Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Abu Dhabi -- Not Made for Wheelchairs

Abu Dhabi, UAE
I've never seen so many kids staring at our wheelchair in my life. They are truly astounded, and there's a good reason for it: I think ours is the first one they've ever seen. Making room for it on the trains in Abu Dhabi is just ridiculous. No one helps and no one gets up for the elderly woman traveling with us. In fact, I don't see any elderly people on the train. Is the UAE like Logan's Run?

Of course not, but I still have to wonder where all the mobility-challenged people are. We're out and about. We're doing wheelies and shit. We're climbing 8.inch curbs because there are precious few lowered curbs for wheelchairs. Seriously. We push our wheelchair rider through the STREETS of Abu Dhabi when we're tired of climbing up and down, on and off, the sidewalks. Abu Dhabi--Dubai is awful too--is no place for a wheelchair.

There are reasons for this. Not very many people walk around in the UAE; they drive around. It's simply too hot to go for an afternoon stroll. But that doesn't stop us. We love walking, Oxsnard the Buffalo Horn Collector and I. We love exploring cities on foot. That's what we do. I'd say that's how we roll if it wasn't such a bad pun considering the theme of this post.

From the cruise ship, we take a taxi to the Marina Mall. Yes, another mall. The United Arab Emirates is the only place outside the USA, with the exception of Singapore and maybe Bangkok, where THE MALL is the place to be. The mall is really an 80s thing in the US, but it's still very very popular in the UAE. To their credit, The Emiratis do good mall. They're gigantic, opulent, swanky and just over the top in so many ways.

But there are rules--which you need to respect:
  • Convervative dress--whatever that means
  • No kissing or "overt" displays of affection
  • No dangerous activities such a skateboarding, rollerskating, etc.
And these rules are displayed in high-tech ads around the mall. You can't miss them.

There are also prayer rooms for men and women and the occasional muezzin's song piped throughout the mall--reminders that you are in a deeply religious country. That this country is also deeply materialistic won't slip by you either. This is, after all, the richest city in the world. Or so I've heard. The conservative dress here doesn't preclude affluence. Yes, the women are wearing a long black Abaya (maybe this is the correct word, but I'm no expert on this), but they're also wearing enormous designer sunglasses and lots of jewellery. The men are wearing the long white Thobe (in Oman they call it a dishdasha, I think). It's all elegant beyond belief. Really. They must think we're all crass rednecks in our shorts and T-shirts. 

The Promenade by the Corniche is good for wheelchairs.
If you ever have the opportunity to walk through the city of Abu Dhabi, you will notice that many of the people here are not from here. Abu Dhabi is a big, international city with problems. Migrant workers come here from all over Asia and Southern Asia, and I don't think they're living in the glass towers. My take: the Tower-of-Babel buildings are sapping the life out of the usual day-to-day life of the city. The four-storey buildings are dying. The small companies can't compete. Among the glistening glass temples, the sad concrete slabs beneath are a few years past the danger of ruin. That's my impression. Abu Dhabi isn't that pretty from the ground. We visit two smaller malls that turn out to be ghost towns.

The Corniche--the beach area--is immaculate though. But goodness and praise the authorities for the rules. Rules Rules Rules. I don't have any pictures of the beach area because taking pictures is strictly forbidden. And as you know, I've gotten myself into trouble before. I have one word for this place: deserted. It's pretty, but no one is here. And when I say no one, I mean no one. Abu Dhabi is still waiting for the tourist boom. Or maybe we're here during off-season? Is it a workday? I've lost touch with the days of the week since we've been in the Gulf of Oman.

If "signage" is a word, it shouldn't be.

I'm I the only one who finds this sign(age) creepy?

Next time I'm going to tell you about the cruise itself.

PS, sweet IMBO readers: If you're dying to read one of my stories, I have a short one in Apeiron Review, Issue 5 that has just come out. It's free to download and on pages 78-79. To read it go HERE.

I must be off,

To start the I Must Be Off! A-Z contest and win a book, comment on this post and go to BALI. Comment on all the letters of the alphabet and you'll win a book. Really.

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, Crack the Spine, Feathertale, The Best of Every Day Fiction, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen.