It’s been weeks that this single young woman has been spending a temporary work stint in this dreamy, extraordinary city and so the possibility of making Dubai her home has definitely crossed her mind. Although it might just be too early for me to think of such, I have definitely explored various housing options in this highly accommodating city, which I wish to share with you!
Now I’m no Dubai real estate agent; just an architecture student who’s new to the city, and also happens to harbour a keen interest in the way the spokes of Dubai’s life-wheel rotate. However, my earliest memories of Dubai (back in the late 90s), were of visits to my cousins who then lived in the Sheikh Rashid Colony, Dubai’s very first low-cost housing for low-income families that was erected in the 70s. While my cousins stayed in the Sheikh Colony in Al Ghusais, other Sheikh Colony complexes thrived in Karama and Satwa. What was once a vast expanse of rough football fields bordered by greenery, is now a crowded parking area that resembles an agglomeration of insects over a sticky toffee. Home to mostly the old-timers South-Asian expatriates, that now form the majority of Dubai’s population, the Sheikh Colony’s residents now face eviction and sky-rocketing rents for a variety of reasons; from the rise and success of the Dubai Metro, to the dilapidated condition of the buildings being deemed beyond repair by the Dubai Municipality.
Fast forward to the present, where I stay in one of the Development Board Buildings (DBB) on Damascus Street; another governmental effort towards living comfort for Dubai’s middle class families. Characterised by their large dark-framed balconies that guard their tinted French windows, the oldest DBB populates the Al Nahda and Ghusais industrial estate of Dubai. Today, the Development Board has evolved as a responsible housing agency, while their buildings continue to remain sanitary and affordable rental units.
Following the example of such, most buildings in Dubai characterise themselves with providing double solar protection from the typical extremes of Dubai. Although the pinnacle of architectural freedom is clearly exercised in Dubai, whitewashed exteriors with deep-set fenestrations and prominent balconies seem to be a common theme. Most buildings emulate Arabian architectural devices that shield residents from solar radiation, while others employ the guise of modernity through brise-soleils and other heavy-duty concrete balconies.
For one, the buildings of the Creek area exhibit a sandy exterior as an acceptable camouflage within the desert landscape. The Dubai Creek remains the cradle of Dubai’s heritage and Arabian tradition, and therefore even newly erected buildings in the surrounding area, adopt a fabricated ‘historic’ identity. It is not uncommon to see modern implementations of the Arabic mashrabiyah and barajils or wind towers, describe the Creek buildings.
While preserving tradition remains important, modern living is very much taken into account by housing complexes within such a fast-paced urban hub. Underground parking and security systems remain the norm while terraced gardens and swimming pools provide highly desirable respite from a busy city life, even within an active residential tower. Undeterred by the blazing stroke of the summer sun, most of these terraced heavens remain unshaded with the occasional absence of the traditional pergola. These are also perfect for encouraging outdoor human activity within a residential space, and add to energising the ecological interaction of the residents with their immediate environment.
As express-city living faces its boom, there’s no denying the real estate efforts towards the slow, luxurious kind. Be it a marina setting or entertainment and hospitality background or even a desert theme, world-class living for gated communities is on the rise. Capitalising on habits of the wealthy, various property giants like Emaar, Damac, etc. are fast-developing villa-homes alongside polo ranch complexes, the much awaited Opera District, the proposed Dubai Water Canal, etc.
Andalusian styles (think Spanish roof tiles, reflecting pools, whitewashed Mediterranean exteriors, Moorish arcades) lend character to such estates, not surprisingly- as they promote a relaxed lifestyle in the lap of opulence, while hinting at the Arab heritage that once inhabited Spain. With the likes of Arabian Ranches, Polo Homes and Jumeirah Beach Residences growing, the lives of the Sheikhs has never been this familiar!
But as we drive through scores of competing skyscrapers in the city’s downtown, we have got to admit that they contribute towards most of the ‘vertically rising’ accommodation of Dubai. After all the only way to grow, is up! Dubai’s tall and magnificent mixed-use residential towers ensure its folks live comfortably close to their workplaces at the big multinationals, the metro stations for easy and advanced mobility, and noteworthy tourist destinations for evolving entertainment. In fact, it was only earlier this week that I was able to visit the site of the upcoming Bluewaters Island development which is soon to showcase what might just be the world’s largest giant Ferris wheel!
Oh well; this city of dreams sure has a place for everyone. And by the looks of it, there’s never been a better time to settle here!