Away from the hustle and bustle of the city: A mother and her children take a leisurely stroll in Al Reef Villas Image Credit: Abdul Rehman/Xpress

Abu Dhabi: Lack of restaurants, schools, pharmacies and medical clinics in the gated community is marring the otherwise comfortable life at the sprawling residential sanctuary at Al Reef Villas, say residents.

Ijaaz Faizy (name changed on request), a Pakistani expat who moved into a three-bedroom villa here with his family three years ago, says he was duped into thinking restaurants and supermarkets would soon open in the neighbourhood.

“There isn’t a single shop anywhere around even after three years,” said Ijaaz, who works for a semi-government company.

Aniko Biller, a Canadian expat and a young mother, said she was worried that there was no medical clinic in the vicinity. “We have to go to Al Rahba Hospital if there is a medical emergency.” Biller and her husband moved to Al Reef for the serene and ‘close to nature’ community living that the residence offered.

Indian expat Abdul Kareem was vexed by the lack of “a single decent restaurant” within the community. “If you have guests, there is no way we can get food home delivered.” He said he has to drive to Mussafah or Shahama a few kilometres away. The other options are Yas Island or Al Raha, which are 10 to 15 minutes drive away, or Abu Dhabi city, a 20-minute drive away.

community living

However, most of the families who spoke with XPRESS were ready to overlook the shortcomings for the tranquil community living that Al Reef offers.

“This is a great place for family. You are away from the hustle and bustle of the city; there is a mosque in our neigbourhood and my kids enjoy the outdoors,” said Rukayya Ali, a British mother of Indian origin with four kids.

The first planned community in Abu Dhabi, Al Reef, developed by Manazel Real Estate of Abu Dhabi, is a cluster of four villages themed after four different styles namely Mediterranean, Arabian, Desert and Contemporary. Each village shares a swimming pool, gymnasium and a community play area. There is also the Al Reef Downtown consisting of 46 apartment buildings offering studio, one, two, and three-bedroom options.

Kiran Kumar, Quality Assurance Manager at Manazel, told XPRESS: “Today, Al Reef is a 15,000 strong community consisting of residents of various nationalities. There is a vibrant community life here with various sports and recreational events, round-the-clock security and efficient maintenance.”

On the complaints of residents, Kumar said Al Reef is a developing community and many facilities have yet to open. However, he admitted that there are no ongoing or in-the-pipeline projects to build schools, clinics or pharmacies in the immediate future.

Rising rents

The first phase of the Al Reef project was handed over in 2009. Since then, Al Reef has fast developed into an affordable yet spacious and luxurious living option for the middle class. It was a great investment option for many with a two-bedroom available for Dh800,000, currently valued at Dh1.2 million and above.

“After the prices remained more or less steady for the first two years, both the rental and leasing prices have gone up in the area,” said Kumar.

Just as the house prices shot up, the affordability of living in Al Reef was also hit by the steep rent increase in the past year. A one-bedroom for Dh55,000 in annual rent till a year ago costs up to Dh75,000. Since November, the prices of two- and three-bedroom apartments have also risen by up to Dh25,000.

“I won’t say it is affordable. The rents are increasing and are on par with the rentals in the city. But the attraction of living in Al Reef is that, despite the lack of basic amenities, there is ample parking space and it is a great locality away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” said Liz Powell, a Canadian expat.