ABU DHABI // For 16 years, Mohammed Al Minhali has lived with his family in a rented apartment in Bani Yas.
Yesterday, he and hundreds of exuberant Emiratis gathered at the municipality to receive the keys to their very own villas.
"Today, I received keys of a five-bedroom new villa in Bani Yas and after arranging furniture and other household equipment, we will move in to our own villa," said Mr Al Minhali.
The housing grants were offered to citizens under Al Falah City Residential Project, an endeavour sponsored by Sheikh Khalifa, the President, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
The municipality says 4,857 villas will be handed over to Emiratis. Yesterday's grants make 2,000 that have been handed over so far. The other 2,857 are still under construction and will be distributed upon completion.
The project's first area will feature the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque, with room for 2,000 worshippers.
Mr Al Minhali said: "All praise is to Allah and the ruling family of the Abu Dhabi emirate, president and crown prince who gifted us this villa.
"First I submitted my documents with the diwan of presidential affairs in 1999, then resubmitted with the diwan of the crown prince in 2010. Now I have received it."
Mr Al Minhali, who has three children, said his first order of business was to find a school. Because the area is new, there are no public schools or bus service yet. He said the family of seven would not move into the home until bus service becomes available, as his wife and he work.
Abdullah Al Jeaid also collected his villa keys yesterday.
"This is a big Eid gift for me and my family from the rulers of this emirate," he said, adding the family would move once facilities were completed.
"Of late, I am living in a company-provided villa in Abu Dhabi and this evening I am going to visit the new villa where we will move soon," he said.
His family of five will get a five-room villa in Bani Yas, and everyone is happy about the move, he said. He applied for the villa 12 years ago.
Saleh Al Mari said his family was looking forward to their new home.
"We are the children of the ruling family and they have gifted us as usual," he said.
"This has been a tradition among rulers of the emirate, which continues to flourish.
"Currently, we are living with our father in Al Shawamikh region, but now all seven members of my family will move there after a month."
Owaidah Al Qubaisi, acting executive director of municipal services at the municipality, said: "This grant illustrates the keen attention of our prudent leadership to ensure a decent and stable life of Emirati families who always remain the core of attention and care of our wise leadership."
Mohammed Al Rashidi has waited nearly a decade for his home.
"I first submitted my documents in 2003," he said. "Now my dreams came true."