Life's a beach

Dubai is by the seaside- incase you haven't noticed, says Jeremy Lawrence

The Knowledge

I have a loveable old dog that I take for walks. Her name is Dante and she adores her evening outings – and not without good reason. Living in Um Suqeim, it’s only a quick hop across Beach Road and we’re on the beachside path. Traffic, people, shops and the stale city air melt away. We are free.

Along the way we see all sorts. Ramshackle old houses with foliage spilling over the walls; huge, newly built palaces with ‘To Let’ signs hanging from their walls (I always mean to find out how much they cost to rent); families eating picnics. Best of all, you’ll see the odd person facing the water, watching a film on their laptop. If there is a better way to end the day, I haven’t discovered it.

Next we go past the spot where I used to live in a crumbling villa. They’ve knocked a lot of them down now, but you’ll still see the odd ancient-looking Emirati sitting outside his front gate watching over a goat and a few scratty chickens. The residents from these old places must have been here since Jumeirah was its own self-contained village. It’s never stopped being a thrill to wander among these back streets by the sea.

We come to the fishing village. Indian fishermen in sarongs and vests sit on the pavement playing cards. Across the road, Bu Qtair restaurant (a Portakabin next to the dhow yard) serves up cheap curries and fresh fish. Then we come to the long strip of beach next to Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This is where coachloads of Japanese tourists stop by to take pictures. A cliché, but true nonetheless.

I’ve been doing this walk for years, and my reason for telling you this is that I’ve always wondered why more residents don’t do the same. Dubai is a busy city that’s full of traffic, noise, smog and people. And yet here we have a glorious stretch of sand, sea, peace and quiet. Of course there are more beautiful, natural beaches across the world – even in the UAE for that matter. But they aren’t right on the doorstep and accessible within minutes for many of us.

I’ve also wondered why more hasn’t been done to develop the area as a leisure attraction. If I was the mayor of Jumeirah (how do you go about applying?) I’d pedestrianise the whole strip, fill it with street artists and play areas and hold a festival whenever there was a good excuse. Imagine if the place was alive with pavement cafés, galleries and quirky shops.

You could stop for a stroll and breakfast before work, or relax with friends in the evening. I picture it as a rustic version of The Walk at JBR, minus the traffic and tower blocks. Oh, and you’d actually be able to see the beach.

But I’m not complaining. If I’m free to listen to the waves and leave the city behind for a while, then I’m happy. And so is Dante.

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