x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Marina Walk: on the water's edge

Rows of yachts, glittering glass-and-steel towers, sweeping views and a vibrant cafe culture are just some of the highlights of living in this exclusive corner of Dubai Marina.

"It's difficult to be in a bad mood when you live here," laughs Hala Nassim as she collects a trolley to start the weekly food shop. "That wonderful view, the vibrant cafes and of course being so near the water are the things I love most about Marina Walk."

It's hard not to agree. We may be standing in the decidedly unglamorous bread aisle at Spinneys but even from here, the view over Dubai Marina with its bobbing yachts and glittering towers is truly stunning. The neighbourhood that the Lebanese-born Nassim and her family call home is at the epicentre of "New" Dubai - a now vast area that started with the 25-acre "six tower" development that broke ground just as the Millennium dawned. Back then, Dubai's expatriates could only dream of owning their own property and the swish sales office with its mock-up apartment showcasing the latest in smart technology became something of an attraction for wide-eyed would-be investors.

Fast-forward a decade and the residents of the six towers may not be as technologically advanced as the developer envisaged (a refrigerator with the ability to collate its own shopping list and connect to the local supermarket was just one of the Jetsons-style attractions of the show apartment) but they do have the prestige of living in one of the few areas that remained covetable to tenants and buyers alike during the 2009 downturn.

And it's not difficult to see why. The towers that make-up the Marina Walk area - Al Mass, Fairooz and Murjan (named after precious stones) and their neighbours Mesk, Anbar and Al Yass (after Arabic scents) are connected by a network of wonderfully landscaped rooftop gardens that are divided around each building. Sixty four villas - also at roof level - surround the development while, on the Walk beneath, a vibrant café culture keeps the neighbourhood buzzing with a southern European-style vibe from morning till night.

The fact that Marina Walk residents and all their amenities are cloistered away from the crowds that throng the promenade below does lends the neighbourhood an air of great exclusivity - a fact enhanced by a seriously heavy presence of security guards who certainly do a good job of keeping the hoi polloi sneaking past the swipe card entrances at ground level that lead to the residents-only pools and gardens.

Still, even for visitors to the Marina there's enough going on - a clever configuration of water fountains springing out of the pavement slabs keep children entertained, and cool, for hours on even the hottest of days. A traditional dhow, handily berthed at its own jetty, takes visitors on hour-long cruises and of course a choice of over 30 restaurants and cafes has all culinary tastes well covered. Tthe neighbourhood's much acclaimed Indian restaurant, The Rupee Room, proudly displays its cultural heritage as coming all the way from - Scotland.

Early in the morning, before the cafes crank up their trade, many residents pile on to the picturesque waterside for a spot of serious jogging - or at least brisk walking: "It really is one of the very few places that you can safely exercise in Dubai without having to worry about traffic," says one resident who admits that his daily constitutional is the highlight of living in the area. Since the neighbourhood is a big draw for young families, there's also a constant gaggle of mother and baby get-togethers in the cafes (where a designer pushchair and a Juicy Couture tracksuit are prerequisite entrée for the neighbourhood's yummier-than-average mummies, it seems.)

One faction you don't see much of around Marina Walk is teenagers - at least not any more. Back in the early days when the first couple of towers, Spinneys and crane- counting were the only attractions on offer, the developer opened Dubai's first open-air skateboard park. For the first time, the emirate's youth had somewhere to let of steam (and come April it certainly did get steamy.) Parents would park their cars on the open ground beside the park and relax with a takeout coffee while their progeny practised their Ollies and Pop Shove-Its to their heart's content. One day it was there. The next it wasn't - but hey, that's Dubai. The land it occupied is currently the construction site for Infinity Tower - a building that, when completed, will achieve a full 90-degree spiral giving Dubai Walk residents even more of an absorbing vista.

Another pursuit that has disappeared from the neighbourhood in recent years is the Friday Craft market. It decamped to The Walk at JBR and not too many residents are complaining: "It's so much better to drive in and out and get a table for lunch now it has gone," says Nassim. It's not total nirvana for residents, however. The sound of pile-driving is something that they've lived with for years: "But you don't really notice the constant noise until you've moved out and come back to visit," says one who recently departed for The Palm Jumeirah. "When you live here its easy to tell yourself that it's the most perfect place to live - but of course, in reality, nowhere is."

Kristina Demenko, Russia We use the neighbourhood 100 per cent. Every weekend we are here - we invite friends for lunch and dinner at one of the restaurants below our penthouse and then we'll take a trip on the boat we keep moored here. Ours is the smallest building of the six, so it's never too busy by our pool. Almost every day we take a walk around the Marina - it's wonderful and there really is nothing I don't like about living here. Mercy Jimenez, Philippines I have lived in the neighbourhood for four years and look after two children for the family I work for. It is very nice to be able to bring the children out for walks without worrying about cars and crossing the roads. The kids ride around on their scooters and we meet up in the playground with other nannies and children. It is a good place for families and is very quiet, except at weekends when so many more people visit the Marina. Pendar Vatanian, Iran We moved last month from Marina North after living in the same apartment for almost five years. I don't think the developer has ever bettered the standard of the homes in the first six towers. We enjoyed living there so much we tried to look for a similar apartment to buy but it fell through at the last moment and we moved out - there are certainly a lot of things I miss about living there.