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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Neighbourhood Watch: why everyone loves Abu Dhabi's Al Raha

Residents of the beachfront developments claim to be the happiest in Abu Dhabi

A view of the Al Muneera plaza area at the Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 
A view of the Al Muneera plaza area at the Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 

They are said to be the happiest residents in the capital.

And with a string of restaurants, cafes, shops and possibly the best children’s playground in Abu Dhabi, it is perhaps no surprise Al Raha Beach is so popular.

Long-term residents of the city may remember when the area was home to just a ladies only beach.

But that changed in the mid-2000s to allow for the construction of four new developments in the area — Al Hadeel, Al Bandar, Al Muneera and Al Zeina.

And they all have one thing in common: spectacular views of the sea.

Residential buildings at Al Muneera at the Raha Beach area in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National   ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Gillian
Residential buildings at Al Muneera at the Raha Beach area in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National   ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Gillian

Rana Versetti, and her husband Luca, bought a property in Al Bandar after moving to Abu Dhabi from Dubai some six years ago.

It was the first beachfront development to be made available to both national and international buyers in the city — as all Raha Beach properties now are.

“We liked the community,” said Ms Versetti, 34, who has two children aged 19 months and five years.

“It was very convenient, close to the airport and had lots of facilities.”

The couple loved the area so much that they have since moved on to nearby Al Zeina, which opened in 2012.

“Al Zeina is more child-friendly and easy to walk around,” said Ms Versetti.

“It has a great community and there are lots of people. It honestly has everything — sometimes I don’t even have to leave.”

Abbie Montgomery, a hairdresser from the UK, also lives in Al Zeina. She moved there three months ago to join Swish, a salon in Al Hadeel, Raha Beach’s latest development which opened this year.

The 25-year-old said she had never been to Abu Dhabi, but immediately liked what she saw when she arrived.

“I love it here,” she said. “It’s quiet and relaxing. There are nice views and everyone is friendly.

“The owner of Swish is from Wales and she had been to numerous salons in Abu Dhabi and hadn’t had the experience she wanted or would have had at home. So she decided to set up her own.”

The salon’s clients mainly live in the area, but some travel from further afield.

“We are the only salon in Abu Dhabi with a view like this,” Ms Montgomery said, gesturing to the surrounding azure blue water.

The area’s proximity to the beach was also a pull for Linda Cantwell, an Irish woman who has lived in neighbouring Al Muneera for the last six years. She and her husband were among the first to move into the development when it opened.

They had looked at houses, but felt they were too big and that there was not much to do nearby.

Linda Cantwell, a resident of Al Muneera, at the Raha Beach area in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
Linda Cantwell, a resident of Al Muneera, at the Raha Beach area in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

“And then we came to Al Muneera and because we are a couple without kids with us — our kids have grown up — it was just perfect for me," said Ms Cantwell.

“In the beginning I didn’t have a job and I thought it would be a good place to meet people and maybe make friends.”

She said one of the best things about living in Raha Beach is that they do not have to go searching for things to do at the weekend.

In fact, they are so happy living in the area that when they decided to downsize this year, they chose to stay, despite the many new developments on nearby Yas Island.

“I didn’t want to live anywhere else,” said Ms Cantwell.