Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

An ode to Dubai Marina: why there has never been a better time to live there

There might be a lot of construction, but it's resulting in a revitalised neighbourhood

Green fields have popped up around the Marina. Shruti Jain / The National
Green fields have popped up around the Marina. Shruti Jain / The National

Once upon a time, Dubai Marina was one of the emirate’s most desirable districts. With its towering skyline visible from every direction, waterfront apartments, superyachts docked nearby and always-buzzing atmosphere, it was the “It” suburb where most property hunters wanted to live – at least when many first arrived in the UAE.

I was one of those people. After a miserable month-long stint in a dingy flat in JLT, I moved into a fully furnished apartment in Dubai Marina “just for my first year, until I settled somewhere a bit further out, somewhere a bit more permanent”. That first year came and went, as did the next. I’m currently in my third year at my “temporary” home.

And yet, these days, the marina seems to have lost the gravitas it once had; its light dimming a little each time a newer, more shiny neighbourhood is announced. But that’s no bad thing. It could be why there’s never been a better time to live there.

For starters, with that downturn in popularity comes a monumental drop in rents. When I first moved in I was paying Dh75,000 for my one-bedroom apartment; two years later, it has fallen to Dh57,000. Granted, I’m in one of the district’s older buildings, but it means that when the time comes to renew next year, I’ll be first in line for one of the newer towers, where flats once cost Dh100,000, and are now going for about Dh80,000. I may not be about to start rubbing shoulders with Roger Federer or Fernando Alonso in Le Reve – one of the area’s swankiest towers – any time soon, but there are plenty of brand-new apartments on the market that in 2017 would have been well out of my reach. A Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina View? Come at me!

Besides, I may have been irked by it at the time, but all the construction that once blighted Marina Promenade has given way to gleaming, newly completed towers, and a transforming skyline. There can’t be many other residential districts in the world where you’re constantly asking “is that new?” every time you take a stroll down the road.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - November 27th, 2019: Stock. Dubai Marina lit up at sunset. Wednesday, November 27th, 2019. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The Dubai Marina skyline has transformed with gleaming new buildings. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The once seemingly dormant patches of sand that used to pepper a stroll around the boardwalk are in a flurry of action now, too. The Crowne Plaza is nearing completion and another waterfront development nearby is rocketing into the sky. Plenty of other towers have also completed – Sparkle Towers being one of the most recent. Even the tiniest of unutilised patches are being overhauled in creative ways. The once-barren lot in front of Marina Hotel Apartments has become a grandstand-type seating area, complete with gimmicky red phone booths and soft grass to picnic on while overlooking the water. Down the other end of the Marina, a small, dusty corner is now a vibrant green space. This (and the cooler weather) have resulted in more people being out and about and there’s more of a community feel to the area.

Morning runs now afford a smile and, if you’re lucky, a friendly greeting from a ­passerby. It seems it’s home to a more diverse make-up of cultures, too.

Between the children giggling from the many underbridge playgrounds, the couples dressed in their best garb heading out for a Pier 7 dinner, the shoppers heading for Dubai Marina Mall and the many, many exercisers making the most of the wide boardwalk, that buzzing ambience never abates. Then there are the food trucks that cram on to the path outside the mall, creating an almost festival-like atmosphere as you stop in for a Salt burger under the festoon lights on a Friday night.

Having said all that, I’m also well aware it’s not all gelato carts and London phone boxes – and almost everyone in Dubai probably has a Marina complaint. For me, those are the seemingly endless minutes lost to waiting for a tram, the Thursday night traffic (top tip: don’t live any further into the Marina than Al Marsa Street, aka the absolute fringe), the lack of greenery and the scarcity of nice restaurants (luckily, the culinary melting pot of JLT is five minutes by foot over the metro bridge).

But, considering that in New Zealand I lived in a cold, damp old villa with no central heating that was miles from any form of tiny convenience store, and that the best water view I had was a squalid swamp at the end of our street, those aforementioned issues are first-world problems I can deal with.

It’s probably not an area I’ll ever tire of, to be honest. And that’s saying something, because I see rather a lot of it. Most weeks, I’ll run around the boardwalk at least three times. I’ll stroll along it at least another two times, whether it’s in search of food, meeting friends or off on my weekly shop at Carrefour. I’ve trained for three marathons around the very same nine-kilometre loop.

If I’m honest with myself, when it comes time to renewing my lease next year, as much as I say it’s time to move out to the suburbs, I’ll probably be moving to another tower in the near vicinity – if I’m not simply staying put.

Updated: November 28, 2019 03:43 PM

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