Calm and quiet is how most residents will describe Shaikh Khalifa City. However, they also point out many shortcomings.
A few of them are even fortunate enough to wake up to the sound of birds nesting in trees inside villa compounds, a rare blessing in a desert environment!
"I [have enjoyed] sound sleep without any disturbances since I moved to Khalifa City four months ago," said Layal Halaby, 26, a Leban-ese supervisor of customer services at a medical centre.
"But the lack of malls and good restaurants is a concern," she added.
The recently developed residential area does not have residential towers, but mostly villas.
Khalifa City, located just a few kilometres from Abu Dhabi International Airport, has been divided into two parts — A and B.
Khalifa City B is still in the initial stages of development and lacks many supporting amenities such as shops. Most of the residents live in Khalifa City A.
Emiratis and a few privileged expatriates enjoy a serene lifestyle in spacious independent villas with wide courtyards — far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Each villa's individual design makes the area attractive.
Most expatriates live in villas-turned-independent flats. While such a scenario makes up the ideal multicultural community of Arabs, Asians and Westerners, residents shy away from interacting with one another (although this may be the story in almost all residential areas in the UAE).
Breaking down barriers
However, if one takes a walk in the evening, they will see children ignoring such barriers and playing together in villa compounds.
Children have proved to be much more open and liberal than their parents, who are totally resistant to cultural interaction.
Despite being located about 30km from the city centre, the easy access to the city — around half an hour's drive or more depending on the traffic — makes the project an attractive option for those who work in the city.
"You can get out of here without any traffic congestion," said M.S. Shajan, an Indian accounts manager who also likes the serene environment. He expects that ‘Khalifa City A Trading Centre', which will open soon, will be a good shopping venue.
He noted that several facilities have come up recently, including a SEHA health care centre and two private clinics.
The vast residential area is largelyy dependent on the main market, with the exception of two or three neighbourhood grocery stores.
The market boasts all sorts of shops, including several small supermarkets, a few restaurants, coffee shops, stationery shops, building materials, laundry and tailoring establishments.
However, many residents complain that most shops charge higher prices for their goods and services as there is no mechanism to check such practices. Although some of the supermarkets offer "free home delivery", it is never guaranteed as it depends on the distance to one's residence and the amount of goods purchased.
After the main market, residents can be found gathering at Etihad Plaza, Etihad's staff housing and facilities complex located opposite the airline's head office in Khalifa City.
It is home to more than 300 Etihad Airways staff and comprises a comprehensive set of retail outlets including Abela Supermarket, First Gulf Bank, UAE Exchange, a pharmacy, Jeeves Laundry, Mugg & Bean coffee shop and Hippy Chic and Deli restaurants.
Sedar Supermarket, which is located close to Al Itihad National Private School, is one of the exceptions for neighbourhood shopping and free home delivery.
It is believed to be one of the first groceries that came up in Khalifa City.
A small commercial building in the compound of Abdullah Ali Al Hashemi Masjed, which came up six months ago, is the another option in the neighbourhood where residents can shop and eat out.
Noushad, an Indian who works at Al Shamkka Flower Grocery, said the increasing number of residents in the area was boosting business.
However, Hani Ramzy, 38, an Egyptian sales supervisor at Miss Jay Café, said that was a new trend and added that Khalifa City looked deserted only a few months back.
Hassan Saleh, a Leban-ese teacher at Al Itihad National Private School, said when she moved to the area three years earlier, parking was only available at the main market. He added that the parking problem had been resolved and everyone could park their car inside the villa compound.
But he is happy that there is no parking problem in the residential areas. Everyone can park the car inside villa compounds.
Ramzy said that while he enjoyed that luxury Khalifa City offered, life was far from comfortable for him.
"Frankly speaking life is boring here! Where can I go after the work? I cannot go to another coffee shop [as he works in one] to relax!"
He pointed to the lack of parks and malls in the area.
"There is no public swimming pool, gym or any entertainment facilities," he said.
To reach the nearest mall, Al Raha Mall, one has to cross the Dubai highway. Although a new bridge has eased access to Al Raha beach, most residents want a mall withing their vicinity.
Chirping birds in the morning are the luxury for a few thanks to the ‘green initiative' of some villa owners. One can only find trees inside some villa compounds but not in the public areas.
"There is no greenery at all in Khalifa City," Saleh said. "No option for going out."
He urged authorities rectify such deficiencies in the area.
- The main market: offers restaurants, coffee shops, internet cafés and all other shops and services. The residential community almost totally depends on the market for all its needs.
- Etihad Plaza: Etihad Plaza is located opposite the Etihad's head office in Khalifa City. It has a comprehensive set of retail outlets including Abela Supermarket, First Gulf Bank, UAE Exchange, a pharmacy, Jeeves Laundry, Mugg & Bean coffee shop, Hippy Chic and Deli restaurants.
- Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium: Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium was opened in 2004 and has the seating capacity of 20,000. The Friendship Series between India and Pakistan in April, 2006, to support the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan was the first international tournament held in the stadium. The stadium was the venue of the One Day International Series between Pakistan and New Zealand.
- Abu Dhabi Golf Club: Abu Dhabi Golf Club presents itself as one of the most luxurious golf resort experiences within the Middle East, under the management of the renowned worldwide golf resort management organisation of excellence, Troon Golf. An oasis of tranquility carved out of the desert, Abu Dhabi Golf Club features 27 Championship holes of golf, over 162 hectares of land. The course features an undulating terrain meandering through pockets of palms and ornamental trees, shrubs with seven spectacular saltwater lakes.
- Mosques in Khalifa City: Two main mosques attract worshippers from the vast residential area.
- Khalifa City, a recently developed residential area, is just a few kilometres away from Abu Dhabi International Airport. It has two sections — Khalifa City A and Khalifa City B. Khalifa City B is still in the initial stages of development without many supporting amenities like shops. Most of the residents currently live in Khalifa City A.
- The different designs and colours of the project's villas leave a lasting impression on visitors. Apart from housing several government and corporate offices, the planned Central Capital District also adds to the importance of Khalifa City.
- The communities and neighbourhoods of the UAE are multiculturally diverse. In this fortnightly series, Gulf News delves deep into the heart of one of the most popular districts in Abu Dhabi.