INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for NYUAD

Once and Future Happiness: This Decade on Saadiyat

It is essential that we have hope. For human beings to push forward we must have some confidence in the brighterhood of tomorrow — happiness is our fuel and our pot of gold. Saadiyat Island, the UAE’s Orwellianly marketed “Happiness Island” will host New York University beginning in 2014, and will has already begun selling villas to early birds with big nest eggs. The major museums are on the slate for five years Gulf time, or approximately 7-? years.

Here’s a blurry look at some major projects and where they stand.

Major Projects — اهم المشاريع

The Guggenheim

Future: Guggenheim

Now: Guggenheim

The Louvre

Future: Louvre

Now: The Louvre

Now: The Louvre

Saadiyat Beach Villas

Future: Saadiyat Beach Villas

Now: Saadiyat Beach Villas

Monte Carlo Beach Club

Future: Monte Carlo Beach Club

Now: Monte Carlo Beach Club

Park Hyatt Hotel and Villas

Future: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas

Now: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas

Shangri-La Hotel

Future: Shangri-La Hotel, Saadiyat

Now: Shangri-La Hotel, Saadiyat

Now: Shangri-La Hotel, Saadiyat

New York University Abu Dhabi

Future: New York University Abu Dhabi

NYUAD in 2014?

Now: New York University Abu Dhabi

Now: New York University Abu Dhabi

St. Regis Resort

Future: St. Regis Saadiyat Resort

Now: St. Regis Saadiyat Resort

Zayed National Museum

Future: Zayed National Museum

Now: Zayed National Museum

State of the Etihad — حالة الاتحاد

Housing for construction laborers.

Now: Khalifa Highway

Now: Saadiyat Marina

Saadiyat from Space

Now: Saadiyat Beach

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

Now: Manarat al-Saadiyat convention center

The Vision — الرؤية

(Buzzwords in the UAE: “vision” and “outlook” and “innovation” and “tomorrow”.)

Future: Cultural District (Inshallah)

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المصعد — The Elevator

I stepped into the elevator holding a bottle of French pastis that I hadn’t been drinking. In such cases, I expect always to run into Arab women wearing abayas and demeaning scowls. This time, it was one of my building’s non-university Emirati men, thirtyish, in a khandura.

“Thalatha w’ashriin. Twenty-three,” I slurred. I had, however, been drinking something else. I repeated my floor once again. He pressed thirty-two.

“Studying hard?” he smiled.
“Oh, I… I’m working here. I was just picking this up from a friend.” All true, but still bullshit’s doppelganger. My floor came.

An hour later I was up at the pool on our building’s glassed-in roof. Outside the gym, the sauna read 115 degrees Celsius (239 Fahrenheit) — just about hot enough to roast shawarma. So I got out, showered, and too dizzy and lightly broiled to manage a towel, just got back dripping into the elevator.

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“شو بتفكّر عن ثورتنا؟” — “What do you think about our revolution?”

“What do you think about our revolution?”
“Freedom is beautiful.”
Beaming: “Yes!”

The university’s security staff is mostly Egyptian, almost exclusively supporting family back home, and quite openly champions of the overthrow of Mubarak’s autocracy. (Supporters, dejected, are less visible.) Engulfed in the politics of the Arabian peninsula, this American institution has made very evident the support for non-violent protesters, democratic ideals, and all Middle Eastern countries’ fights against their respective “the Man”.

But other than these interpersonal connections to the region’s groundswell, the UAE is barricaded in an impenetrable bubble — a piece apart from the line of dictatorial dominos that have fallen in rapid succession in recent weeks. A good reason for this: the word protest once meant, for Romans, to “assert publicly”. How could this be in the UAE when those most relegated are hardly even members of the public?

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محمد و محمد و احمد Mohammed, Mohammed, And Ahmed — “او “لن تجتاج الى هذه هنا Or, “You Won’t Need These In Here”

Sunday morning and the start of a new work week found me taking old business cards, restaurant coupons, and pharmacy memberships out of my wallet like someone checking into prison. You won’t need these in here.

I put them in a desk drawer only to be reopened upon my departure, my return to a world where “Duane Reede” and “Amtrak” actually mean something, where “Queens” is just a word for a place, and where plurals are made just by adding an “s”.

And in this new world of office hustle and bustle, I can’t help but notice that adding an “s” to deadlines makes deadliness. Having too much to do is deadly — it says so right in the English language.

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A Stopped Clock — ساعة موقوفة

Day One

Woke up in a new place. Turned out the gulf was right out my window, draped in a haze of sand that dropped like a wall a few hundred meters offshore. And holy crowned prince! — I’m already thinking in meters.

According to my schedule, my first day in the UAE and my first day at work began at 9:30. At 9, I stepped outside and the heat punched me by surprise, even though the morning was a relatively cool one. It was about 105, which in Celsius… is some other number.

My job is with the brand new New York University Abu Dhabi, located until 2014 in the Madinat Zayed neighborhood of downtown Abu Dhabi. (In February 2014, the University will move to Saadiyat Island, the site of numerous architectural and artistic endeavors, including new branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre.) And in the glistening purple and gray buildings, I kind of learned what sorts of things I will be doing for the (at the very least) next 53 weeks.

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