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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Neighbourhood Watch: How a road to nowhere became a top Ajman destination

The fortunes of a once desolate spot have been transformed in recent years

Sheikh Ammar street in Al Muwaihat area in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 
Sheikh Ammar street in Al Muwaihat area in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 

Friends happily pass the time over coffee, visitors peruse rows of shops offering everything from hairdressing to freshly baked bread and sharp-dressed men and women stride into their places of work.

It is a vibrant, bustling scene expected of downtown Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but would have been a bridge too far a handful of years ago in a stretch of Ajman.

Little attention was paid to Sheikh Ammar Street, in Al Muwaihat 3 area, a road to nowhere forgotten almost as soon as you passed through it – if you ever did.

Construction of the Dh25 million Sheikh Ammar Bridge, which also shares its name with Crown Prince Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, has transformed the area’s fortunes since it opened in 2012.

The 740-metre long bridge has directly connected the area to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road – swiftly making it an attractive proposition as a place to live and do business.

Following the opening of the bridge, a host of buildings started to spring up. People moved from the heart of Ajman or even from Sharjah to live nearby.

Shops line Sheikh Ammar street in Al Muwaihat area in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 
Shops line Sheikh Ammar street in Al Muwaihat area in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 

People moved from the heart of Ajman or even from Sharjah to live on the street.

Even when the bridge was still under construction, the prices of land plots located directly on the street started to gradually increase.

“You could have bought a 10,000 square feet land plot for approximately Dh400,000, but now, it is worth not less than Dh7m,” said Abdullah Khamees from Saray Real estate agency, one of only two agencies that first opened before the big change.

A couple who worked in Dubai but chose to live in Al Muwaihat 3 area, meters away from the now thriving Sheikh Ammar street, were deemed crazy by their family and friends for living there.

“Despite both myself and my wife working in Dubai, we decided to move to this area in 2009. We invited family and friends to our new house and when they came, every single one told us we were crazy to live in the middle of nowhere,” said Mohammed Abdul Azim, from Egypt.

But the couple say they have found peace and quite and a quick access to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road which helped them escape traffic congestions at the time, and save a minimum of 30 minutes of extra commuting from and to the area.

Food shops line Sheikh Ammar street in Al Muwaihat area in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 
Food shops line Sheikh Ammar street in Al Muwaihat area in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 

However, peace and quite and a small path leading to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road didn't convince many to make the same move, it was the bridge that helped to usher in a new era.

Young businesswoman Ibtisam Ali has lived with her family in that street since 1994 and says that the place has changed much since then. “

There were no streets, and no Sheikh Ammar Street of course, it was all empty around us, no taxis would come in or out of the area, and in the morning when we awoke to go to school, snakes and camels were surrounding the house,” she said.

Their neighbours from their previous address in Sharjah wouldn't come to visit them. “They said they were scared to come to darkness and the vast emptiness of space, but look at it now, a booming place,” she said.

Ali is not only a resident of Sheikh Ammar street, she is now the owner of two small shops on the same street, Coffee Corner and Bukhamri Bites.

Mohammed Khan and Mohammed Shamshed bake bread at Dar Al Muwaihat Bakery & Restaurant on Sheikh Ammar street in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 
Mohammed Khan and Mohammed Shamshed bake bread at Dar Al Muwaihat Bakery & Restaurant on Sheikh Ammar street in Ajman. Pawan Singh / The National 

“The street has become extremely vital, it has turned into a main road connecting the emirate of Ajman with the other emirates, and we hope to gradually develop and increase choices for customers coming from all over the UAE. Some come from Dubai just to grab a bite in our shop or another along the street,” she said.

As the transformation of this street brought success and happiness to many, it proved bittersweet to some who turned down opportunity after it landed in their laps.

Mahmoud Saeed was offered the chance to buy the villa he was leasing following the death of its owner and the wish of the inheritors to sell.

“They asked for Dh650,000 for the villa then reduced it to Dh600,000. I refused, and now its worth Dh1.2M, i still live there and pay rent when i could have owned it,” he said.

“A man sold his land plot for nearly Dh600,000 just as the bridge was to be opened and of course the street was also being opened soon, less than two months later, the land which wasn’t even directly on the main road, was resold for nearly Dh3m,” said Mr Abdullah.

Sheikh Ammar Street is now well and truly on the UAE map.

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