in recent times, whose hotels are running at 20% occupancy and property is available for rent at 80% less the price. A country with no democracy, protection of human rights, free-expression and distinction between Haram and Halal. Rulers with low on morality, state with selective justice and discrimination, and happy people with Kings blessings. Do you know, this is a country that has not added any value to the body of knowledge and so tiny in size to be ignored.

    Saadia, the country of Pakistan deserves more from you than writing a positive blog for a paid trip. I am disappointed.Recommend

  • Qaisrani

    @Sonya.”A country with no democracy, protection of human rights, free-expression and distinction between **Haram and Halal”.P

    contradiction & hypocrisy at it’s best.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Abu Dhabi is very rich, very small and a nice stop over for about 48 hours. Lady, you got a little carried away in this write up.Recommend

  • ovais khan

    u mean jithay ami dabi othay abu dabiRecommend

  • N

    Its a good place if you are going for a short vacation i.e. not more than 10 days!

    “Contrary to my thoughts and presumptions about people in the Middle East, they really know how to preserve their identities and honour their heritage, unlike Pakistanis, who are critical of our identity and pay little heed to our rich heritage, down to the golden culture.”

    Don’t give conclusive remarks based on your one time short trip! Being on an all expense paid trip, you didn’t get to see the dark side of the city!

    Some of the points you missed to cover (probably intentionally) about your aspired heritage:

    Abundance of Clubs/Pubs/Bars, active late night skin market in almost every area, exotic cars on display at every junction of the road, discrimination at every government office, mockery of human rights, injustice with lower class mainly labors, 70% of our salary go towards rents and buying properly doesn’t even gives permanent status, sky scrapers, lavish malls and so on.

    Dates, Camel rides, Sword/hair waving dance, modesty and so on .. all these things portray heritage! I don’t see all this here ..

    You need to to have plenty of money in your pocket to seek a joyful trip. Did you pay for Ferrari world (Ticket AED 250 i.e. around Rs.7000)!??

    The good part about this place is the abundance of mosques and no power or water breakdown.

    Anyway, please do not curse your heritage by comparing it with something that doesn’t even exists!

    Lastly, such articles should not surface in ET as it gives a feeling of unreliability!Recommend

  • T

    @Saadia: It wouldn’t have been so bad if you hadn’t put negative comments about Pakistan in this BS blog. You really think you can speak for ALL the “foreigners” who shifted to Abu Dhabi? Recommend

  • Saadia Qamar

    @ All of you. Thank you for your comments. But, let me add one more thing here, I didn’t do anything wrong by appreciating another culture where their heritage, holds dominance and is greatly valued. Sadly, here in Pakistan, that is not the case. See for yourself and be objective. How many of us have visited sites and spots and have done anything to preserve our own cultural heritage?? All, we have ever done is made them look like old buildings ready to be laid to rest!!!! And then we talk of preserving our history. Recommend

  • http://socialpakistan.com/blog Huzefa

    @Sonya: Sonya, I feel that your comment has nothing to do with the Familiarisation Trip. Etihad Airways is a young growing airline that is making its presence felt in Pakistan. This initiative has only been taken by a few leading airlines in order to gain brand mileage and provide its brand enthusiasts with an experience of a lifetime. Your remarks seem to stem from the Arab countries as whole. Your comment has nothing do to with what Saadia has written here. You need to address this situation without a sense of frustration as Pakistan deserves more from you too.Recommend

  • N

    @Saadia Qamar:

    Please don’t compare Abu Dhabi with cities in Pakistan. 90% of all the petroleum in UAE is produced by Abu Dhabi (Fact #1). In short Abu Dhabi is one of the richest cities in the world (Fact #2)

    The only place where I see their cultural dominance is in government organizations! Could you please educate me the places where you saw the dominance of culture (Ferrari world!? Grand Mosque!?) Look, cultural and heritage museums are bound to portray this subject.

    Have you ever been to Allama Iqbal Museum, Archaeological Museum, Moenjodaro Museum and so on? You can see that our heritage is also “preserved”. UAE nationals make less than 17% of the total population (Fact #3).

    Go inside Abu Dhabi and you’ll see that Hindi/Urdu is the most spoken language (heritage??).

    Next time you go to UAE, please make sure that you visit Ras Al Khaima, Ajman, Umm al Quain and Fujairah and then extend the blog.

