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Report - A year in the desert - exploring Abu Dhabi. '13-'14

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by drhowser, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    Those of you who know me will know that I've spent the last year living and working in Abu Dhabi, and that I've been deliberately cautious about posting much at all to do with exploring. There are various reasons why discretion has felt like the wisest course of action, but I'll expand on that in a moment.
    Since I now find myself about to leave here and return home, I thought I might put together a post of what I've been getting up to and a bit of background about the city. The only posts I've seen anywhere for AD have been either Mustang Wanted or Vitaliy and Vadim, which have been flying visits to cherry pick a couple of the higher rise projects before promptly leaving again.
    It becomes quite a different scenario when you are here as an expat..

    The first thing I did, before I had even left the UK was try to look into UAE trespass law. There wasn't anything specific that I could find, just news reports of convictions..

    I found another report where a worker raped a housemaid but was sentenced for trespass instead!

    So, it seems that the authorities take a pretty dim view of trespassing. There is also the fact that they appear to be able to make the law up as they feel where non Emiratis are concerned.
    What is sure is that if caught you're looking at prison time, fines and deportation, and that's only as long as the buildings owners don't decide that you've offended their honour and proceed to sue you for more money that you'll ever earn.

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    The next thing to consider is the security situation in the city-

    The following are quotes from The National, the main UAE paper, and are from 2011 and 2012 respectively.

    So they have as near as is possible 100% cctv coverage of the city externally and public buildings have internal cctv which is viewable directly by the Ministry of Interior, or the UAE security services.

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    In order to work in the UAE you are required to have an Emirates ID card, which involves all kinds of checks, measurements and biometrics. They take complete hand prints for both hands, biometric facial measurements (remember that facial recognition soft wear the cctv is equipped with?) retinal scans and blood samples. Then round it off by asking for names and addresses of relatives at home.. I doubt there is any kind of extradition treaty with Ukraine, while there definitely is with the UK.

    Best proceed with caution then.

    When I first arrived I set about looking at what was going to be possible, Most people when you say Abu Dhabi immediately envisage Dubai with it's endless supertalls. After all, Abu dhabi is the capital of the UAE and produces over 50% of the GDP. It's going to be like Dubai on steroids right?
    Actually no. Abu Dhabi is probably about 10-15 years behind Dubai in terms of urban development. There are some huge buildings, and I'll say now that after failing at them all more than twice I wasn't going to go near them again, nothing particularly bad happened and there was never police involvement; but as above, discretion is key here.

    Failures.

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    335m, 374m and 324m respectively. Good luck with those.

    Construction sites are basically a no-go out here, they operate 24hrs a day and have an absolute army of what are practically slave labourers, they still employ the labour camps that caused such a controversy in Dubai. Workers can be packed into tiny buildings with no amenities at all.
    This means that they often prefer to sleep on the sites where they are working, I've often found sleeping areas in the dead spaces inside buildings here. Obviously this increases your chances of being caught massively, the workers are going to be occupying exactly the same spaces that you want to use to move round a site. On one occasion I climbed over a site hoarding, jumped down and almost landed on a couple of workers sleeping behind it.

    This is actually a goods lift, turned into a rest room by the workers, complete with power and a cardboard box mattress.

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    Plant rooms and dead spaces-

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    I didn't just arrive and immediately start looking upwards though, being as I am particularly fond of industry I started by investigating what there was in terms of manufacturing. I'll just say it was a short search. There is almost no manufacturing here at all, and when there is anything it is on the scale of a small shop. There are no factories and there is no industrial heritage whatsoever. Bear in mind, before the discovery of oil in the 1950s Abu dhabi's industry was pearl diving.

    I did find a small power station, where I sat and tortured myself listening to the turbines spinning a few times.. i didn't bother trying to get inside.

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    There is apparently a fairly extensive system of drains and sewers under the city too, the picture below doesn't really convey the scale well, but the lid is probably 1.5m square and made out of one solid piece of cast iron.

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    No. Just no.

    There are also plenty of smaller round lids, which also look to be impossible to lift on your own. I was actually told by some workers that these require twisting as well as lifting to open, so the might even employ a bayonet type of fitting. They might also only be tight fitting, but either way, remember that cctv coverage?

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    By now it was starting to look like the only option for exploring in Abu Dhabi was indeed rooftops, which as I've already said have to be approached carefully..
    The city is midway through a 25 year urban development plan, which has lead to the demolition of many of the older mid-rise buildings at 10-15 stories.

    To begin with I concentrated on these mainly, working on the assumption that no one would care about a strange foreigner taking photos of old buildings.

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  2. drhowser

    drhowser Bespectacled & irrelevant
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    Meanwhile I was also trying residential towers around the city, these all follow roughly the same pattern. The ground floor will be used for various retail outlets with the upper floors being used for apartments.
    Most have a concierge desk at the door and some form of security guard. There is usually cctv in the lobby and often throughout the building. In the cases where the lift opened and I saw cctv on the upper floors I automatically turned round and left immediately. If there was none then I would try the stairs and hope the roof door was open.
    I have no ides how many roof doors I've tried here now, but it is definitely into three figures. Some I've tried multiple times. I have had days where I've tried perhaps ten without any success then I recently had a day where I managed four roofs in less than an hour. The same door can be open or closed from day to day with no apparent pattern. The only way to do it is to keep on trying them..

    The following is a collection of roofs I have managed to access while I've been here. I don't know the names of them and even if I did I wouldn't want to post them. It's not like there is a history or any interesting facts relating to any of them anyway. They're just random buildings.

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    So that's it for now, there's quite a bit more on my Flickr, but to be honest it all looks the same. Different views of the same city at different times of day..

    Cheers!
     
  3. DarkDog

    DarkDog Too old to give a f*ck...
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    Some absolute stunners here, difficult to pull out a favourite. Top work :-)
     
  4. Humpa

    Humpa CHOCOVIT
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    Very nice mate :thumb glad you actually managed to get a few things done whilst over there.. Shame that some of the other stuff wasn't do-able thou, looks quite an interesting part of the world to explore! :)
     
  5. Horus

    Horus Butt Wipe
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    feel so jealous, what a beautiful city.
     
  6. Leeds(Ex)plorer

    Leeds(Ex)plorer 28DL Regular User
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    got some top drawer pics there mate, the ones at night are especially impressive
     
  7. Kaplan

    Kaplan Procrastinator
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    Beautiful shots, great write up. Win win win :thumb
     
  8. tucker

    tucker Scallywag
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    Absolutely fascinating. Best reportage I've read in a long while.
     
  9. Camera Shy

    Camera Shy Old enough to know better
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    Wow it's got some amazing views specially at night, I guess it would be easy to be put off with those levels of activity/security/consequences, so kudos for doing what you have, brill report and images.
     
  10. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
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    Considering the stringent law practices you've bossed it as far as I'm concerned

    Some risky business that mate, I'm sure the stories speak a million times more than the pics :thumb
     
  11. tablets

    tablets 28DL Regular User
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    That is immense!

    Sums the situation up perfectly. Good that you avoided being caught.
     
  12. Boba Low

    Boba Low ____/
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    Yeah yeah yeah, now come home and lets do more turbines.

    Nah, this is ridiculous. Always knew you wouldn't be able to stop yourself.
     
  13. morse

    morse The Green Giraffe
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    yes yes yes! Pictures are so crisp and awesome!
     
  14. Gabe

    Gabe 28DL Regular User
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    Simply stunning. Best and most interesting thing ive seen for a while.
     
  15. Indecisive Moment

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    Fascinating read Dr D. Photos are pretty lovely too.
     
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