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A street sign at Airport Road and 15th Street in Abu Dhabi. The capital will be separated into two zones under the plan. Ryan Carter / The National
A street sign at Airport Road and 15th Street in Abu Dhabi. The capital will be separated into two zones under the plan. Ryan Carter / The National
Mohammed Al Neaimi, strategy manager at Abu Dhabi Media, has created an online, step-by-step guide for city residents. Paul O’Driscoll / The National
Mohammed Al Neaimi, strategy manager at Abu Dhabi Media, has created an online, step-by-step guide for city residents. Paul O’Driscoll / The National

How to navigate Abu Dhabi by numbers

Interactive graphic: Every home and office in the capital is soon to get an unique address but and older system based on numbers also adds up to a city guide.

ABU DHABI //For years, residents of the capital have got by using the frustrating yet endearing system of navigating from landmark to landmark to get to any destination in and around the city.

All that is set to change after last month's announcement that a system, where every home and business in Abu Dhabi will have its own unique address, will be put in place.

In the meantime, people must persist with the current arrangement - but there's more logic to the process than you may think.

One Emirati, strategist Mohammed Al Neaimi, has created an online, step-by-step guide to highlight this fact.

Based on Mr Al Neami's guide, the following is a breakdown of how the current street system works.

The first thing you need to know is that Abu Dhabi Island is separated into two zones, divided by Airport Road.

Zone 1 is to the north-east of Airport Road, while Zone 2 is to the south-west. Each zone contains sectors (often known as blocks) and sectors contain streets and buildings. Predominantly, streets on the island form a gridiron plan, with intersecting roads forming each square sector.

Moving inland from the Corniche (1st street), main roads parallel to it have odd numbers up to 35 - 3rd street, 5th street, 7th street and so on.

In Zone 1, roads at right angles to the Corniche move up in even numbers from Airport Road (2nd street) going north-east. So 4th street, 6th street, 8th street and so on.

In Zone 2, roads at right angles to the Corniche move up in even numbers from 22, going south-west. So 2nd street then 22nd street, 24th street, 26th street and so on.

The sectors formed by these intersecting roads are also numbered. So the first row of sectors - to both the south-west and north-east of the Corniche and moving inland - are numbered 11, 12, 13, 14. There are up to 20 sectors formed in each row when moving inland from the Corniche and sectors are numbered the same to their symmetrical equivalent in the opposite zone.

The next row of sectors, in both zones 1 and 2, moving inland from the Corniche, are numbered 31, 32, 33 and so on. The next sector rows increase from 51, 71 and 91 respectively.

Within each sector, the street nearest and parallel to the Corniche is labelled street 1, with further parallel streets listed as odd numbers, so street 3, street 5 and so on.

Streets within each sector at right angles to the Corniche, moving from west to east, are numbered evenly, so street 2, street 4 and street 6. Main roads linking and forming sectors each have blue signs, while streets within a sector have green signs.

So, each main intersection is a combination of odd and even-numbered streets, such as 15 and 4, similar to the system in New York City.

In addition, each building in Abu Dhabi has a code number. For buildings inside sectors, there is a four-number code, and for buildings on main roads, there is three-number codes.

Inside a sector, the four-number code represents the building's own number and those of the street, sector and zone where it stands.

So 10-74-15-060, for instance, means the building number is six (the extra '0', which is sometimes at the end, is reserved for any future division of the land) on street 15 in sector 74 in Zone 1. Note that the 10 at the start indicates that it is inside a sector in Zone 1. An 11 at the start would mean that the building is on a main road in Zone 1. For Zone 2, the same logic applies, with 20 indicating that it is inside a sector and 21 meaning that the building is on a main road.

So to find, for example, the barber's shop called Harakat, rather than saying, travelling towards Muroor Road (4th street) on 15th street, take the first right after the Abu Dhabi Media building and it is the second building on the left-hand side, you could describe it as "building 2 on the 6th street in sector 18 of Zone 1". For buildings on a main road, the three-number code is made up of a series of numbers to determine the zone, main street number and building. For example, 11-10-01090 is building number 109, on 10th street in Zone 1. On these signs, the first 11 still means Zone 1, as does the 10 on the inside sector code. It is 11 to indicate that the building is on a main road, not inside a sector.

Last month's announcement by the Department of Municipal Affairs of a shake-up to the system is a 30-month project to number buildings and install prominent signposts on pavements, featuring street names, both in Arabic and English. The implementation of the initiative will see a drastic shortening of street names, while repetition of street names will be a thing of the past.

Mr Al Neaimi's slideshow address guide can be found at www.slideshare.net/MohamedKhaleefa/understanding-abu-dhabi-street-map.


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