x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Why live in Rigga neighbourhood

Dubai's Rigga neighbourhood buzzes with energy and convenience.

Although Rigga is known for traffic congestion, it also buzzes with energy. Residents find peaceful outdoor seating areas and say pedestrian access is easy.
Although Rigga is known for traffic congestion, it also buzzes with energy. Residents find peaceful outdoor seating areas and say pedestrian access is easy.

It's Saturday morning in Rigga and Aamani Das is starting to feel a little frustrated. She's been waiting on the corner of the always busy Al Rigga Road for her husband, but he's nowhere to be seen. She glances distractedly at her watch, and back up at the monotonous stream of traffic that grinds and honks its way past. Lane discipline is lax, and the regular switch of traffic lights does little to alleviate the growing congestion.

Despite this, groups of people huddle over coffee in the outdoor seating areas of Starbucks and McDonald's just a stone's throw from the intersection. It's not the most peaceful part of the city in which to grab a cup, but with a whole neighbourhood buzzing with traffic, it's all relative.

"There is always traffic here. You can go to Garhoud, Deira Centre and Sheikh Zayed Road in 10, maybe 15 minutes. That is easy. Here, sometimes I wait half an hour just to reach the next turn. The roads are always slow. But this is an old part of the city, and the roads were for a time when there were not so many cars," says Das.


Rigga is at the centre of Old Dubai, a small, triangular-shaped neighbourhood north of the creek. One of its corners is marked by the "fish roundabout" (so named because a fish-shaped sculpture sits at its grassy centre) and the somewhat optimistically named Claridge Hotel nearby. Maktoum Hospital Road extends in one direction and Omar Bin Al Khattab Road in the other. The triangle is completed by Maktoum Road.

Easily walkable (often an easier option than attempting to negotiate the traffic in a car), the neighbourhood has been Das's home for 12 years. She avoids using the car she shares with her husband, preferring to walk or take the Metro. "Union Station and Al Rigga Station make it much easier to leave Rigga in the mornings. I take the Metro to my job as an administrator, while my husband still drives. At the weekend we take the Metro to the other side of Dubai, to walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence and on the beach. Dubai has good places to visit even if you have lived here your whole life."

She likes her own neighbourhood for its bustling streets, bargain-filled shopping centre and affordable hotels, where the family dines out on special occasions.

"Al Ghurair City has many cheap shops and always there are sales," she says. "I can buy shoes for Dh30, a bargain, and there is also Paris Gallery for more expensive gifts. For going out, we go to Taj Palace Hotel or even to the Metropolitan."

Inside Al Ghurair Mall, shoppers trawl the contents of stores with over-lit display windows. Scantily clad mannequins stare, perhaps a little defiantly, at their abaya-clad sisters in the opposite window. Affordable shoe stores like Charles and Keith and Spring are holding their usual 365-day "sale"; downstairs the baffling sight of tourists photographing each other in front of unassuming store fronts confirms that this is, indeed, a mall in Dubai, albeit more modest than many and slightly weathered.

Farooq Iqbal's young son lets out a piercing shriek that reverberates through the mall. The father quickly reprimands his son, who seems to want to head to the enticingly named Al Dirham, a small electronics store nestled next to a cosmetics shop. Farooq explains apologetically that his son isn't much of a shopper. "When his mother takes him, she takes him to eat, to play with toys. I have to go back home so there is no time for games."

Iqbal has lived in Rigga for two years, since his job as an electronics store manager brought him closer to this part of Dubai. "It's a good neighbourhood but not so much for families. Families come here to shop and buy things, but more men live here than families."

It's not a neighbourhood where children can play freely; the lack of green spaces and park areas (Naif Park, a modest fenced-in area that has a somewhat insalubrious reputation, is the rare green spot in the neighbourhood) keeps families away. For those who choose to call Rigga home, the proximity to their workplaces and the local amenities may go some way to making up for the lack of parks, peace and quiet.