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‘Every Home … to Have Its Own Address’

February 19th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, The National, UAE

That was the headline to the lead story in The National a few days ago. Big news.

Well, the whole of it was: “Every home in Abu Dhabi to have its own street address”.

What? And all those good times of describing where you live in relation to a major landmark … could be gone in just a few years?

Abu Dhabi, city of, has never had street addresses as most of the world would understand them. Or as the story puts it: “An address will feature the number of the building followed by the street name, city, country and postcode.”

Not exactly revolutionary.

The news, of course, is that the UAE capital existed this long without addresses. Which perhaps worked fine when the place was a small town, 35 years ago, but now leads to endless confusion.

Every trip anywhere involves descriptions of a major landmark, and then the final two or three steps based on that.

To wit: “The front of Khalifa University, on the last street on the Airport Road side, turn left, go to the end of the second villa, and it’s the wooden door on the ground level.”

That would have taken you to where our previous residence.

Now, assuming not everyone knows the name of the building we now live in — and most people do not — you start with the major intersection nearest — 29th and Muroor — and then maneuver people in from there.

“OK, say you’re coming down Muroor, after the signal at 29th you make the second right, then the first left … and you’re almost there!”

Hotels, banks, schools, embassies and major businesses figure prominently in the current system of getting people to an “address”. Desert Burger is “behind Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank”. Our dentist is “two blocks behind the BMW dealership, across from the school”.

It’s crazy, sometimes, even when you know how it works. When, say, you don’t know the major landmark the other person is using, or you confuse “behind” or “in front of” a building.

“Behind” can mean the back of a building — even if it faces the street. Khalifa University, for example. The “front” (entrance) to it faces away from the major street. So if the guy bringing your Indian takeout gets the front/behind thing wrong, you’re sure to lose a lot of time trying to talk it through with someone whose first language certainly is not English.

The National, in an editorial, lauded the concept, noting it will make places easier to find for emergency vehicles — the notion of trying to get someone to your house before it burns down has been fairly horrifying — as well as for guys delivering food or parcels.

If we think it through, it might even now be possible for friends and relatives living outside the UAE to mail letters or parcels, even, directly to our homes. As opposed to our place of employment.

Late is better than never. Abu Dhabi got to 1 million people before the need for a system of street addresses was pressing enough to institute, but by 2016 … it should be all over.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gene // Feb 21, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    Costa Rica also uses this “system”—“125 meters west of the Pizza Hut” or “200 meters east of the old Coca Cola plant” (that was torn down 20 years ago) or “150 meters north of the old fig tree” (again, cut down 30 years ago). We once stayed at the San Jose Marriott and the actual address was “700 meters west of Bridgestone/Firestone”. Of course, my understanding is that Tokyo puts all this to shame.

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