Maps in the UAE

Street addresses do not work in the UAE. While they officially do exist, a long history of disagreements on what to call each street, the odd superblock structure of the city, inconsistent numbering, and linguistic difficulties have all conspired to make it impossible for anyone to know for sure what address they live at. The telephone company uses an obscure plot numbering system borrowed from the ownership records, and organized companies attempt to look up your building using your telephone number (and usually fail). For the rest of us, we use a system truly out of the dark ages: bad English. For example:

“I live in Sama Tower, which is in Madinat Zayed next to the New Medical Center. Madinat Zayed. It’s on the corner of Airport Rd. and Elektra St. No, it’s not near the Abu Dhabi Airport… it’s close to the Corniche. On the same block as the Madinat Zayed Mall. It’s on the corner of 2nd and 7th. Close to the HSBC building. It’s the very tall boring rectangular building.”

This is made even more fraught with error by the fact that the delivery guy got off the boat just 2 months ago when he started learning English. Poor sap.

Some of the larger companies, who have the resources to make websites, have decided that this system could use some improvement. I’m pretty sure the process went like this:

Bob: Hey Joe! I know you’re busy and everything, but we should really put a map on our website since there are no addresses in this country. Could you take a few minutes and do that for me?
Joe: I fix cars.
Bob: Great! Have it done in 10 minutes.
Joe: …

So poor Joe gets stuck making a map, probably in Paint.exe. He has to estimate the size of each superblock, the placement of various landmarks he uses to get to work, the road names, and get an espresso for Bob. As you might expect, it’s a complete disaster. Just look at the map below.

In this map there are no road names. Okay, I said that nobody could agree on the names of the roads in Abu Dhabi, but maybe you could just pick one? No? How about a road number? Sure, there are about 849 “10th Street”s in Abu Dhabi, but in the area of the map, there’s probably only one. The highways also have numbers (yes, there is a highway on the map… can you tell which road it is?). Wait, why isn’t North up? Poor Joe, his map not only prevented him from fixing the thingymabob that was causing the car to spontaneously combust, but also prevented anyone from actually getting to his business.

Unbeknownst to Joe, there is a much better way to provide a map. See, a few decades ago we began launching big hunks of metal into asynchronous orbit around this planet. Whizzing and whirring, they sent digital bits of information back to nerds on the ground, who interpreted the information and made photographs out of them. Later, a small company named Google was born, and made useful maps out of the photos. They even made them available on a series of tubes for free! Today, we can take advantage of their foolish willingness to combine these images with AJAX (haha, suckers!). The result should look something like this:


View Hyundai Workshop in a larger map

You’re welcome, Bob.

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