Joining the beachfront club: the future of luxury living in the UAE

We get the lowdown on three new waterfront housing projects that are set to redefine luxury life in the UAE over the next few years.
The Lagoons, which is planned to stretch from Dubai Creek through Al Khail Road and Ras Al Khor. Courtesy Dubai Holding
The Lagoons, which is planned to stretch from Dubai Creek through Al Khail Road and Ras Al Khor. Courtesy Dubai Holding

Falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the shore; early morning strolls along the beach; views of the ocean as far as the eye can see; stepping out of your home straight onto the sand. For many, beachside living is the ultimate aspiration.

The UAE offers plenty of opportunities to live near the sea, but a slew of new projects are promising the ultimate in luxury beachfront living – and we’re not talking the odd glimpse of water from the corner of your balcony. We mean luxury homes built right on the sand, offering unparalleled amenities and every imaginable convenience. Sound appealing? We’ve looked at projects currently under development in three emirates that promise to bring you the very best. It’s time to start saving.

Hidd Al Saadiyat

Overview: Regular visitors to Saadiyat Island may have noticed a flurry of activity at the farthermost tip of the island. On a prime stretch of land owned by the Saadiyat Development and Investment Company (SDIC), a new master community, Hidd Al Saadiyat, is taking shape.

Location: Hidd is an Arabic term used by local seafarers to describe a piece of land that extends out into open water – and that’s the beauty of this setting. Measuring 1.5 million square metres, this particular land mass is long and thin (800 metres at its widest point), and is flanked on both sides by the sea. Best of all, it’s a natural island, as opposed to reclaimed land. With more than seven kilometres of beachfront, a large proportion of the villas here will be located directly on the beach.

Design details: Hidd Al Saadiyat will eventually be a fully integrated community, home to 450 villas, as well as hotels, serviced apartments, commercial centres, mosques, a beach club, a school, restaurants, cafes and retail elements.

The community has been divided into four neighbourhoods. There are a range of villa types on offer, ranging from four to eight bedrooms, covering an area of between 400 square metres and 2,000 square metres, and they’re designed in “Contemporary”, “Mediterranean” or “Modern Arabic” style.

The architecture of the villas is extremely well-considered – many of the larger properties offer external kitchens, two maid’s rooms instead of one, sizeable driveways, ample parking space, double-volume entrance areas and private pools, not to mention the highest-quality finishes, including 80-per-cent-stone cladding on the exteriors. To give you an idea of the scale of the larger villas, some have master bathrooms measuring 22 square metres (we’re pretty sure that there are studios in London that size). Everything has been designed to maximise views of the sea, so at the end of your garden, expect a wall of glass instead of a fence.

Unique selling point: Where to start? Oh yeah, the beach. Crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand – you could be mistaken for thinking that you’d stumbled onto an island in the Maldives.

Beyond that, the low-density nature of the development is a real plus. Plenty of space has been left for parks and green areas – and let’s be honest, the developer could have easily squeezed a few more houses into those areas to bump up its ­profits.

Potential cons: One major con is that 70 per cent of the villas have already been sold, and that’s with marketing efforts having been kept to a minimum, so you’ll have to rush if you want to snatch one up.

Eco credentials: As per the directions of the Urban Planning Council and the Environment Agency, a 27,500-square-metre stretch of beach has been left untouched and is a designated nesting area for ­turtles.

In addition, Hidd Al Saadiyat has obtained an Estidama Pearl 2 rating. According to regulations, 20 per cent of a project’s area should be dedicated to green space – at Hidd Al Saadiyat, green space accounts for 27 per cent of the overall area.

Cost: Price ranges from Dh1,400 per square foot to Dh1,700 per square foot.

Due: Construction started in June 2013. Handover will take place between June and December 2016. According to the SDIC, development is proceeding to schedule.

The marketing blurb: “Luxury and tranquillity on a private estate, set in an area of extraordinary natural beauty, just minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi.”

The Lagoons, Dubai

Overview: Could there be any name more exotic sounding than The Lagoons? Conjuring mental images of tranquillity, an azure sea edged by white sand that divides it and the lushest, greenest vegetation – a veritable paradise, with life-giving water as its central theme. And soon Dubai’s ever-expanding urban landscape will be complemented by a restarted, ambitious development with that name, which, as it suggests, will offer the finest beach- and waterfront living, dining, shopping (naturally) and something that the joint developers, Emaar and Dubai Holdings, call “retailainment”. We’re not entirely sure what that means, but apparently it will end up “showcasing the world’s finest brands and featuring several indoor leisure ­facilities”.

