The Short-Lived but Fruitful Reign of Chairman Roland

Monday, February 13, 2012


Conference Center & Marina
Viceroy Hotel Grand Prix Racetrack and Yas Marina

The second day of the conference has come and gone.  Though the attendance was shy of what the organizer's had hoped, the presentations and dialogue were truly excellent.  The conference naturally had a Middle Eastern feel through the presentations not to mention a good number of Kiffeye's and Hijab's in the audience and at the podium.  The presentations largely broke down into two major categories: description of a number of mega developments in the neighborhood and reinvention of waterfront cities around the world (Barcelona's transformation seemed particularly stunning).  There were interesting outliers such as fish balls, artificial lagoons, and engineering high quality sustainable beaches (and, yes, tiles).  The MWA will post the presentations on line after I get back.

Conference Speaker
Conference Speaker

This morning I magically transformed myself from Conference Chairman to plenary speaker and told the crowd the story of New York's Comprehensive Waterfront Plan and the role our Waterfront Alliance partners had in creating it.  The presentation, the plan and work of the Alliance were all well received.  A few speakers referred to the plan later in the day noting Vision 2020's call for a response to climate change, habitat restoration and the need for a lively waterfront (the call to stop "Esplandia" gains international footing!).  Representatives from Hong Kong, Bahrain and Capetown all remarked they wish they had an NGO like MWA and its Alliance Partners to help with their waterfront work.  My chairmanship of the event was also appreciated. 

Waleed, Abu Dhabi Port Council Executive
Waleed, Abu Dhabi Port Company Senior Executive
It seems most of the locals I have met at the conference have some United States connection.  Many have studied in America, mostly in Texas for some reason (oil?).  I met one young lady who now works for the municipality of Abu Dhabi who introduced herself as a Palestinian but it turns out she was raised in Santa Barbara and educated in San Diego.  And most interestingly there was Waleed, a senior executive for the Abu Dhabi Port Company who was educated at the US Naval Academy, one of the few foreign nationals admitted to Annapolis.  I took his picture and he joked that he surprised his current colleagues at ADPC with a picture from his days as a clean cut midshipmen.     

The hotel is very pleasant and well run.  Most of the staff are what they call expats.  Abu Dhabi has about one million nationals and another million foreign workers who work for a limited number of years usually to send money home to places like India, Malaysia or the Philippines. 

The hotel continues to surprise.  Taking a walk at lunch break, I encountered a fleet of French-driven Harley Davidsons climbing up the hotel sidewalk and apparently surprising the staff.  I have not seen the hog riders since, so I assume they found alternate accommodations.  Dubai tomorrow then very late (1:15 in the morning), I start to make my way home from my excellent adventure.    

French Bikers
French bikers outside the hotel 

-- Roland Lewis

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