A Completely Different World

I have now been in Abu Dhabi for five days and the only way to describe this place is a completely different world. Between the scorching heat and the endless development in every nook and cranny of the city, the UAE is unlike any country I have ever seen.

When I arrived in the city, I meet up with Doug, an employee at the British Embassy and my host for the week. Doug is one of the friendliest people I have ever met and he has spent the week showing me around the city, introducing me to his friends, and helping me set up contacts for interviews. Doug’s focus within the Embassy is Energy and Sustainability, so its safe to say that he has been one of the best resources here for getting me connected within the sustainable development community.

I spent the weekend, Friday and Saturday in the UAE, being a tourist. On Friday, I went to the UAE Heritage village, a glimpse into life before the development began, and then beat the afternoon heat by exploring the huge Marina Mall and even going to see Harry Potter. Sometimes it is nice to get a little escape and relax for an afternoon. Saturday, I headed to the beach in the morning and then explored the Emirates Palace, the world’s most expensive hotel, in the afternoon. At night, I headed over to the Grand Mosque, both an impressive homage to the Islamic faith and a illustrious display of the country’s growing wealth. Still not complete, the Mosque is filled with crystals, gold and wonderful pieces of art.

From Abu Dhabi
From Abu Dhabi

On Sunday, the fun began as I headed to Masdar City to begin my research. Masdar City is a 7 square kilometer planned community that is in its early stages of development. So far, phase 1 is complete, the Masdar Institute, a graduate level university focused on sustainability and renewable energy and affiliated with MIT. The University is a pilot program for many sustainable development projects and the campus has a number of really unique high-tech sustainability solutions. The first of these projects was the personal rapid transit system or PRT which uses computer controlled vehicles to get you from the parking lot to the institute, The hope is to have these PRTs running throughout the city and it is powered exclusively by renewables. Once inside the Institute, the wind tower will immediately catch anyone’s attention. Meant to keep the institute cool, the tower sucks in cool air, adds mist and channels it into the lower walking environment. All the buildings and labs within the Institute are also designed to be energy efficient and sustainable and a 10 megawatt solar plant and solar panels on the roof of each building provide renewable, clean energy to the University. I have been exploring the campus and learning from faculty, staff and students on the effects of the project on their own personal experiences and on the sustainable development community in the UAE.

From Abu Dhabi

The PRT

From Abu Dhabi
From Abu Dhabi

I am in the process of uploading the last set of pictures from Malaysia and all the pictures I have taken from the UAE and Masdar so check those out: https://picasaweb.google.com/114615060684332010371

Until next time,
Ben