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  • Writer's pictureLiz Totton

International House Hunters: Abu Dhabi Expat Edition.

We have been in Abu Dhabi now about two and half weeks. The living is still very easy. Abu Dhabi is a much more relaxed than any place we have ever lived in the states. Of course living in a hotel is not usually fraught with challenges: it just feels like a vacation. We just found out that our 15,000 pounds of stuff is due to arrive two to three weeks’ earlier than anticipated, so we are thus bludgeoned out of our comfortable, hoteling lifestyle and into the role of International House Hunter. It is nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds; in fact, it’s a downright dirty job. Let me explain.

Craigslist—how I miss you.

So to start, there is no legitimate place to search for properties to rent: It’s all just word of mouth. And when you are new in town, you don’t have too many people to ask. There is a site (like Craigslist) called Dubizzle which I imagine will be very helpful for buying household goods and cars, but it is not so helpful with a property search. If you do happen to call on a property listing on this site, it is ALWAYS, without exception, taken, but they ALWAYS have another, lovely property available, which is only X more dirhams… A small price to pay more for a much better place, right? They say ALWAYS.

We are forced to resort to leasing agents who, of course, take a very large percentage. In the U.A.E., the renters pay for their services. Like most estate/property agents (with a few exceptions), I could do their job better, faster and probably blindfolded. I see no real need for their involvement. Being forced to use them here as well really irritates me, but I guess it is just a part of life like death & taxes; just add in agent fees: necessary evil.

mad max walking home

“Honey, I’m home!”

Said agent attempted to bring us to a few properties in what was supposedly a very upscale expat neighborhood. She got lost. Our cab driver who, for the record, did not know where he was either, had to take the lead and find the first spot. In her defense, it was NOT easy to find. I think it could take you months to find your way around. We found it! The so-called “expat paradise” was in the form of a really bombed-out looking property. Picture Mad Max.The homes she brought us to were situated right under power lines, which no one at all seemed worried about?! The place was not air-conditioned on a 106 degree day. There was a poor, dead bird lying smack in the middle of the living room that looked like it might have been there a few days. They weren’t working very hard to rent this place, or maybe others would not be bothered by said conditions?! The girls would not get out of the cab after the first property, preferring the AC with the cabbie to house-hunting. Needless to say, they have not been accompanying me on other property walk-throughs. 

I guess I would like to say that my agent is really earning her fees, but indeed I cannot. It’s all that I can do to get her to call back or show me a place. And then when she does, she doesn’t seem to know anything about it or where to find it in the first place?!  On top of all that, she is very incandescently trying to steer us in the direction of the property where she gets the most commission. Fortunately, it is one that we are very interested in after seeing a several other dismal places.  

We have decided to live by the Arabian Sea and stake our claim of shared ocean front property. After all, we are beach people. Why not live on it? We have put in an offer on a very spacious flat in a complex called Al Zeina. Yes, you put in offers on rentals here, just like real estate in the USA, and the owner can choose to accept it or not. I find this very strange, but we are strangers in a strange land. This house-hunting process provides an hourly reminder of this. The complex looks like this:  

Al Zeina

Lovely town of its own: Al Zeina.

I would not have thought we’d end up in an apartment here, but I am really excited about it. I hated all the nuisances of home ownership in the states. For our brief time here, we will have no garden upkeep, no maintenance and an easier life. Our evening and weekend time will finally be ours to spend, as we like. I plan to take up paddle boarding. Rob can swim. Skye and Lucie can sail, kayak, and beach comb right in our front yard, every day. In the complex, there are pools, gyms, tennis courts, bike paths, shops, cafés, European grocery stores and soon to be water taxis that travel by canal to various local destinations.  Whatever else could you need?!

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