x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Khalifa City B - The future lies here

Facilities in the neighbourhood are still in the works but residents are confident about its prospects.

People in the neighbourhood feel a strong sense of community, says the resident MV Salim.
People in the neighbourhood feel a strong sense of community, says the resident MV Salim.

Facilities in the neighbourhood are still in the works but residents are confident about its prospects. At the moment, cheap accommodation and lots of open spaces seem to be major incentives.

Cracking under the burden of exorbitant rents in central Abu Dhabi, Amado Balignasay thought of moving somewhere on the outskirts and renting a small apartment for himself at a cheaper price. He thought such a move would dramatically change his lifestyle because he would have an independence and breathing space he has seldom enjoyed since moving to the capital from his native Philippines a couple of years ago.

With a modest income, a single bedroom accommodation in a villa for Dh42,000 a year in the upcoming neighbourhood of Khalifa City B suited him best. "After moving to a new house here, my lifestyle has changed indeed," Balignasay says.

"I am forced to cook every day, which was not the case when I lived in a shared flat in Abu Dhabi's Tourist Club area, where I rather spent the time according to my wishes. I spent a lot of money because when you are in that area, you have plenty of options. What do you do after you get back home from work? For a bachelor like me, I found hanging around in shopping malls and restaurants a good way to relax. When you do so, you normally spend without realising. Life was easy, but here I can definitely save much more."

He pauses, then asks me whether I am considering moving to his neighbourhood. Without waiting for an answer, he begins to scan his mobile phone to help me with some numbers that could be useful in my supposed house hunting. "Khalifa B is good," he says.

Although this area looks rather undeveloped right now, all is going to change, as the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council forges ahead with the 2030 plan, which will ensure that the city becomes a sought-after location, equipped with economically viable housing, retail, office, civic and community facilities.

There are several signs along Airport Road upon exiting for Khalifa City B. As you take a turn towards Madinat Khalifa, you will suddenly find yourself in the middle of the desert. It's a long barren stretch - about 20 kilometres or so - that you will have to navigate before you see villas appear like dots on the horizon.

Head straight and you will reach the destination. In terms of accommodation, Khalifa City B seems to offer plenty of choices as many of the newly built mansions await tenants. Construction of many more is in progress in the sprawling area.

MV Salim, a sales supervisor from the Indian state of Kerala, is a newcomer to this locality. "At the moment there is nothing here in the way of facilities," he says. Nevertheless, he is optimistic about its future prospects. "It's going to be a classy residential area a few years from now," he enthuses.

"You may not be able to make out immediately how this place is going to look like, but the symmetrical villas that are coming up will give you the idea that the skyline will be different from that of downtown Abu Dhabi. I am sure you will not be dwarfed by high-rises here."

Salim says at present he has to rely entirely on his car. "For shopping, paying Etisalat bills, getting treatment or even for drinking a cup of tea, you will have to drive out of this area - maybe to Musaffah, which is nearby, or Khalifa City A. There is nothing here yet."

There are buses, but you don't see them frequently and everywhere, Salim says.

He also points out the "perennial problem" of sand and dust that keeps people inside their homes most of the time. "I am dreading the the summer, when the hot air will whip up more sand," he says.

He has not, however, overlooked the advantages of living away from the crowd.

"You have plenty of parking spaces, areas to take walks and opportunity to be on your own since the population here is thin. I already get the feeling of belonging to a community - the kind of one I have back home. If you are in emergency and you don't have a car, a neighbour will help you, or maybe a stranger. Here people help each other."

Salim is confident that his lifestyle will be even better when this area blossoms and builds a connection with the main city. "You will not see this desert. It will be filled all the way until Abu Dhabi city."

For Wael Aziz, Khalifa City B is already a perfect example of a neighbourhood. "You have come to live here by choice - knowing that there are no facilities in the area. It's remote but clean. [Many] neighbourhoods in the US or Canada are like this. You will have to drive half an hour or more to reach a facility. On the contrary, here you have lots of open spaces, it's less crowded yet everything is within your reach," says Aziz, an architect with WS Atkins. "Start living here and you will feel the difference."

It's only a matter of time when this place will grow in popularity, Salim says. "The future lies in these areas."