Friday, August 22, 2014

New Abu Dhabi street names will tell you where the UAE has been

August 18, 2014

Abu Dhabi Municipality officials insist new street names are for the best

Controversial new street names in Abu Dhabi won’t just tell you where you are – they’ll tell you where the country has been.

Street signs with the new names will include QR Codes – like the one at the top of The National’s print edition. Users who scan the code from their smartphones will be linked to a special website that explains the name’s cultural relevance, or, in the case of prominent figures, information about their historical significance.

Municipality officials are unwilling to discuss why, in addition to the new names, major roads could not also have retained the numbers that once made the city’s grid system so easy to navigate.

But they insist people will eventually get used to the changes, which are a result of studying the most efficient address systems in other cities.

“In the past, our society was facing a lot of problems with the old address system and with navigation,” said Omar Al Marri of the Department of Municipal Affairs.

“With the new system we came up with a unified system for the Abu Dhabi emirate, which comes from best practices from around the world and we looked to those and brought them to Abu Dhabi.”

He said the project, which would be phased in over the next 18 months, would reduce emergency response times and ease mail delivery, while highlighting Abu Dhabi’s cultural richness.

The project is expected to be complete in 2015 and will tie in with Emirates Post, taxis and emergency services. The Municipality is also hoping to have the new street names updated on Google Maps.

Bayanat, the company in charge of the naming procedure, selected 1,300 street names from more than 12,000 suggestions by the public based on criteria that include cultural relevance, length and ease of pronunciation, said Mr Al Marri,

“Certain nationalities can pronounce certain sounds, for example Germans can pronounce the ‘kha’ in Arabic but some English speakers can’t, so we took that into consideration when naming the streets,” he said.

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The team used a transliteration programme, then conducted surveys by asking several native language speakers to pronounce potential names of streets and judging whether it was easy to say or remember.

Apart from streets named after sheikhs, the names will be limited in length to 23 characters and will not exceed two parts.

Properties will be given a number in sequential order, street names then followed by an area. Duplicates of names will be eliminated to avoid confusion.

“If someone said go to Madinat Zayed, a year ago that could have been confused between Abu Dhabi or the Madinat Zayed in the Western Region. Now its remedied with the new system,” said Mr Al Marri.

Buildings built before the number system will be given a numerical address along with their old name as way points.

Dr Abdulla Al Baloushi, the managing director of the Land and Property Management Sector, said the new address system would benefit the local economy by improving traffic flow and enabling faster and more efficient delivery of public services.

He said there would be several media campaigns to publicise the street names, and training schemes for delivery and taxi drivers to familiarise them with the system.