Friday, May 15, 2009

No direction home

I think I have mentioned this before, but one of the more frustrating aspects of life in Abu Dhabi is a near-complete absence of a sensible means of navigation. And by that I mean, no one uses addresses. You want to go somewhere, you tell the cab driver the nearest landmark. Or the neighborhood. Or simply the name of the hotel. And if they don't know how to get there, you issue in-transit directions.

But the funny thing is, there exists a somewhat logical addressing system. Every streetcorner has a sign that says what sector and zone the cross-street is in, and gives the street names. And if you look closely, there are actual numbers on the houses.

Meanwhile, the UAE has promised that the postal service will offer home delivery within a couple of years--at the moment, all mail has to be picked up at post office boxes. (or, if you're me, at your office mailbox.)

How will the letter carriers find individual houses? Why--GPS, of course.

The new GPS system will eliminate the confusion of trying to find a location by street name and building number, a major hurdle to a door-to-door delivery service.

At present, people trying to find a building often rely on landmarks and major roads.

While every building in Abu Dhabi city is numbered and sectored, the green street signs that give a sector, zone number and street number are not commonly used, and building numbers are not prominently displayed.

Because of these difficulties, delivering mail to residents’ doorsteps had been “a dream which we are working to make true”, said Mr al Suwaidi, a member of a committee that worked on the project.

While authorities in Ras al Khaimah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are in various stages of implementing street name and numbering projects, those would have no bearing on Emirates Post’s plans, Mr al Suwaidi said.

So, to recap, navigation will not get any easier, because who needs addresses when you have longitude/latitude coordinates? "Driver, please take me to N2516.222 E05523.140."

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