When we first came to Abu Dhabi and viewed Al Reef we disliked it – it seemed too far away from the city and unlike many other places it didn’t have it’s own beach. So we spent our first year in a small one bedroom apartment at Al Muneera, in the Al Raha beach area (review to follow).
After one year we realised that we needed a bit more space, we didn’t use the beach anyway, and we weren’t willing to pay more rent for the location we were at. As rents had just been raised by 20-40% it was not easy to find an affordable place and once again we looked at Al Reef, which remained one of the cheaper locations. After a stressful month of searching, and another trying month of living in a hotel, we finally signed a rental agreement for a villa in Al Reef.
Another year later, I can gladly say that we don’t regret our choice. The pros:
- We have ample space in our house and even a small back yard.
- We have one private parking space in front of our house and enough on-street parking for a second car and guests.
- It is quiet – there is no crazy traffic outside of our house, no noise from any neighbours, and we rarely ever hear the airport.
- People are friendly and there is an active online community but, unless you seek out your neighbours, people usually stick to themselves.
- Our village has a small Select Market that sells all basic necessities (they even deliver for free), as well as a swimming pool and a gym; the “Downtown” area of Al Reef now has a big super market, beauty salons, dry cleaners, a food court, barbers and even a car rental.
- If you have kids, there are playgrounds and a crèche.
- The area is kept very clean and the gardeners do an exceptional job at keeping everything green and in beautiful bloom. When I look out of my living room I look into trees and there are walkways between the villas where you can wander through green alleys.
- The maintenance company at hand is generally quick to respond and efficient.
And once you live here you realise that Al Reef is not out of this world. We now have Yas Mall within 5 minutes from Al Reef, which offers excellent shopping, lots of cafes and restaurants, a Geant supermarket and Vox cinemas. Alternatively, there is Deerfields Mall down the road as well. Yas Island, of course, offers a list of shops and attractions, including: IKEA, Ace (hardware), Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Links, Waterworld, Ferrari World, several hotels, restaurants, bars, and Yas beach. Saadiyat Island is a 25 minute drive straight down the E12, and getting to Abu Dhabi is only a 7 minute drive longer, than if you lived in the Al Raha beach area.
The Villas vs Downtown
The villas of Al Reef are divided into four villages – Contemporary, Mediterranean, Desert and Arabian – which have a slightly different feel (slightly different crowd; some seem to have more families with small kids), the homes are of different ages, and some hear the airport a lot more than others, so I’d advise going for a walk around the village you’re interested in to get a feel for the area. On the inside, the houses are all pretty much the same. The smallest villas have two bedrooms, and I believe the largest have 5-6 bedrooms. Every villa has a small backyard, and the larger villas even have a small swimming pool. If you like more privacy, try finding a villa that backs onto one of the green walkways, instead of someone else’s backyard.
The villas surround the “Downtown” area, which consists of numerous apartment blocks and the main shops and restaurants. The Downtown blocks definitely have a different atmosphere to the villas – based on the cheaper price of the apartments you see different nationalities living here than in the villas. The apartments that I have visited are very nice and spacious, but parking has been a bit of an issue for the people living there. The underground parking for Downtown was closed for a long time (I am uncertain if the complete parking lot is now opened or not), and many people have complained about strangers using their allocated parking spots, or leaving cars abandoned for months/years to catch sand. The management office is now finally trying to crack down on this issue: the police has started following up with owners of abandoned cars, and Al Reef has started installing parking barriers so residents can lock up their allocated parking spots. Hopefully this will resolve this silly issue in the near future.
With Abu Dhabi being the second most expensive place for renting in the world, Al Reef continues to be a (still) affordable alternative to living on-island. It offers a quieter life, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, but it still has a lot more to offer in its vicinity than you might expect at a first glance. Unfortunately, rents are continuing to rise here as well, so maybe we’ll be looking further afield again next year…