The Aldar development on the border of Dubai and Abu Dhabi can expect to see big changes in the coming years
Neighbourhood Watch: Al Ghadeer, the Abu Dhabi satellite town that could be the future of transport
Tucked away in an isolated, sand-blown stretch of desert, the community of Al Ghadeer initially appeared to many to be a risky undertaking.
Plans to develop more than 6,000 homes were met with scepticism, despite the area being an easy commute to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Today, however, any apprehension or uncertainty over the unusual project has long since been blown away, along with much of the sand.
Not only is the community now thriving, with a host of new shops and amenities, but it could also become a hub for the world’s first supersonic transport system – known as a hyperloop.
“When I first came here earlier this year there was nothing other than one small shop called Baqala,” said Shan Maharjan, 26, from Nepal.
“That was nine months ago but it is slowly changing. Slowly the shops are coming. It’s a great place. It has opportunities and it’s very peaceful.”
The Al Ghadeer project was first launched in 2007 by Sorouh Real Estate, one of the largest developers in the UAE.
Architects behind the scheme aimed to build an entirely self-contained community, including a mosque, a school, retail space and parks.
Construction work at the site began in 2008 and in 2013 the firm merged with developer Aldar. Earlier this year, the company unveiled a Dh10billion plan which will see it deliver a total of 14,000 homes at the site over the next 15 years.
Since 2014, when the first of the homes were finished, the community has continued to grow steadily. A café, pharmacy and beauty salon have all been built since March this year, and plans for a supermarket on the way.
Yet despite residents’ buzz over the arrival of new shops and services to the community, current local gossip concerns a much larger prize.
In April, it was announced that quiet, family-friendly village may be the starting point of what could be the world’s first hyperloop route after US-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced a deal to develop a transport system with Aldar Properties. The network will begin at Al Ghadeer, according to the agreement.
The ground-breaking concept, which so far has only been tested by a rival company, Virgin Hyperloop One, in Las Vegas, Nevada, uses electromagnets to propel trains or pods along a vacuum-sealed track.
Its frictionless technology means passengers could potentially reach speeds of up to 1,200kph.
Speaking to The National, mother-of-one Marlene, 41, from France, said she and her family were impressed by the progress the community was making.
She described arriving at the site with her husband Tom two years ago to find very little by way of modern amenities.
Now the couple, who have an 18-month-old son, William, say Al Ghadeer is home to an increasing number of luxuries.
Marlene said: “We’ve been here two years and they have literally just opened a pharmacy, a café and a hairdresser. It’s so much better.
“There’s a small grocery shop which is awesome and stocks a lot of stuff but you can only really go to buy fruit, milk and bread there.”
As is the case with many Al Ghadeer residents, Marlene works in Dubai while her husband works in Abu Dhabi.
The couple chose to live in Al Ghadeer to cut their commuter times but admit they would most likely move if they both worked in the same location.
Nevertheless, Marleen was quick to praise the community for its parks and swimming pools, which she said were well maintained.
Rental prices are also considered very affordable, especially when compared with central Dubai.
“In Jumeirah Beach Residence we were paying Dh100,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, although it was massive,” said Marlene.
“Now we pay Dh95,000 for a three-bed villa in Al Ghadeer.”
Hana Parker, 31, from the Czech Republic, moved to Al Ghadeer when she and her husband arrived in the UAE three years ago.
Like Marlene, she chose the development based on the fact that she works in Abu Dhabi, while her husband works in Dubai. But they both like it.
“We can’t compare with any other places in the UAE but compared with the UK or Czech Republic it’s a pretty nice place to live,” said Mrs Parker, who has an eight month-old daughter.
“I like the fact that it’s dog friendly. We have a boxer dog so that was also an early consideration. We needed a place that was dog friendly.
“The advantage of the commute both sides is also absolutely amazing. It’s nice and green. And it’s a really friendly environment.”
The planned hyperloop service - should it actually materialise - would substantially cut all residents’ commute to work, be it Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
But many locals, while excited, are not entirely convinced the scheme will take off.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Mrs Parker. “I’m just happy that we have a pharmacy now and we have a nursery opening.
“This really solves a problem for us. We are happy to stay.”