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Many Highlights, But Room for Improvement in Abu Dhabi

<p>This article from <em>The National</em> takes a tour of Abu Dhabi with architect and planner Riyad Albuhlaiga, who points out the best parts of the city -- and the parts that must be improved to make Abu Dhabi a truly great city.</p>
June 5, 2008, 8am PDT | Nate Berg
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"'They call it the lungs of Abu Dhabi ­because of the large green areas here. They have created a really nice landscape,' he says. 'The vegetation is fantastic!'"

"The coastline along the Corniche was ­extended by developers less than a decade ago, and considering the fact the entire area was originally comprised of sand dunes, the amount of green here is spectacular."

"The shore side of the Corniche is lined with white tents, under which, Albuhlaiga says, more restaurants, ­cafes and vendors should be moving soon. The bike lane that extends the length of the road is another attraction, albeit a weather-permitting one."

"Connectivity, Albuhlaiga says, is what makes the Corniche so important."

"'It connects the fish market, the harbour, kids' playgrounds, places to eat, shop, walk and sit. We can say the Corniche is a successful public space because it is a destination in itself, not just a way to get from A to B.'"

"That may be so, but he quickly adds that the road that cuts the shore side from the park side is a hazardous one, contributing to air pollution and noise pollution. It's also the site and cause of many ­accidents. The benches that frame the bike path are placed between tall trees – though they have only few leaves and provide no shade. And while the Corniche is one of the few places in Abu Dhabi where outdoor spaces have been designed specifically with people in mind, Albuhlaiga says the underground crossings to get from one side of the road to the other are symbolic of the city's enduring priority of vehicles over pedestrians."

"But he is confident the Corniche is a success: 'If Dubai is for shopping, Abu Dhabi is for relaxing.'"

"'It's worth changing Abu Dhabi to a pedestrian city. It would make it a better place to live.'"

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 in The National
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