Walking on the streets of Abu Dhabi is wonderful for reasons more than one. One of them would be the freedom to walk with a couple of friends to the beach at 3 am in the night. That kind of freedom I’ve never tasted before. That is the kind of freedom that comes with living in a city where street crime is (almost) unheard of.
But Abu Dhabi is beginning to grow on me for other very personal reasons as well. The beach reminds me of Malé, Maldives where I used to live until 7 years back. The streets remind me of Lahore because I hear this familiar blend of Urdu and Punjabi disturbed only by the frequent Tamil or the not so frequent Arabic. It feel like it is an extension of home. Shops bear a lot of resemblance to the shops in Lahore (there’s a huge shop nearby my apartment building naively called Anarkali Plaza), the shop keepers are the same because most of them are South Asian or, otherwise, speak Urdu. I have stopped asking people if they speak Urdu. I know they speak Urdu because almost everyone does. This is why, perhaps, I have not missed home too much. I’ve adjusted perfectly because this isn’t remarkably different from where I live and how I’m used to living. The food is not nearly as good as food in Lahore (apart from the food in the dining hall for NYUAD students). Be it McDonalds or Dogar.
But if you’re beginning to draw comparisons between Lahore and Abu Dhabi, I suggest you stop. These are very different cities. Lahore has centuries of history, Abu Dhabi barely has 6 decades. While that means that Abu Dhabi isn’t exactly a cultural hub, it does have a vibe of it’s own. For if you start comparing Lahore to Abu Dhabi, the first major contrast is the skyline, because buildings here are much, much, much higher than those is Lahore. Also, you wont find those lovely, cozy bazaars that you find in Lahore in Abu Dhabi. This is very much a well planned city with excellent infrastructure. I miss those bazaars though.
Abu Dhabi also reminds me of SIngapore, a city I visited as a kid and immediately fell in love with. Outlining the skyline while sitting on a bench right next to the beach, I see the blinking lights that take me back to Singapore, where I saw that skyscrapers have flashing lights so absent minded pilots stay aware.
Abu Dhabi is a great city. And I find myself connecting with it in ways I never thought I would.