Among various subjects, my editor and I love to disagree about the merits and pitfalls of Dubai’s distinct two halves: on the one hand those areas that existed more than 10 years ago and have therefore developed traces of character and (relative) history, and on the other those that have unfurled into life, like an automatic blow-up bed on steroids, in the past handful of years (or even months).
You can probably guess which side of the development divide I err on. Having lived along Satwa’s Dhiyafa Street for four years – that’s 20 in Dubai time – I’m a staunch advocate of the area’s quirky hangouts and cosmopolitan demographic. I like that I’m within walking distance of Satwa Road, a neon carnival of boy-racer mechanics, textile shops, tucked-away tailors and Dhs5 megaplexes packed full of unpredictable tack (a sheikh-shaped party hat, anyone?). Yes, the layout is messy, the streets clogged with traffic and the backstreets, well, a little bit smelly. But it’s organic, it’s real, and it doesn’t feel like it’s been imported from anywhere else.
Of course, this would be the part where I switch to attacking the other side of town: the Dubai Marina that I remember driving around in 2006, wondering why on earth anyone would want to live amid such a building site. But recently I’ve had to rethink my inverse geographical snobbery. My office has shifted from ye olde Garhoud (The Irish Village is nearly 14, for goodness sake!) to shiny new Media City. All those formerly commuting from JBR now get a lie-in, and all of us in ‘the old quarters’ now embrace the metro. From work, we overlook the two-year-old Palm, we go for drinks at the nine-month-old Media One, and we sometimes go for dinner along JBR’s 21-month-old Walk. It’s packed, it’s buzzing, and it’s definitely no longer a construction zone.
I’ve also noticed that most of my friends now live towards this end of town: Disco Gardens, The Greens, The Springs and Marina Walk, rather than Bur Dubai or even Jumeirah 1. While the pull of Ravi’s, Sho Cho and Loca is strong enough to draw them my way once in a while, I’m not sure how long I can keep offering free burritos.
This said, I doubt I’ll ever leave my ’hood. For starters, I like to surprise every taxi driver that picks me up in Media City. (‘You? Live in Satwa? Really?’). Second, I love my little corner of Jumeirah Open Beach, the fact they know my dish at Noodle Bowl (671) and that I’m on first-name terms with staff in my local supermarket. Finally: well, that would mean my boss was right, wouldn’t it?