SO­CIAL ME­DIA FU­ELS A MORE RE­FINED IM­AGE OF RUWAIS

There is much more to this Western Re­gion town than just oil and gas

The National - News - - NEWS - JOHN DENNEHY

It is a so­cial me­dia han­dle that you might not have seen, but Ruwais Pulse has qui­etly ac­cu­mu­lated about 7,620 fol­low­ers on Twit­ter and 6,000 on Face­book.

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

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 his town that led Emi­rati Ab­dulla Al­shehi to set up 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 in Ruwais from 2001 un­til 2013.

“Not only Ruwais, 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.

“Maybe it’s the dis­tance, or the fact the road was not good un­til a cou­ple of years ago.”

Ruwais is about 240 kilo­me­tres west of Abu Dhabi. The in­dus­trial and hous­ing com­plex was de­vel­oped from the 1970s by Ad­noc, and fea­tures oil re­finer­ies, fer­tiliser plants and petro­chem­i­cal units.

The vast hous­ing com­plex also has its own shops, mosque and bank­ing. Peo­ple from around the world work there.

But feel­ings that Ruwais and the re­gion are some­times for­got­ten are com­mon. The town’s first shop­ping mall only opened in 2014.

Al Dhafra Golf Club, which opened in 1988, is a sand course and to this day re­mains the only pub­lic golf course in Al Dhafra and is run en­tirely by vol­un­teers.

Last year, there were con­cerns it could close and mem­bers said that the club was a pub­lic 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 Dhafra, for­merly called the Western Re­gion, is rich in his­tory. The Baniyas tribe lived in Liwa be­fore set­tling Abu Dhabi Is­land and it is where tourists visit to ex­pe­ri­ence the desert beauty of the Rub Al Khali, or Empty Quar­ter.

But the re­gion is also look­ing to the fu­ture. The first nu­clear re­ac­tor of the UAE’s Barakah atomic plant is due to be­gin op­er­a­tion next year. Al Dhafra is also home to the coun­try’s first rail­way. Eti­had Rail be­gan op­er­a­tion in 2015, tak­ing sul­phur from the Shah and Hab­shan gas­fields 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 over­sees the op­er­a­tion, a web­mas­ter takes care of on­line, while a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher oc­ca­sion­ally takes pic­tures of the town.

“So many peo­ple interact with Ruwais Pulse, par­tic­u­larly on Face­book,” he said.

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

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

“We have Sir Bani Yas Is­land. 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 that needs to be given at­ten­tion.”

Ruwais Pulse; Ravin­dranath K / The Na­tional

Above and far left, views of Ruwais. Left, Al Ruwais re­fin­ery com­plex

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