x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Outlying areas get renewed attention

The areas of Shahama and Bahia will be revitalised under a proposal by the Urban Planning Council to address a lack of community facilities.

Jumaa al Hosani, who has lived in Al Shahama for 25 years, says the area lacks basic facilities.
Jumaa al Hosani, who has lived in Al Shahama for 25 years, says the area lacks basic facilities.

SHAHAMA // The areas of Shahama and Bahia will be revitalised under a proposal by the Urban Planning Council to address a lack of community facilities, parks, shopping and housing and create a transport hub. Matthew Chung visited the area, where residents are welcoming the news Shahama // From behind the wheel of his black Lexus, Jumaa al Hosani points at a long stretch of barren land near the house in Shahama where he has lived for 25 years.

"In 20 years, nothing has happened at this one," he said. "You see Dubai, within six years, seven years, how it's grown. But Shahama, 20 years, it is nothing. "For children, there is nothing here. Only riding bicycles in the street. This is not good." Mr al Hosani, 39, who works for Al Ansari Exchange in Shahama, joined other residents of Shahama and Bahia in welcoming the news that the Urban Planning Council's "revitalisation plan" for the areas, about 30km outside Abu Dhabi, has been approved.

It aims to address a lack of community facilities, parks, shopping and housing while creating a new town centre. At present, a long strip of buildings, including groceries and restaurants, a private school and nursery, lines the service road off the E10 and E11 highways bordering part of Shahama, with convenience stores and small supermarkets sprinkled around homes. There are a few parks and other schools spread out around the community.

Ageing buses transport passengers to and from Abu Dhabi city. The UPC estimates that by 2030, the Shahama and Bahia communities will be home to 110,000 people. Residents of Shahama yesterday said they were happy with their quiet community, which is free from the traffic congestion and crowds of Abu Dhabi. But they missed having a large shopping centre, plentiful cafes, parks, a cinema and a reliable taxi service.

It is also difficult to find adequate accommodation, said Mr al Hosani and his co-worker, Nuaman Yousef. Mr al Hosani and his wife and two children share his villa with his mother, his brother and his brother's children. They have renovated and expanded the residence several times since the Government provided him with one of about 500 of the first villas in Shahama, but he wants to expand it further, as there is not enough room for his family.

Mr Yousef, from Pakistan, moved out recently from the city and found it difficult to find bachelor accommodation in Shahama. "Because there is not too much space, there are not many houses," he said. In Bahia, there is a lack of good grocers, said Rabie Jasim, 33, who often makes a 45-minute round trip to a vegetable market in neighbouring Shahama to buy fresh produce. "It's as if I am going to Dubai," joked the Abu Dhabi Police officer. "We only have small groceries in Bahia."

He said he travelled to Ibn Battuta Mall in Jebel Ali, about 40 minutes' drive from his home, to shop for clothes and other items, rather than make the trip to Abu Dhabi, which he said was too crowded. "It's better than going to Marina Mall, which would take one hour or more." Getting around the area without a car can be a challenge as well, residents say. The seven private taxi franchisees operating in the emirate provide a service in Shahama, according to the regulator, TransAD. However, most taxis on the roads yesterday were the older gold-and-white ones. Mohammed Muktar, 27, who works at the bus station, said there were rarely any taxis waiting to pick up passengers: "Taxi, problem."

Young people say there is not enough for them to do in the area. Hamed al Hajeri, a 22-year-old fireman who works in Abu Dhabi and lives in Shahama, said he goes to the city for entertainment, such as watching a film, bowling, or just hanging out. Mr al Hosani, who proudly says he has been living in Shahama "from the beginning", believes the area now deserves more. "Now is the time for the future," he said.

mchung@thenational.ae