End of an era as Dubai's Jebel Ali Village to be redeveloped

Owner Nakheel has given tenants of a community dating back to 1970s a year to move out

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Residents of Jebel Ali Village, one of Dubai’s oldest residential communities, have been told they have 12 months to vacate their homes ahead of a planned redevelopment.

Property developer Nakheel, the owner of the village and all of the villas in it, said it will redevelop the community to “preserve and enhance its longevity for many more generations to come”.

Nakheel said it will share its plans for the village in “due course”.

Long-term residents have said they are sad at being told to leave the area they call home.

We recognise Jebel Ali Village’s importance to Dubai’s history and its residents and, for this reason, have taken the decision to redevelop the community to preserve and enhance its longevity
Nakheel Properties

“I am devastated,” said Amanda James, who has lived in the development on and off since the 1980s when her family moved from Saudi Arabia to the UAE when she was a child.

She has lived elsewhere in Dubai and even bought in The Meadows, an Emaar community nearby, at one point. But she has always returned to the village.

“I think when you have been here a long time you are still looking for a little glimpse of when you arrived in Dubai,” said the 53-year-old Briton.

“I also have a beautiful view of the Marina. I actually have a little frame on my front wall. I have the Jebel Ali frame.

“It’s quiet, it’s always had a good community feel. It’s a little bit out of town so it’s not busy. It’s peaceful. And you can walk your dogs, your children are safe to wander around.”

The village, which has about 290 homes, was built in the 1970s in a patch of desert, 30km away from the nearest developed area.

04.09.17. Jebel Ali Village, Dubai.
Anna Nielsen for The National

Originally for the British and Dutch staff at the nearby Jebel Ali Port, over the years it became hugely popular with people from other nationalities, too.

When it opened, six years after the founding of the UAE, the old Abu Dhabi road was a two-lane road used by taxis, lorries and cars. Camels walked around the village freely.

It was closed for five years for refurbishment, reopening in 2013, when Ms James returned.

The village's much-loved Jebel Ali Club, one of Dubai’s oldest and most treasured venues, was revamped and opened to the public in 2017.

But some of the houses have fallen into disrepair again, just as they had before the development was refurbished in 2008.

Ms James said her own home is in good shape, aside from being in need of "a lick of paint". She and her husband have invested their own money in it, with the aim to stay long-term, even installing a new kitchen.

“We did that because the kitchen was awful and I didn’t want to live with a semi-functional kitchen, which is basically what it was when they repurposed it last time,” she said.

Resident Monique Buitendag and her husband, Harold, who received their notice to vacate by October 2022 on Thursday, have also carried out extensive renovations to their rented home.

She said the family, from South Africa, moved in May and spent Dh150,000 on the property after being assured the villas would not be demolished any time soon.

"We re-tiled everything. We re-did the kitchen. We painted the entire house. We put down grass, added trees, installed a water tank and so on," she said.

"The reason we moved here in the first place is because of the family community. We have a little daughter. My nanny is friends with about 20 other nannies. They have playgroups. It's a family community."

Both Ms Buitendag and Ms James understand they should by law be allowed to complete their existing contracts before the 12-month notice period to vacate applies.

“That’s my understanding of [my rights] and I was a legal secretary for years. I am more than prepared to go down the legal route," said Ms James.

“I know quite a few on the Facebook group are looking at getting legal advice,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Nakheel said the developer is complying with all legal requirements.

“We recognise Jebel Ali Village’s importance to Dubai’s history and its residents and, for this reason, have taken the decision to redevelop the community to preserve and enhance its longevity for many more generations to come,” she said.

“We have informed all tenants of this decision and are complying with all legal requirements. We are keen to help our tenants as best we can during the transition and have put in place a number of support services to make their relocation as smooth as possible.

“We will share details of our plans for Jebel Ali Village in due course.”

Updated: October 30, 2021, 11:14 AM