A park for children to play in, a cycle path to spend your weekends and that UAE favourite — the mall; these are just some of the things that Abu Dhabi residents said make their communities great.
In a survey that polled 1,700 residents of 19 areas in the emirate about the characteristics of a happy neighbourhood, outdoor areas and facilities emerged as top priorities.
The survey, conducted by ServiceMarket, an online marketplace for home services, also asked residents to rate their neighbourhoods according to the availability of public transportation, sense of community, facilities, child-friendliness, and greenery.
Al Raha Beach — an area on the outskirts which includes various developments including Al Zeina, Al Muneera and Al Bandar — was revealed as the happiest neighbourhood, while people living in Al Zahiyah and Khalifa City are among the most miserable.
Natalie Bundhoo, a Brit who likes Al Raha Beach so much that she and her husband bought a home there in February, agreed with the survey’s findings.
“We’ve lived in various areas of Abu Dhabi but Al Zeina is by far my favourite,” said the 33-year-old mother.
“Mainly because there is so much on your doorstep, which makes life so much easier with two young kids. We can walk right to the beach, and has safe green open spaces for them to run, scoot, cycle, a beautiful children’s park, and just a stone’s throw from the amenities of Yas Island, such as Yas Mall, Yas Waterworld, hotels, restaurants.”
And because the Raha Beach area is linked via a network of paths, residents can walk or cycle from one to another along the water’s edge, she said.
The area scored 4.12 out of five in the survey and was rated highly on its many green spaces, shops and restaurants, as well as the quality of the facilities available to its residents.
“I’ve never walked so much as I have living in Zeina. I would agree, Zeina is one of the happiest places to live,” said Ms Bundhoo.
Similar sentiments were expressed by residents of Saadiyat neighbourhood, which ranked second most happy in the city.
Saadiyat Island, which means island of happiness in Arabic, was highly rated for the quality and layout of its homes as well as the availability of parking spaces.
Jackie Drake, 34, from the UK, has lived on Saadiyat for five years and said she likes the neighbourhood’s sense of community, facilities and the fact that it is close to the city, but not too close.
“It is constantly changing and developing. Now we have the Louvre,” she said.
Al Reef — the third happiest neighbourhood in Abu Dhabi — ranked highly for being child-friendly.
Omar Ghazanfar moved to Al Reef two years ago after choosing to buy a home there, he said the facilities for children are one of the area’s biggest plus points.
“There are many parks within the compound and other facilities which include swimming pools, gyms basketball and tennis court which adds further charm to the community,” said the 41 year-old from the UK.
“Al Reef also has a very decent dining area with multiple options for food lovers. I consider it a home away from my home in the UK and love the multicultural aspect of it.”
According to the survey, the unhappiest residents live in Al Zahiyah, Khalifa City and Mohammed Bin Zayed City.
“All three of these areas lack greenery and scored poorly in terms of facilities,” said a spokesman for ServiceMarket.
Despite the findings, people living in those areas defended their neighbourhoods during a discussion on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page.
“Mohammed Bin Zayed unhappiest? The street I live in is one of the prettiest streets in Abu Dhabi. Everyone is walking in the evenings. It’s anything but unhappy,” wrote one.
Another MBZ resident said her son once got lost on a bike ride and her neighbours went out searching for him.
“That wouldn’t have happened in other neighbourhoods. We pay lower rents and have larger spaces with better amenities. Why anyone would consider MBZ an unhappy neighbourhood is beyond my reasoning,” she said.
Another resident who lived in Al Reef — one of the happiest in the index — for two years before moving to Mohammed Bin Zayed City said she far prefers her new neighbourhood.
"The houses are on top of each other in Al Reef. There is no parking. Kids playing on the street until goodness knows what time of night," said Karen, 45, from the UK, who asked The National to only use her first name.
Liam O’Hagan, a happy resident of the unhappy Khalifa City neighbourhood said the area had everything one could need.
“You are close to Yas Island. You have good access to Dubai. Rents are reasonable for Abu Dhabi.”