A tale of two villas, and a headache, on Abu Dhabi's Nurai Island

Deciding when to sell a house can be a headache but for French expatriate Laurent Brun, the question is which home to sell.

Mr Brun has put both his luxury villas on Abu Dhabi’s exclusive Zaya Nurai Island on the market and is now wrestling with the decision of which to part with.


See a gallery of the two villas here


The chief executive of a French developer and care homes company spends two thirds of the week in his Dubai villa in Al Barari and the remainder on Nurai, a tiny island off the coast of Saadiyat Island only accessible by boat or helicopter. The island has been developed as a 32-villa ultra-luxury boutique retreat, where Mr Brun owns a six-bedroom beachfront estate and a four-bedroom water villa.

The 18,700 square foot, six-bedroom mansion is set in 38,000 sq ft of private grounds and on the market through Gulf Sotheby’s for about Dh50 million. Showing us around, Mr Brun says: “Sometimes I sit on the chair here and just look at the sea for hours. I love to be here because it is so peaceful.

At the moment, the island is full but you see nobody. You can see dolphins, turtles and all sorts of fish but you hear nothing.”

The glass-fronted villa is dominated by views of the sea, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Corniche in the distance.

A large open-plan living space is divided into split levels and opens on to a terrace and swimming pool area and then down to a private beach. There is also a gym, spa and sauna and Mr Brun has plans to convert other rooms into a cinema.

The property owner then calls a golf buggy to transport us to his second Nurai abode, a slightly smaller 10,000 sq ft, open-plan, four-bedroom villa perched on the edge of the bay. With a roof terrace and its own pool and Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean, it has private access to the sea and is on the market through Gulf Sotheby’s for Dh21.5m.

“When I first invested in Nurai, I bought this villa, I preferred the simplicity to the big estate villas,” says Mr Brun. “Now I don’t know. I want to sell one so I can retire.”

Q&A: Ian Kirkby, the director of Gulf Sotheby’s, tells Lucy Barnard more about the Zaya Nurai Island villas it is marketing:

How easy is it to get to Nurai Island?

Very easy. Boats run from Saadiyat Island on the hour each hour during the day and take just 10 minutes. The island is also accessible by helicopter.

Does anyone actually live in the island full time?

My understanding is that one family lives in it full time.

How much interest have you had in these villas?

Interest has been significant. We have had a number of people looking at the villas as private homes, but there are also investors out there interested in buying them to lease out to the hotel on the island.

What sort of people can afford to buy on an island like this at the moment?

Any high net worth individual really. We’ve had most nationalities buying there, including GCC nationals, Europeans, Indians and Africans.

Isn’t Abu Dhabi’s villa market suffering a correction at the moment?

The Abu Dhabi property market has not been hit quite as badly as Dubai because there is a limited amount of stock in the city, which keeps prices a bit more stable. Yes, we have seen falls in the overall Abu Dhabi market. However, this sort of super-luxury stock has not been affected. The people buying this sort of villa don’t look at the market, they just look for the best quality. They are usually buying their second or third home.


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