On a cool weekend afternoon, Safwan Abed, his wife, Noora, and their five children enjoy a barbecue and some family time together in a public park near Abu Dhabi's 31st Street. "We call this our garden because it is so lovely and quiet. Not many people come here at all," he says. Visiting from Khalifa Street in the city centre, the family welcomes the shade offered by the park's mature trees, where hundreds of birds chatter away.
Bordered by Fourth Street (also referred to as Muroor Road), this well-established green space has been a great place to escape from the hurly-burly of the city for many years, even if the main road from which it is reached has become significantly busier in recent times.
Abdul Abdul, an expatriate from Pakistan, moved to Al Aman neighbourhood near the park 15 years ago. "These traffic lights on Muroor and 31st Street were the informal gateway to Abu Dhabi," he reminisces. "When you reached them you knew you were finally heading out of the desert and towards the city."
The neighbourhood, consisting of three blocks, Al Aman and Al Rehhan, but commonly called Muroor by its residents, stretches from 25th Street to 31st Street and is bordered by Muroor Road and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum Road (2nd Street or Airport Road). This area is changing, though, slowly becoming part of modern Abu Dhabi, no longer considered to sit on the city's fringes.
The large patch of land on the corner of Airport Road and 31st Street is currently a construction site, where Al Qudra Real Estate's Danet Abu Dhabi project is gradually emerging. The development will soon be "a mixed-use master-plan community consisting of a range of commercial and residential facilities," according to the company's website.
Al Qudra plans to eventually complete more than 30 tower blocks, as well as a sports and social centre. Meanwhile, the Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi has been open for more than a year, and is now one of the neighbourhood's most familiar landmarks.
The first Danet Abu Dhabi blocks now tower above the row of five and six-storey buildings that have lined the Muroor Road end of 31st Street for many years, although residents seem remarkably sanguine about the slow creep of progress. Seven-year-old Tala Ahmed from Jordan says proudly that a new children's park will open soon, right outside her building's front door.
Look closely, though, and you'll still find clues pointing to how the neighbourhood used to look before the new developments overshadowed all else. A sign on the corner of 31st Street directs you to a now-flattened "municipality garage". This historic notice indicates this was once the site of an Abu Dhabi Municipality bus station and truck garage. Hundreds of mechanics and engineers used to work on vehicles here, although today few mourn its closing.
Meanwhile, a whole range of established businesses sit inside the lower-rise buildings on the Muroor Road side of the block. You'll find a collection of banks here, and there are shisha cafes, too, with small garden areas tumbling out onto the pavements. Al Kalbane and Nagham cafes are bustling with customers, as is the nearby Hamasat Cafeteria.
The usual assortment of shops catering to every community's daily needs - laundries, small convenience stores, barbers, ladies salons and tailors - is here as well.
Leyla Ahmed from Morocco has lived in the neighbourhood for five years and finds the area "very convenient". Now that she has a young son, it is easy to push a buggy along to the local shops. "It is a good excuse to grab some fresh air and exercise, as well as to go shopping," she says.
In contrast, Julia Ballis, a German expatriate, is just settling into life in the neighbourhood: "I've lived here for two weeks," she says. "I've moved into a company flat and the person who has helped me the most is the building's watchman, who knows everything."
There are several schools here too, including the Japanese School, Al Worood Academy and, on 29th Street, Lycée Louis Massignon and American International School. Predictably, during term time, the streets are teeming with cars and buses doing drop-offs and pick-ups.
On the opposite side of 29th Street, at the corner of Airport Road, building work is progressing well on another major development, Al Bostan Complex, where a Novotel hotel and several residential towers will open next year.
Moving towards 27th Street, the neighbourhood changes and is home to many important institutions overseeing law and order. Large brown road signs indicate the official nature of buildings that include the Government and Diplomatic Protection department, Special Tasks, K9 Security Inspection Department and Police Specialist Clinics Complex.
A few streets of older-style villas are clustered here, although signs state that most of them are empty and must not be entered. A handful still have cars parked outside, indicating that some residents remain, although it is clear that a new development will soon flatten this once-proud clutch of housing.
Finally, the drivers and vehicles licensing department is a landmark in its own right. The large complex of buildings filling the entire block between 27th and 25th Streets will be familiar to any driver who has had to re-register his car. A new police building is also under construction here.
Although this diverse area still has a relatively small residential component, like so much of the capital, it's a neighbourhood poised at a tipping point, ready to welcome new residents to its emerging high-density developments.