x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Zaab neighbourhood in Abu Dhabi

In days gone by this district was commonly, even affectionately, known as Al Zaab Souq or Market, borrowing its name from the Al Zaab family, who have called this area home for generations.

"After 10 years of living in Abu Dhabi, I've now moved to the area I've always wanted to live in," Olga Sumoylenko, a nurse from Ukraine, tells me as we chat on the street. "It's safe, quiet and a really nice place to live. I think it's quite posh."

Sumoylenko's opinion of the neighbourhood, which is bordered by Al Falah Street, King Khalid bin Abdel Aziz Street, Al Bateen Street and Khalifa bin Shakhbout Street, is not untypical. Residents talk in effusive terms about the area they call home and, when pressed, will struggle to come up with any significant criticisms. "There really is isn't anything that niggles me about living here. There are no negative points," says Adrian Holtzmann, a German expatriate.

In days gone by this district was commonly, even affectionately, known as Al Zaab Souq or Market, borrowing its name from the Al Zaab family, who have called this area home for generations, having migrated from the Northern Emirates after clashing with a neighbouring tribe in Ras al Khaimah. Now though, the district is referred to by a string of names by its residents. Some say Manaseer, Al Bateen or Khalidiyah, while others stick to Al Zaab; all of them are the posted names of neighbouring blocks.

A busy shopping precinct sits on the corner of Al Bateen Street and King Khalid bin Abdel Aziz Street, where you'll find a branch of Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society, as well as the Shaheen supermarket. A variety of small shops, including an ice cream parlour, barber, mobile phone and watch shop, laundry and perfumery, stretch out in a long, single-storey addition from Shaheen. Around the corner on King Khalid bin Abdel Aziz Street a row of shops occupies the landscape, where a high arched veranda gives shade to a mix of local restaurants, refreshment shops and small groceries. The Arabian Pharmacy has occupied one of these outlets for years. "Dr Murad [who works in the pharmacy] is such a character and really helpful. I've always trusted him," says Caomihe Lalor from Ireland.

Nearby, hoardings mark the boundary of a building site next to the Co-operative car park, giving a visual clue to the new Al Manaseer offices of Abu Dhabi Police. Al Zaab Civil Defence Centre is also just a stone's throw away. Everyone you meet agrees that it is a very quiet place to live. The Emergency Personnel, stationed at the Civil Defence Centre, try to maintain the area's sense of peace, even in times of emergency. Blue lights are used as the vehicles go out on a call and only if there is a lot of traffic, which is rare here, do they use their sirens.

Moving down the block towards Al Falah Street there are wide, tree-lined streets and the architecture of the villas reflects the times in which they were built. The newer, more modern dwellings are bigger and taller, while those built a decade or so ago have a more individual style and are often more ornate in their construction, adorned with decorative gates in either wood or wrought iron. Wide paths, more often than not paved, run between the villas. These provide space for makeshift playgrounds as well as additional parking for cars, boats, trailers and small pickup trucks.

Mariam al Mheni, from Abu Dhabi, has called this area home since she got married eight years ago. "I like living here. It is very safe. We live in an older style villa but there is still plenty of room for our growing family. The children play at night either in our yard or on the swings out front." Akram Eleissawi, from Eygpt, rented his apartment only a few months ago but he too sings the praises of the area: "It is so close to everywhere, right in the heart of the city."

A row of small shops populates the middle of the residential district, including Arabian Health Grocery, where bicycles, with plastic crates lashed onto their backs, are parked outside ready and waiting for their next delivery. Mohammed bin Khaled Secondary School sits on Al Bateen, and Zayed the Second Primary is on Al Falah Street. Students loiter around the gates of both schools before and after the bells ring. Meanwhile, at Baraem al Aqsa Private School, where the children are younger, it's the parents who loiter to chat.

While residents all agree this is a wonderful place to live, they routinely disagree on just one matter: its name. View more photos at www.thenational.ae/houseandhome