Al Bateen & Al Khubeira
This is a prestigious area popular with wealthy UAE nationals. Here you’ll find palaces, premium apartments and villas set amongst some of the best maintained streets in the whole of Abu Dhabi. There are always people strolling around in the evenings and security is never an issue.
Al Bateen Beach offers a great place to relax and laze around in the sun. For the kids, there is Khalidiya Children’s Garden (ladies and children only) and the Al Khubeira Garden.
The area is serviced by a Spinneys supermarket in Al Khubeira and the Al Bateen Mall, but for a greater variety of shops, you can always head to the nearby Marina Mall or Abu Dhabi Mall.
Eating out is always easy with a wide selection of restaurants and takeaways on the streets. There are also numerous restaurants and bars in the area’s hotels. If you’re looking for that little bit of extra luxury, you can always head to the restaurants of the “seven star” Emirates Palace Hotel a few minutes away.
The American Community School of Abu Dhabi is located in Al Bateen, as well as the private Arabic Al Bateen Science School.
Al Karamah, Al Musalla, Al Mushrif and Al Rowdah
These four adjoining areas are popular amongst the western expat community and form the heart of Abu Dhabi. There are lots of large single-family villas and low rise apartments in Al Karamah, often with communal leisure facilities such as gyms and swimming pools. Al Mushrif has a more suburban feel with its numerous parks and open spaces.
Al Mushrif is also home to the Churches Area where you’ll find numerous Christian places of worship, including St Andrew’s (and the Daly Library), Evangelical Community Church, St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church and St George’s (Indian) Orthodox Church.
There are heaps of small and interesting shops along Old Airport Road which offer a unique shopping experience away from the usual big malls. For those looking for familiar international brands and western goods, however, you can head to the nearby Al Wahda Mall. The mall also boasts some excellent cafes and restaurants, plus a large Lulu hypermarket.
In terms of leisure, you’ll be spoilt for choice at the Abu Dhabi Health & Fitness Club and the Abu Dhabi Golf & Equestrian Club in Al Mushrif. The Al Jazira Club also offers one of the few 50 metre swimming pools in the whole city.
One of the reasons for the area’s enduring popularity is its close proximity to a number of quality schools, including The British School, The Sheik Zayed Private Academy, L’Ecole Française d’Abu Dhabi, The American International School and The Abu Dhabi International Private School.
Al Khalidiyah & Al Hosn
This upmarket area is home to a large number of western expats, plus a mix of Emiratis and expat Arabs. There is a good choice of luxury apartments and villas, but new properly listings are usually snapped up in a few days by those eager to move into the area.
Residents can find an extensive range of western branded food at Abela Superstore and Choithram. There is also a Lulu hypermarket in the Khalidiya Mall, plus a host of specialty shops.
The Corniche, the strip of land fronting the water, offers an expansive series of lush green parks and beach for all to enjoy. There are children’s play areas, a separate cycle and pedestrian path, and numerous cafes and restaurants.
The area is home to The American Community School and Rawafeed Private School for Girls.
Traffic can be pretty heavy in this area as you get close to Old Airport Road. A lot of labourers will also come into this area on Friday evenings for their only day off work.
Al Markaziyah, Madinat Zayed & Al Wahda
This is a really densely-populated and bustling part of the city, ideal for those who want to be close to all the local amenities. The most expensive residences are closest to the Corniche, but as you move away from the water into Al Markaziyah, the buildings become smaller and the rent begins to fall. Further back, Madinat Zayed and Al Wahda offer a different feel, with older blocks and villas populating the landscape. The traffic is heavy in this area and it can be very difficult finding a parking spot.
You will never be short of places to shop in this area though. The Al Wahda Mall and the Fetouh Al Khair Centre are home to big retail clothing chains and western brands favoured by expats. Along Hamdan Street, you’ll find the Hamdan Centre (great for bargain hunters) and Liwa Centre (the place to shop for jewellery, make-up and perfume). There is also a Home Centre, a popular home furnishings store, located in the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre & Gold Centre. Away from the malls, there are a variety of local stores dotted along the streets.
There are heaps of restaurants, takeaways and places to grab a drink in this area. One notorious bar which serves decent British pub food is in the Al Ain Palace Hotel. For a good place to get your weekly dose of sports, you can head to the popular sports bar Heroes at the Crowne Plaza.
The GEMS American Academy, the Islamia English School and the new Pearl Primary School are located in this area.
Al Nahyan, Al Muroor & Al Zahra
This area largely comprises low-rise apartments and single-family villas. It is a lot quieter than the city centre and is close to some of the most established international schools in Abu Dhabi, including The British School, The American International School, and Lycee Louis Massignon d’Abou Dhabi. The properties in this area are a lot more affordable than downtown and many of the compounds boast great leisure facilities.
There are no major shopping malls in the area, so you will be limited to the local grocery stores.
