Khalifa City A: They’re rooting for this outback

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Khalifa City A: They’re rooting for this outback

Situated north-east of Musaffah industrial area, a bridge away from Abu Dhabi main island, Yas island, and a short ride to the international airport, between the two highways to Dubai and Al Ain, Khalifa City A has become the Capital’s hottest residential area.


Silvia Radan

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Published: Tue 20 Aug 2013, 11:45 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:12 PM

It covers 22.9 square kilometres of sea level land, having about 2,000 villas and counting.

At a first glance, there isn’t much to it — residential houses for as far as the eye can see, endless construction sites for even more residential homes, a labyrinth of small streets that would require any visitor a GPS to navigate, a complete lack of green spaces and dust, dust, dust everywhere!

Yet, anyone who left the big towers of Abu Dhabi behind and moved out here is hooked on to it.

“I would not want to go back and live in the city for so many reasons. For starters, there is never a parking issue here. The rent is much lower and we get much nicer living conditions. In Abu Dhabi, we lived in one of the tower blocks. It was a new one, very clean, with very good services, but windows wouldn’t open, there was no outdoor space, nowhere for children to play and we never heard a bird singing. Here, we live in a villa apartment, with a private garden and swimming pool. It’s bigger space and cheaper,” said British national Diana Oliver, who moved to Khalifa City A six months ago, with her family.

Like many housewives here, Diana spends the morning with a leisurely coffee after taking her daughter to one of the local schools. It is her quiet time of the day, when she gets to write in her diary, which she hopes to turn into a book one day about her experience of living in an Arab country.

Lunch is often with friends in the Garden Plaza, a complex part of Al Raha Gardens with a few shops, a small supermarket and a couple of cafes.

“We did initially consider moving into Al Raha Gardens, but we found the villas have a lot of space inside and not too much outside. They are consider the creme de la creme out here, but to be honest, I believe if you take the time to look around, you find much nicer villas in Khalifa City itself,” said Diana.

Flanking the north of Khalifa City, stretching along the E10 highway leading to Masdar City, Al Raha Gardens are a series of residential compounds developed by Aldar Properties.

Each compound is a cluster of tall two- to three-floor-high villas, dotted with trees, narrow alleys and a community playground for children. It is the only area in Khalifa City to have gas supply. The villas are available for rent only and they are intended for families, as most of them are three to four bedrooms.

Yves Tarabout, a French expatriate, moved into a three-bedroom villa in Al Raha Gardens on March 1 and his life took a happier turn.

“I’m very happy here! The location is good, with easy accessibility to Yas island and Abu Dhabi. The villa is well structured with good finish. There are lots of wooden features and top-to-bottom windows that can be fully opened. There are trees, space, light and the compound is nice, with security gates,” he described.

Tarabout’s two dogs have become healthier and more playful since relocating, as they get to spend a lot more time outdoors. Several close-by vet centres make life easier for any pet owner — and there are quite a few in Khalifa City.

“There is also access to decent recreational facilities in Al Raha Gardens itself, including a gym for Al Raha residents only. It’s quite small, but it’s good to have. There is no swimming pool yet, but we are promised one soon,” added Tarabout.

Apart from tight and not that many parking spaces in the compound, Tarabout’s only complaint is the “quite restrictive communication channels” with Al Raha administration, which is not as quick and prompt in sorting out issues as it should be, especially since the Gardens are considered a top-of-the-market location.

“We were lucky to only pay Dh155,000 rent per year, but a friend of mine who plans to move here found a similar three-bedroom villa for Dh190,000 now,” mentioned Tarabout.

The price rise reflects a serious increase as Dubai residents are moving in, as a result of Abu Dhabi’s government ruling that all its employees must reside in Abu Dhabi. By the end of this year, thousands of families are expected to move from Dubai to the Capital, and many of them are looking at Khalifa City A.

Apart from the Garden Plaza, the suburban town also has the Etihad Plaza, a lane of cafes, shops, an Etisalat branch and Khalifa City’s most expensive supermarket, Abella.

Further inland is the largest supermarket, Spar, next to a post office branch. The “market area” is another landmark, a raw of grocery shops and small, mostly takeaway cafes, most popular with the Arab and South Asian populations of Khalifa City.

A myriad of schools, nurseries and ladies salons dot the main streets.

“None of these existed when we moved in,” pointed out Emirati Lee Al Romaithi, one of the first residents of Khalifa City.

He and his family moved in 13 years ago, in April 2000. The house belongs to his father, who built it after getting a plot of land here in 1989.

“When we moved here, there was only one other house in Khalifa City, about one kilometre away. We were able to see the airport from our home,” he remembered.

It took six months to get telephone lines and one year and 10 months for the Internet connection.

“We didn’t even have running water back then. We only got water for one hour a day, and I used to store about 20 tonnes of water daily for our consumption, the garden and for emergencies, in four massive tanks. We didn’t use it all, though.”

The first grocery shop only opened three years later and access in and out of the city was limited, only through the small side road past the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

“I remember that road being closed for a while and we had to drive all the way down to the airport and come back through that side,” said Pamela Al Romaithi, Lee’s wife.

“Yet, I loved Khalifa City back then. It was quiet and nice. It still is, especially if you keep away from the main 15th street,” she added.

To this day, sea shells are still found in the earth around here, a reminder of the early days of Khalifa City, when it was a patch of land under the sea levels, taking the government a couple of years to raise it by a few metres with sea sand before infrastructure construction began in the early 1990s.

The commercial area of Khalifa City A. — KT photos by Shoaib Anwer

Further away, Khalifa City B in the southwest is yet to catch up. Residents here, mostly Emirati homes, suffer from a complete lack of facilities — not even a grocery shop in sight. This keeps the rent low, but tenants are few and far between.

Earlier this year, the Abu Dhabi Municipality announced plans to open a 25,000-square-metre community centre in Khalifa B that will include shops and cafes. The centre is meant to be ready by December 2014.

In between the two “cities” is a large empty plot of land, where a third Khalifa City is planned — the Capital District, which will become the seat of power and government for the whole of the UAE as per Abu Dhabi 2030 plan. The largest Zayed University campus is the only building here and next to it is planned the Abu Dhabi railway station.

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