For a family returning to the capital from Doha, a three-bedroom villa in Al Mushrif ticks all the boxes: shops within walking distance, easy parking and an established sense of community
Dorin and Maria Oprea, from Romania, have returned to Abu Dhabi with their 13-year-old son after living in Doha for several years.
A three-bedroom mid-1980s villa with a garden, in Al Mushrif, close to the churches area and The British School Al Khubairat, rented through Silverlake Properties.
Rent, paid in two cheques, is Dh165,000. This does not include any maintenance. Five per cent commission was also paid.
Inside the gates, a short runway is shaded by a wooden awning and there is a raised courtyard garden on the right-hand side of the yard. Inside the villa, a small entrance hall leads to the lounge-diner on the right. The kitchen is straight ahead and there is also a downstairs cloakroom. Upstairs, the villa has a master bedroom with en suite facilities and balcony, two further bedrooms and a shower room.
We lived in the Tourist Club area for four years from 2001. The building was well maintained with a rooftop garden. We liked living in the heart of the city, opposite Abu Dhabi Mall, close to the Corniche and with shops and facilities literally on our doorstep. Then we moved to Doha and lived in an apartment in an area with very little else going on. When the opportunity arose to move back to Abu Dhabi, we knew that we wanted to live somewhere with a sense of community, an established area with shops, places to walk and easy car parking.
We knew we wanted to look around Airport Road, the Corniche or possibly Al Bateen. Moving back to the Tourist Club or to the Salam Street vicinity was no longer really an option - the traffic congestion and building works do not make for an easy life there anymore. We knew that Khalifa A would have properties that fit our criteria, but we thought it was too far away from the city and lacked the facilities and established community we were looking for.
I contacted agents to view properties, often following up adverts in newspaper's classified sections. I viewed this property but the landlord wanted Dh180,000, and this was more than I was prepared to pay. I told the landlord we were interested but the price was too high, and then set about finding an alternative home. I viewed a duplex apartment with two bedrooms close to the Corniche. It was a good option for us, although not ideal because we have a dog.
A month after viewing the villa in Mushrif, I received a call from Silverlake Properties. The price had come down and the landlord agreed to two cheques. This was a stressful and nerve-racking process but we were determined not to overpay.
The villa had been renovated but the standard of decoration left a lot to be desired. Because we had decided that this was going to be our home for a while, we opted to make some improvements, starting with getting the pastel-coloured walls repainted in plain white.
In the lounge-diner we covered the floor tiles we didn't like with a dark wood-effect laminate. The original plan was to laminate the entire downstairs but in the end we decided against this. The kitchen is relatively small so we added shelves but were pleased to keep the new cupboards that had just been fitted. We had the bare metal stairs covered with carpet and the wooden panel on the underside removed - it was a big dust collector.
Upstairs, we added a secondary door from the master bedroom to the balcony. The original door didn't fit very well and let in a draught and dust. I also ordered new fly screens for the windows. The old ones were in a poor state of repair.
Outside, the garden has been repaved. Around the side of the house there was a huge pile of excess paving bricks. With the help of my son, I used them to create a small raised area along the wall and a small design feature for our plant pots to sit on.
Our flat in Doha was, in square footage, just a little smaller than our new villa so, thankfully, our furniture fits in well. We did buy a new sofa, but that was more because I found a new one that was really comfortable rather than because the old one didn't fit.
We have turned the villa into our home, our space. The orientation is great - we get morning sun and then we are in the shade for the rest of the day. The garden is a real plus. We love the neighbourhood and have already got to know our neighbours.
The kitchen could be a little bigger. We have to keep the fridge in the hall but we can live with this. The air conditioning can be noisy. Poor maintenance over the years has meant it is not as efficient as it could be. The landlord has had a new compressor put in and we hope this will make it less noisy and more effective.
We are really happy here. We've invested effort and a relatively small amount of resources to improve the villa. We love the neighbourhood, too - there is a veterinarian, the churches, shops and a laundry just a street away. And there is ample parking, except on Fridays when the congregations are at the churches. We seem to do a lot of entertaining. Visitors not only can come and sit in our garden, but they also can park easily in our street.
* Maria Oprea was speaking to Sarah Nicholas