Sami Elias Ghandour
Sami Elias Ghandour is the first non-GCC expat to become a freehold property owner in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi Municipality issued the first freehold title deed to a non-GCC expat for a Dh10.8-million villa in May. Longtime resident Sami Elias Ghandour, 69, received his freehold title deed for a six-bedroom villa in Hidd Al Saadiyat. Ghandour, along with his real estate consultant, Henry Wiltshire International, was pleasantly surprised when he was informed that he is the first expat in the capital to own freehold property.

While non-GCC expats were earlier allowed to buy real estate on a 99-year leasehold basis, a new freehold law was announced at Cityscape Abu Dhabi in April. “Once we completed all the formalities, a staff informed us we were the first expatriate to receive the new freehold title deed in Abu Dhabi. I asked the lady several times to clarify as we knew existing title deeds were on a leasehold basis,” says Ghandour, an engineer from Jordan, but originally from Palestine. “She was very clear about it: we now own the property and the land. This only solidified our roots in the city and country we call home.”

Having lived in Abu Dhabi for 39 years, Ghandour and his wife have decided to retire in the UAE. “My wife and I have been looking for a property at the right value and location for a couple of years,” he said. “We decided to buy a home and qualify for the retirement visa scheme. We have three children who were born and raised in Abu Dhabi and are now working in their own businesses.”

On his new home, Ghandour, who expects to move out of their five-bedroom house in Al Bateen after summer, said: “The community offers the lifestyle we are looking for and hope to retire in. We decided to upgrade to a six-bedroom villa to accommodate the growing size of our kids’ families, who are also making the UAE their home.”