As the early morning sun bursts through the treetops that line Abu Dhabi's picturesque Bainunah Street, dozens of joggers and cyclists take to the streets of Al Bateen and workers at the nearby dhow building yard gear up for another day of hard graft.
In next door Al Khubeirah, the smell of eggs wafts through the dining room of the Hilton Hotel and scores of holidaymakers make their way to the beach for a day of sunbathing and relaxation.
Amid all this activity, the streets seem strangely devoid of the manic traffic that plagues much of the UAE's capital city. Al Bateen and Al Khubeirah are located on the west side of Abu Dhabi Island; an altogether more sedate district compared to the perpetual chaos of Al Markaziyah and Tourist Club Area in the east of the city.
Only a decade ago, it was even quieter still around this part of town. Al Bateen has its roots in the fishing industry due to its close proximity to the sea and, before the discovery of oil in the 1960s, residents enjoyed a quiet and laidback lifestyle.
In many ways they still do as despite the massive growth that has encompassed the whole of Abu Dhabi in recent years, Al Bateen and Al Khubeirah boast some of the most sought after properties in the city.
Living among the high walled palaces and villas of Al Bateen, in particular, does not come cheap. Prices for apartments here range from between Dh200,000 and Dh500,000 per annum. It is easy to see, however, why many people seek accommodation in the residential areas north of Bainunah Street with its excellent health care and schooling options.
Traffic in the area is nothing compared to elsewhere in the city and Khaleej Al Arabi Street (Coast Road) provides a convenient route out towards Dubai and the northern emirates via Musaffah Bridge.
In terms of shopping and amenities, Marina Mall is only a short drive away while Al Khubeirah boasts Abu Dhabi's only Spinneys supermarket, which proves particularly popular with Western expatriates.
Al Bateen Mall, Rotana Mall and Al Khalidiyah Mall offer residents further opportunities to spend their hard-earned salaries.
Osman Bizri, General Manager of Marina Al Bateen Resort, reminisces a lot about his early years living in the area. The 38-year-old, originally from Lebanon, said: "When I first arrived here 12 years ago the only thing around was the dhow yard, which you could only access by driving up a tiny sandy road. Over the years, things started to develop slowly and I opened the Marina in 1999. It was mainly a workshop for boats back then but it has since become a fully fledged resort with approximately 270 members.
"The facility has a gym, a swimming pool and three restaurants on site. There are also around 200 boats and yachts docked in the Marina. We are busy every single day and some people even live here permanently in one of the 21 villas that have been developed in recent years.
"Al Bateen has changed so much since I first arrived; it used to be like a little fishing village. I preferred living here back then but now it is beginning to face big city problems; the area has modernised dramatically in such a short period of time. In saying that, however, I still love Al Bateen with all its boats and little shops; it is definitely one of the nicest areas of Abu Dhabi. It is a place where you can enjoy water activities and relax in five star hotels; I am very happy here."
A number of parks dot the two districts — namely Al Khubeirah Garden, Zalamat Garden and FM Radio Station Garden, and Abu Dhabi's last remaining public beach is also located here. The Intercontinental Hotel and Hilton Hotel are home to several excellent restaurants and nightspots. Furthermore, the Emirates Hotel, arguably Abu Dhabi's most famous landmark, imposes its presence on the district from its location at the far end of Corniche Road West.
Noelle Badger, a 44-year-old teacher from Australia, said: "I used to live around here and I loved every second of it. I now live in Al Wahda, which is absolute bedlam comparatively in terms of the traffic and parking situation.
"Al Bateen and Al Khubeirah are lovely areas and they are in close proximity to the Corniche. I really miss living on the western side of the island but my work is still based there, which is fantastic because I love my job and it is located in my favourite part of the city."
Shekar Dackshnamurthy, the manager of Al Bateen Mall has lived in Al Bateen for almost 26 years. The 46-year-old, originally from India, said: "It is a very different place these days to when I first arrived in the UAE. Back then, the area was almost pitch dark in the evenings and there were no traffic signals.
"It was a very quiet place but that has totally changed over the last 10 years. The roads have improved and businesses have developed. However, Al Bateen still remains a relatively quiet area and residents experience few disturbances. It is a really nice area for families and I believe I will be here for a very long time to come."
Numerous government departments and institutions are also located in the area including the Federal National Council, the UAE Central Bank, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs.
As night falls and traffic chaos ensues in downtown Abu Dhabi, residents of Al Bateen and Al Khubeirah settle down for the evening or head out on to the relatively quiet streets for some exercise. Rapid growth has certainly transformed these districts over the last decade or so but they have managed to retain something of a tranquil nature; one of the last vestiges of a peaceful age in today's bustling capital.
Places to visit
Italian restaurant BiCE at the Hilton Hotel is a perennial favourite of many expatriates in Abu Dhabi. The Intercontinental Hotel is home to several outlets including the popular Brazilian diner Chamas where ‘Passadores' serve up endless skewers or barbecued meat. In the residential areas, there are numerous small Indian and Lebanese eateries.
Health care options in Al Bateen and Al Khubeirah are plentiful with the Gulf Diagnostic Centre, the Swedish Medical Centre and the Advanced American Dental Surgery all located within the two districts.
Al Bateen Mall is small but convenient for picking up groceries if you are in a rush. Al Marina Mall, which boasts a wide range of designer and high-street stores, is only a 5-10 minute drive away on the Breakwater. Rotana Mall and Al Khalidiyah Mall are also nearby.
The Emirates Palace Hotel is located at the end of Corniche Road West. The Hilton Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel between them feature some of the best dining and nightlife options in Abu Dhabi.
Several green spaces are dotted around Al Bateen and Al Khubeirah including Zalamat Garden, Al Khubeirah Garden and FM Radio Station Garden. Swimming facilities are available at Marina Al Bateen Resort and the Hiltonia Beach Club although you have to be a member to gain access at both. The city's last remaining free public beach is also located in Al Bateen.
Plans for Al Bateen
Al Bateen is the oldest occupied area in Abu Dhabi and has a rich history of fishing and boat-building. The Tourism Development and Investment Company plans to build on this tradition and make the wharf and marina a natural gateway to the capital.
The first phase of the construction will accommodate over 300 boats and the project is geared to make it a significant waterfront destination. A luxurious five-star hotel is also planned to attract visitors and tourists.