Friday, 8 June 2012

Green dreams...

Abu Dhabi is still something of a work in progress. In some areas, the streets twinkle with glass-fronted skyscrapers - slick office blocks, swanky apartments and opulent hotels. In others, the roads are strewn with the rubble of half-complete constructions and reverberate noisily to the rattle of pneumatic drills. Even so, though it's still in development, it is already reminiscent of its flashy neighbour Dubai.

Dubai feels a bit like Abu Dhabi's big brother. Only an hour and a half’s drive away, it is the ultimate heart of hedonism. A futuristic forest of towering skyscrapers and bright lights, it is chic, glamorous and a natural entertainer. Atlantis, a hotel spread across the upper curve of the famous Palm, embodies the flamboyance of the city. A sophisticated entertainment park, it takes the all-inclusive to another level. To explore it is like walking through a Disney movie: in one of the foyers, an entire wall has been replaced by an enormous aquarium - when walking to your room, you are followed by leopard-speckled eels and fleets of sting-rays; similarly, when outside of the hotel, guests can choose between multiple beaches, a selection of swimming pools, a water park and even a dolphinarium.

In complete contrast, if you drive in another direction from Abu Dhabi, you will find yourself in the desert on the cusp of The Empty Quarter - the world’s largest sand desert. In the morning, it seems calm and welcoming, the soft sunlight of the early hours casting sleepy shadows and the sand comfortably cool underfoot. By midday however, it is a furnace of unforgiving heat and gritty oven-hot winds. A barren and hostile landscape, it couldn’t be more different from the self-indulgent stylish cities nearby. However, though unbearable for us, it is a potential powerhouse of green energy. 

It seems cruelly ironic that such renewable promise is found in a land that oozes oil from every crevice: it’s optimistic to imagine that anyone would invest in alternative energy sources when sitting on a seemingly bottomless reservoir of oil. Even so, wouldn’t the mountains of gold currently being used to bling up the cities be better employed in making the Middle East a mecca of sustainability?

Perhaps it´s worth trying to get an open-minded, eco-friendly Sheikh on-side…

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