The New Corniche (aka The Eastern Corniche) runs along the eastern side of this area. It is a popular place for barbeques, picnics, fishing, running and cycling.
Al Raha & Madinat Khalifa A (aka Khalifa City A)
This is a large new area about 30 minutes drive (on a good day) along Al Salam Road into the city centre. The proposed Shahama-Saadiyat motorway is expected to cut travelling time from Raha Beach to the city in half.
Non-nationals were able to purchase property in Al Raha Gardens on a 99-year lease, but these quickly sold out. The development which comprises compounds, villas and a few company apartments is still under construction and is fairly expensive.
The villas that have gone up already in Khalifa City A are large and spacious and there are plans for lots of green spaces. Khalifa City A’s close proximity to the airport and the Dubai highway also make it an attractive location for commuting workers.
There is a strip of shops in Khalifa City A and a Lulu hypermarket in Al Raha Mall. Many residents also shop at the Spinneys in nearby Mangrove Village.
The area is home to Raha International School, Al Yasmina School and Canadian International School.
Note: Madinat Khalifa B (aka Khalifa City B) is a fair distance away from Khalifa City A is currently much less developed in terms of completed infrastructure.
Between the Bridges (aka Bain Al Jessrain)
This area includes Officer’s City and its two large, self-contained compounds, Mangrove Village and the adjacent Seashore Villas. Both compounds are popular amongst the expat community and boast top rate facilities including gyms, swimming pools and children’s play areas. Some residents rarely go into the city centre because they have everything they need inside the compounds.
Mangrove Village has it own mini supermarket called Fresh Grove, which is also accessible by residents of Seashore Villas. There is a Spinneys just outside Mangrove Village and a huge Carrefour less than 10 minutes drive away on Airport Road.
There are a few restaurants and shops in the nearby Shangri-La Hotel and the Souk Qarayat Al Beri next door. The Abu Dhabi Golf Club is also a short five minute drive away.
There are no secondary schools in the immediate area, but the University of Abu Dhabi has a campus here and the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is close to the Al Maqta Bridge.
Marina Villas are the only residential properties in the area. The exclusive development just behind Marina Mall was established in 2006 and the large, modern villas boast sea views, private pool, garden and private beach. There is also an exclusive gym in the complex.
There a plenty of boutiques and high end stores in Marina Mall, as well as a Carrefour supermarket, cinema and some great cafés and restaurants. The restaurants of the “seven star” Emirates Palace Hotel are just across the sea from Marina Villas.
Down the road on the mainland is the members-only Abu Dhabi Ladies Club.
Traffic on the only road off the island can get quite congested in the evening and on the weekends with shoppers heading to Marina Mall.
Tourist Club Area
This area at the eastern end of the Corniche is one of the most vibrant parts of the city. The apartments and low rise flats in the area are home to a cosmopolitan mix of residents. Many of the newer buildings have gyms and swimming pools.
There is a fair bit of construction going on in this area. Old and run-down buildings are likely to be demolished so make sure you’re not signing up to live next to a construction site when you’re inspecting properties.
The streets in this area are very busy and congested, making parking a real problem. If you can get by without a car, it’s best to do so unless your property comes with its own parking space.
There are heaps of shops and malls in the area, including Abu Dhabi Mall (with more than 200 shops inside), the Khalifa Centre (great for picking up bargain crafts and souvenirs) and the Lulu Centre (full of electronics, toys, clothing and cosmetics). It is also worth while visiting the fish, vegetable and carpet souks on Mina Road.
Eating out is always exciting in this area. There is a huge variety of places to eat, ranging from fine dining to cheap takeaways serving cuisine from every corner of the world.
There are no schools in the immediate area.
This is a natural island located off the north east coast of Abu Dhabi. It is divided into three areas – Pearl of the Emirates (which occupies 60 per cent of the island with its 15 towers and five-star hotel), Al Shams (due for completion in 2011), and Najmat (due for completion in 2012).
The development will eventually contain schools, medical clinics, a 27-hole golf course, malls, marinas and restaurants. Eleven bridges will connect the island to the surrounding islands and the city, including the bustling Tourist Club area which is just 300 metres away.
Al Reef Villas
This is one of the few areas in Abu Dhabi where expatriates can buy villas on renewable 99-year leases. Located on the outskirts of Hydra Village, on a hill overlooking the Abu Dhabi International Airport, it is another of the city’s new developments.
Al Reef Villas is divided into four differently styled communities – desert and Arabic (completed in December 2009), and contemporary and Mediterranean (due for completion in December 2010). A shopping district will be constructed in the central area of the development.
This eco-friendly development next to Abu Dhabi International Airport is due to be completed in December 2010. The compound comprises houses, luxury apartments and green spaces, and will boasts its own recycling programme and free transport to cut down on emissions. There will also be a mosque and a hospital.