    Our leadership is corrupt, our GDP is miserable, poverty and unemployment rates are high, population is surplus and so on. Its not fair comparing it with Abu Dhabi. Recommend

  • Javed

    Saadia is spot on when she says that we, as Pakistanis, are not doing enough to preserve our rich cultural heritage. Perhaps our military can be so kind to give civilians some rupees for this purpose.

    However, lets keep this debate honest. UAE and Gulf nations have only developed because of oil. I find that UAE, specifically, has taken the wrong path in developing a consumer-oriented culture compare to say Iran. Iranians are more into developing high-tech than shiny buildings but all of that is lost in rhetoric.

    Pakistan needs to take the middle path. Our solution lies in education reforms in Pakistan. Educated people can look beyond the irrelevant fusses of paid or unpaid assignments and see what is really at stake here i.e. Pakistan’s heritage and the future of our children.Recommend

  • Pakistani Agnostic

    Why did you write about a place which is familiar to most of the Pakistanis and something which is just an hour away from our port city called Karachi.
    Could have gone to Lebanon instead. Was always fascinated by that place Recommend

  • Osman

    @Sonya:

    aye aye! witness to all said!Recommend

  • Osman

    You’ve got to LIVE the place to pass any judgements that you just did. Mebbe next time, u break free from the ‘group of journalists’ and go meet the living populace. Ah, dont forget to meet non-westerners around!
    And on the preservation of culture…believe, we, Pakistanis, have preserved it much more than the Emiratis. Making a mall in the fashion of an old village, or having a museum is not exactly preservation of culture.Recommend

  • http://socialpakistan.com/blog Huzefa

    @ All of you. To quote the writer “Great nations grace with time, elegance and refinement in their mannerism and that is what I found to be true for Abu Dhabi and its people”. Really sorry to say this but how can this nation grace with time to become great when its people do nothing but talk talk and talk rather then doing anything.

    @ N. Abundance of Clubs/Pubs/Bars, active late night skin market in almost every area, exotic cars on display at every junction of the road, discrimination at every government office and all the blah blah that you’ve written, you don’t see all this here?? REALLY?? You need to get out of your house and start exploring the city you live in buddy.
    And Secondly, you want no comparison?? My friend to be honest, there is always an inspiration behind every person that leads him to success and that inspiration, one way or the other comes from comparison. A nation becomes great by the people living in it and its leadership. You yourself said it that our leadership is corrupt. If Abu Dhabi has oil then we have a bundle of resources that are yet to be utilized, once done, Abu dhabi is no match to us provided we have the right people taking things into the right directions.Recommend

  • Sane

    no real substance.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Mederator
    Thank you for editing my comments to make it senseless.Recommend

  • UAERes

    To all those mocking Abu Dhabi or UAE here, that place is literally transformed into a modern paradise on earth – so what if it’s a small place – the job of UAE is to improve the lives of its citizens – its primary responsibility and it has done that wonderfully. In fact, petrolium makes up less than a quarter of Dubai’s GDP now and its economy is really diversifying into tourism, finance, building, trading and tech. The UAE, with a population of just couple of millions, now has 2 of the world’s best airlines and several architectural marvels making it one of the most visited places in the world for its size. I know that we do have a white skin blonde inferiority complex but you can’t really blame the direction that UAE has taken. The bottom 90% in America dream of such lifestyle. That is a fact.Recommend

  • amjad

    @UAERes: I don’t think you know that most people in North America, including Canada don’t think much of the UAE in general. Frankly it’s all hype and I wouldn’t be surprised if the people there wind up riding camels in the desert when the oil runs out because they have nothing concrete there as a civilization. Cheezy glitz and kitsch may impress people from impoverished Third World countries but the civilized world sees the Gulf for what it is. Trying to overcompensate by making things when the people and culture remains as backward as ever. Just to let you know, most of the Westerners who go there for work are only those who couldn’t get a decent job in their own countries but even these 2nd rate foreigners have no intention of staying in the UAE despite the high wages the Arabs pay them.Recommend

  • UAERes

    @amjad: Like I said, the UAE is a place that has done well for itself and is growing at a high rate and diversifying its economy. No one claims that westerners are dying to go to UAE – neither did I in any way equate the 2. My point simply was that America, with all its unemployment problems and underemployment, has a vast majority of people who would envy the lifestyle that UAE offers to its citizens. I also would not call the number of foreigners who work in the middle east as second-class – that unfortunately displays the subcontinental mindset. There are some very talented people from overall the world working in UAE and there are now hundreds of appications for each position that comes open. In absolute size its a small economy because there are so few people but that doesn’t take away from it I don’t believe.Recommend