Location: The Lagoons will, according to the developers, stretch from “the banks of Dubai Creek, through central parcels of land linked to Al Khail Road and across Ras Al Khor”, serving “as a modern architectural continuum from Dubai Creek to the modern business and lifestyle centres of the city today”. In the larger scheme of things, The Lagoons will form part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid City residential community development, work on which is currently underway.

Design details: Some of the apartment blocks, shown in the artist impressions when the scheme was announced last October, look like Dubai Marina identikit buildings, but the real draw will undoubtedly be the individual villas and other residential buildings that line 14km of (man-made) beaches and 7km of “stunning lagoons”. Residential buildings will encompass all manner of styles, with Arabic and Mediterranean designs mixing it up along the waterfront.

Unique selling point: Granted, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, The Lakes and others have offered waterside living for years now, but The Lagoons will open up and develop land that will offer residents and visitors a completely new view of the city’s skyline. It’s also conveniently located for both Dubai airports and will dovetail nicely with Old Dubai and the Creek, the original source of the city’s life and trade.

Potential cons: While Dubai’s downtown skyline will be prominent when facing in certain directions, the surrounding, undeveloped areas might not be so visually appealing. Traffic, even now, is crazy in this part of Dubai, too, and as this development gets under way, it’s bound to get even worse.

Eco credentials: These haven’t been overlooked, and the neighbourhoods will be pedestrian-friendly, Dubai Holdings says. “It will be supported by several sustainable transport modes including a direct link with Dubai Metro’s Red and Green lines, an eco-tram system, light monorail and water taxis.” Retail, commercial and residential zones will be built around two central parks. There will be eco-resorts, water features, gardens and a number of small marinas are planned across the waterfront. Also worth noting is that to keep the water within The Lagoons crystal clear, it will be filtered using a process that uses 1 per cent of the chemicals and 2 per cent of the energy used in traditional filtration systems.

Cost: The development is said to be costing Dh7 billion, so don’t expect any bargains. Instead, expect to spend between Dh500 and Dh900 per square foot. Properties are already being advertised on Dubizzle and elsewhere – one-bedroom apartments with a total floor area of 700 square feet are Dh500,000; prices for studio apartments half that size are approximately Dh190,000; two-bedroom apartments with 1,650 square feet of space are up for Dh1.3 million. These prices will almost certainly go one way only as Dubai nears Expo 2020: north.

Due: Unconfirmed.

The marketing blurb: “A brand-new skyline for Dubai,” is what its developers are calling The Lagoons. “It will create a dynamic environment for tomorrow’s world and bring a new aspirational lifestyle with a central business district, a youth entrepreneurial zone, cultural amenities, residences, premium and affordable luxury hotels, educational facilities, health-care centres, a waterfront shopping mall and a wide range of leisure choices.”

Falcon Island, Ras Al Khaimah

Overview: Al Hamra Real Estate Development’s Dh600-million project involves developing a gated private island with 150 luxury villas and waterfront mansions, surrounded by natural lagoons, with direct access to the water through private beaches. The villas will face the beach, park or canal, with 11 “super-exclusive” mansions occupying the best locations.

Location: The island is in the water off of Al Hamra Village, connected to the mainland by Falcon Bridge.

Design details: Interiors will be furnished by Fendi Casa, Kenzo Maison and Bentley Home.

Unique selling point: Residents will have access to Al Hamra Village’s amenities, which include the Waldorf Astoria resort, an 18-hole golf course, a private marina and a shopping mall.

Potential cons: The luxury feel of Al Hamra Village jars a bit with the approach off the E11, close to RAK Ceramics and down the road from Ice Land Water Park.

Eco credentials: The development is aiming to obtain platinum LEED environmental certification, generating electricity for homes and street lighting, water desalination and cooling by solar power.

Cost: Villas cost between Dh5.8m and Dh7m; mansions cost between Dh25m and Dh30m.

Due: Work is due to start next month, with a completion date of December 2016.

The marketing blurb: “Laid-back oceanfront living just 45 minutes from the world’s busiest airport, Dubai.”

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Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM


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