x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

A step up

Property insider A one-bedroom flat in a new development in Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi, rented last month through Trust City Real Estate.

Furniture takes on a whole new look in the bright, spacious living room.
Furniture takes on a whole new look in the bright, spacious living room.

A one-bedroom flat in a new development in Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi, rented last month through Trust City Real Estate. The building has yet to secure a name: some call it Green Emirates Properties because of the leasing banner on the front, but the delivery men call it Golden Tower (wishful thinking, because it's sandy brown).

Dh110,000 per annum; a one-time Dh5,000 leasing fee to the estate agent, who helped me set up the electricity and sort out moving-in problems; and a one-time administrative fee of Dh2,750 to Green Emirates Properties.

Two bathrooms; a long, narrow terrace with sliding glass doors from both the bedroom and living room. Private underground parking; 24-hour security guards; a pool terrace with Jacuzzi; decent gym, plus changing rooms with lockers, steam rooms and saunas.

Because Jones the Grocer is my second home, I had long been coveting a place in the newly developed area I call Jones the Neighbourhood. I had been fortunate enough two years ago to score a rare one-bedroom flat in Tanka Mayiah, even though it was dark, small and cost Dh94,000 per annum. But the sparkle really began to fade as the market changed and I watched more modern ones pop up on Dubizzle, offering better features for not very much more rent. After two depressing encounters with people who call themselves estate agents, one who showed me a hovel that was nowhere near what was advertised and the other who tantalised me with a dream flat that was already taken, I gave up. Then my fairy godmother, a woman with wasta, called: one of her agent friends had a few flats in a new building near Jones. The three we saw disappeared under our feet. "Insh'Allah," I said, refusing to elbow out my competitors who were rushing from flat to flat with their agents. Then, while on a holiday cruise off the coast of Croatia, I received an e-mail from Wasta Woman: more apartments were opening up in the development's second tower. A very gracious colleague had offered to be my point person if this happened while I was away, so off she went to see the flats. Knowing how quickly the others went, I said I'd take one sight unseen. We lost out on a pricier flat that has an open view of the city (most sides look onto other buildings), but this one suits me just fine.

I finally have a place I like to call home. What makes the difference? All of the features I didn't have before: space, light, a balcony, modern fixtures, easy (and temperate) parking plus a nearby cafe where I feel comfortable. My friends keep asking if I have new furniture. It's not new, it's just that it got lost before because my old place was so small and dark. My only problem now is that I love to hang out in my new place so much that I don't find as much time for Jones any more.

The location, location, location. Besides Jones, there's another new cafe with free wireless and a "mini-LuLu" opening soon. The nearby Modern National Laundry is as it sounds: instead of writing my flat number in black marker in my clothes, they use iron-on labels with my name, just like Mum did when she sent me to camp.

The "in transition" feel. There's noise from nearby construction, and my flat came with a few flaws that are waiting to be fixed: one bathroom has a chipped tile and the water pressure is inconsistent; there is a large scratch on the granite countertop in the kitchen and the bedroom air conditioner doesn't work. And as much as I don't miss trying to find parking in the much livelier hood of Tanka Mayiah, the area is rather empty at night after my stylish Mubadala neighbours drive away from work in their sports cars.

My quality of life is so much better, but as with most things in Abu Dhabi, it's pricey. Still, if you want the Dubai Marina lifestyle without the commute, this could be your building.