By Emma Rawlings Smith.

If you shut your eyes and listen carefully, the sounds of the city reveal much about the natural and urban habitat shared by both the people and the wildlife of the Arabian Peninsula. Clanging and hammering, drilling and reverberations are the sounds from the ever-growing skyward developments. Beeping and screeching, revving and honking create an audible backdrop to city life. Living in an apartment on the fourteenth floor and you may be forgiven for thinking that the street life taking place far below does not permeate up so far…but you would be wrong. Several times an hour the sound of screeching tires across tarmac causes us to stop and wait in anticipation of the impending sound of crashing metal on metal. This splintering sound often fails to transpire, perhaps drivers are fine tuned to their vehicle’s precise stopping distance, or perhaps it was just not meant to happen, as we say In shallah.

photo (8)

The click, click clicking of the city sprinklers keeping the grass green

Abu Dhabians have adapted to the extreme heat of the summer sun in many ways. Some people stay indoors close to the air conditioning; others change their waking times, becoming nocturnal in nature and then there are those who spend their time lounging around cooled pools on the edge of the city. Older buildings seem louder as the cooling systems fight against the soaring temperatures they hum and click and hum some more. As you move closer to the waters of the Arabian Gulf and the swimming pools of the hotels and clubs, the sounds surrounding you become increasingly more natural in source. Birds are more common by the shore nesting in the palms, loudly chattering and pwitching, piping and chirping as they move between shady sites. The nocturnal residents of the city include bats which fly along the coastline, clicking loudly to locate not only where they are, but where their next meal is coming from.

photo (9)
The hum of old air conditioning units as they drip, drip, drip water onto the street below

Humans awake in the night continue to add to the cacophony of sounds in this never sleeping city. Planes take off at all hours. The flight to Heathrow leaves daily at 2.30am. The flight path avoids the city and so I rarely hear this sound. Shopping also takes place under the stars, few establishments shut much before midnight, the clatter and crash of trolleys merges with the beeping of taxi cabs hailing potential rides outside the Malls, drivers, held up by other road users, hoot impatiently regardless of the hour. What strikes me about my city is that when I sleep everyone else seems to be awake. The city has blood in its veins 24-hours a day. I love living in this city because you can choose to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. If you listen carefully, you can hear the pulse of the city, it never ever stops.