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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Ruwais Pulse: the social media handle that's promoting Abu Dhabi's oil and gas town

The social media feeds have quietly accumulated about 7,620 followers on Twitter and 6,000 on Facebook

A general shot of Ruwais. Courtesy Ruwais Pulse
A general shot of Ruwais. Courtesy Ruwais Pulse

It’s a social media handle that you might not have heard of.

But Ruwais Pulse has quietly accumulated about 7,620 followers on Twitter and 6,000 on Facebook.

It’s the social media arm of www.ruwais.ae – a website dedicated to promoting the town that’s home to a sprawling oil and gas complex in the Al Dhafra region.

The Twitter feed mainly posts formal news and updates about Ruwais, while the Facebook account is more fun and community based. Street scenes, portraits of nature and snaps of the weather all feature.

It was the lack of coverage about Ruwais in the media that led Emirati Abdulla Alshehi to create the website in 2012.

“A lot of people here couldn’t find information about the city on the internet,” said Mr Alshehi, who works for Adnoc and was based in Ruwais from 2001 until 2013.

“Not only Ruwais but the Western Region of Abu Dhabi is not really covered by the media and it does not get the attention it deserves. There is so much industry, scenery and nature,” said Mr Alshehi.

“Maybe it’s the distance or the fact the road was not good until a couple of years," he said, regarding the lack of coverage.

Ruwais is a town about 240 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi. The industrial and housing complex was developed from the 1970s by Adnoc featuring oil refineries, fertilizer plants and petrochemical facilities. The vast housing complex also has its own shops, mosque and banking facilities. People from across the world work there.

A general shot of Ruwais. Courtesy Ruwais.ae
A general shot of Ruwais. Courtesy Ruwais.ae

But feelings that Ruwais and the region are sometimes forgotten are common. The town’s first shopping mall, for example, only opened in 2014. Or take the Al Dhafra Golf Club which opened in 1988. It is a sand course and to this day remains the only public golf course in Al Dhafra and is run entirely by volunteers. In 2016, there were concerns it could close and members then told The National that the club was a community service and would be a big loss to the community.

“It serves the community,” Geert Saman, the Belgian club captain said at the time. “Ruwais is such a remote area. The only thing here is the hotel and the golf club and that’s why we opened the club to non-members. It’s like a big family.”

Al Ruwais Refiner plant. Ravindranath K / The National
Al Ruwais Refiner plant. Ravindranath K / The National

Al Dhafra, formerly called the Western Region, is rich in history. The Bani Yas tribe lived in Liwa before settling Abu Dhabi island and it's where tourists visit to experience the desert beauty of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter).

But the region is also looking to the future. The first nuclear reactor of the UAE’s Barakah atomic plant is set to begin operation next year. Al Dhafra is also home to the country’s first railway. Etihad Rail began operation in 2015, transporting sulphur from the Shah and Habshan gas fields to Ruwais for processing.

Mr Alshehi is from Abu Dhabi and is now back in the capital. But that doesn’t mean he has forgotten about Ruwais. He still overseas the operation, a webmaster takes care of online, while a freelance photographer occasionally shoots scenes of the town.

“So many people interact with Ruwais Pulse,” said Mr Alshehi. “Particularly on Facebook.”

Members of the public send photographs and other material to publish. During the recent rainfall for example, shots taken by Ruwais residents of the downpours appeared on the website.

“People can get to know each other and their own community,” he said.

“We have Sir Bani Yas, it’s quite close and is a nature reserve. We have the desert and the sea – marine wildlife is very rich. It’s a very unique area which needs to be given attention.”

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