Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat Island museums delayed, Dubai’s tram, archaeology digs rediscovering old towns

If last week’s removal of the Guggenheim concrete bids sounded ominous, well it is…the whole Saadiyat Island museum project is now projected for a staggered opening, starting in 2013 or 2014. The Louvre is expected to open first. (The National, first and second article)

Saadiyat Island's massive museum projects are likely to be delayed. / Image via The National.

Not even oil rich Abu Dhabi is immune from the global financial crisis and plummeting real estate market. (Construction Week)

Even by Abu Dhabi standards, Saadiyat Island is a monumental undertaking by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which may look into partnerships for the $27 billion (!) project.

In transportation news, Dubai is starting construction on the new billion-dollar Sufouh tram, by Besix and Alstom, scheduled to open in 2014. It’ll travel from Dubai Marina through Media City and Knowledge Village, with 13 stops and capacity of 5,000 passengers/hour. (A second 4km would run from the Mall of the Emirates to the Burj Al Arab.) (Construction Week and The National)

And the upcoming Gulf Traffic Conference in Dubai is going to tackle traffic safety. (The National)

40 years of the UAE: Dubai and the Northern Emirates had the first roads in the UAE, before the country unified. Likewise, Abu Dhabi's early roads, including the first paved road where Al Maqta bridge now stands, cleared the way for the rise of the capital. / Image via The National.

Can you believe that the country’s first paved roads weren’t until the 1960s? It turns out that Abu Dhabi island is artificially one meter above sea level so the roads wouldn’t flood. (The National)

It’s too late to preserve the demolished historic structures in the coastal towns of the Western Region, but ADACH’s archaeological digs and GIS maps are recreating what life was like not that long ago. (The National and Abu Dhabi Week)

Former life in Western Region coastal towns. / Image via Abu Dhabi Week.

Finally, it’s good to see Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council is increasing social media presence — now on Facebook and holding a student contest.
(The National)

Elsewhere in the region…
Oman’s southern port city of Salalah is expanding its sea-to-air freight connections, apparently it has the lowest transport times in the region. (AME Info)

Qatar is delaying the $3 billion West Bay metro system, which would connect Doha’s financial district to the Doha metro. (Construction Week)

Only 5 years until Yemen’s capital of Sana runs out of water. (Atlantic Cities)

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Abu Dhabi Plan 2030

How do you plan a city that’s expected to triple or quintuple its population in less than 20 years? (The emirate’s population was 2 million in 2010, per SCAD.) How about if this same city is springing from the desert, with no infrastructure in place?

It’s an exciting challenge. But for Abu Dhabi, the city described above, there’s an ambitious and far-sighted framework in place: Plan 2030. Two different but interconnected plans (one economic, one urban planning) guide development. Intriguingly it’s for the whole emirate, so there are also plans for Al Ain, Al Gharbia aka Western Region, and Abu Dhabi’s forthcoming Parisian-styled Capital District.

Five themes weave together the urban plan: Environment, Society, Culture and Economy…or as the nifty video shows, four themes: Green, Live, Work, Connect.

Either way, the Urban Planning Council (UPC)’s goal is “to create an authentic Arab city” that “will be owned by the people of Abu Dhabi, it will become an inspiring image of its collective vision for a harmonious, diversified, culturally rich, stable and sustainable society.”

Leading global design/engineering/planning firm KEO International Consultants is making the master plans for the Capital District; and the suburbs of Khalifa City A, Khalifa City B and Mohammed Bin Zayed City (green on the map below).

I’m most excited for the variety of transit options — metro by 2016, tram, bike lanes, walking and water taxis! The National reports that a 5-year update is slated for 2012.