As a newly wed couple moving from Beirut to Dubai, Therese and Wissam Keyrouz were enamoured with the city’s skyscrapers. Since Beirut is mainly made up of low-rise buildings, the couple was keen to experience life in one of Dubai’s gleaming towers. Their trail began in Dubai Marina in 2006, wound its way through Discovery Gardens and ended in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT).
“High-rise living is a choice; some like it while others prefer low-rises or villas,” says Wissam, a journalist with a respected global news agency. “Since we are in Dubai, a tower is more of a target. We won’t get to live on the 30th floor everywhere we go.”
After moving out of Discovery Gardens in 2009 after experiencing traffic bottlenecks during peak hours, the Keyrouz family — with a newborn in tow — eventually settled for a two-bedroom apartment in New Dubai Gate 1 in Cluster Q of JLT. The decision was also influenced by JLT’s proximity to the couple’s workplaces in Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City. Therese, who is part Lebanese and part French, is the executive assistant to the CEO of an IT solutions provider.
“Living in a tower is very exciting and prestigious for us. Our apartment offers views of The Lakes, The Meadows and Shaikh Zayed Road,” she says, adding, “When I wake up in the morning and see the Metro zipping past below, I feel I’m living in the thick of the city action.”
But when thinking about safety for her two-year-old daughter, Sama Maria, Therese says low-rise living has advantages. “It is worrying to live in a high-rise with balconies and windows,” she says. “With kids around, you forget about the fantastic view; safety becomes paramount. When a false fire alarm occasionally goes off, we need to take the flight of stairs from the 30th floor. You also tend to wait a long time for the elevator in a big tower.”
Being on a higher floor, however, ensures that the family is removed from the dust and noise of the ongoing construction in JLT, and from the traffic on the busy motorway below.
What also works in JLT’s favour compared to, say Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) or Dubai Marina, is the fact that its residents say it offers a stronger neighbourhood vibe. “This community doesn’t attract a lot of outsiders or tourists. This is good for residents who prefer peace and quiet. We tend to only come across JLT residents when you go for a walk around the lake,” Therese says. Wissam agrees, adding, “It is a very cosmopolitan community and people end up mingling around the lakes, especially parents who take their children to the play areas.”
Where Dubai Marina earns points over JLT Jumeirah Lakes Towers doesn’t score too highly in terms of self-sufficiency for Therese. While most clusters host mini marts and dry cleaners, she says there’s a lack of cafés and restaurants. “When we want to sample different restaurants, we use the footbridge to access the Marina Walk. If I had all those restaurants in JLT, I wouldn’t ever dream of leaving the community,” she says.
Despite the shortage of luxuries like ample restaurants around the lakes, she says that the wider area offers everything you need. The Marina Mall is just across Shaikh Zayed Road, the Jebel Ali Hospital, Welcare Clinic and the Ibn Battuta Mall are also nearby. There are a few daycare centres in JLT.
Beauty salons and convenience stores are aplenty, with Cluster Q housing a Géant Easy, separate salons for men and women, restaurants, a juice shop and a dry cleaner. “It’s very convenient to get my nails done or get a blow dry while my baby is asleep or busy in the play area,” Therese says.
The area’s two Metro stations increase JLT’s appeal because of the convenience factor. “We have the Dubai Marina Metro station within walking distance of our cluster,” Therese says. “We build our social schedules around the Metro network. Sometimes we choose to go to a particular restaurant depending on its proximity to a Metro station. Although we have a car, the Metro provides flexible transport options for my family.”
Over the two years that they have lived in JLT, the Keyrouz family has seen the community evolve a great deal. Apart from the landscaping and the lakes being filled up, children’s play areas have also been created in a few clusters. “This is where I meet neighbours and other mothers in JLT. We discuss kids’ schooling, their activities, services in the buildings, etc,” says Therese who loves to socialise. “One of the downsides of living in a high-rise is that you tend to meet a lot of new people in the elevator every day but never get to interact with them. I socialise with mums in the play areas but don’t see them on a daily basis since the facility is shared between three or four clusters,” she adds.
Another improvement in JLT is better visibility of building and cluster signs from the road. This has been extremely helpful for visitors who otherwise end up taking detours as they try to navigate the community.
Backed up bottlenecks
Still, there are many complaints about the one-way road network in JLT. “Traffic chaos is the norm during peak hours since there is only one exit each heading to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The authorities have to find a solution,” says Therese.
Wissam seems more tolerant: “The long turn to get out of the community can be frustrating and doesn’t seem very logical. But you get used to it very quickly and the bottlenecks during rush hour looks huge but the waiting time is relatively short – let’s say ten minutes. But that’s only when you get to JLT at 6.30pm.”
Although the areas around the lakes are yet to be filled with restaurants and cafés, fitness freaks are putting the space to good use. Therese is a member of the Walking-in-JLT Club. “Through this initiative, I got to meet people from different clusters in JLT,” she says. “We walk through various routes and explore the area. Since the lakes and walkways have been upgraded and are well-lit, it’s very safe to take
a stroll even in the evenings.”
Need for interactive community forum
Although there is a community website and groups on social networking sites, Therese believes that these forums could be better used to promote awareness about initiatives, activities and new store openings in the area.
In a nutshell, the convenience of its location right along Shaikh Zayed Road, the privacy available to its residents and the budget-friendly rents are what tilted the scales in JLT’s favour for the Keyrouz family.
“JLT has huge potential to become a much more vibrant and sought-after place,” Wissam says. “I think buying in JLT is a good bargain for the future. Once everything settles down in this market, JLT will be there with nice buildings, two Metro stations and beautiful walkways around the lakes. Best of all, it’s only 1km from the beach, 2km from Media City, the Palm Jumeirah, Ibn Battuta Mall etc.” Everything you could possibly want is easily accessible.
For a community that’s been a long time in the making, Wissam’s words should suffice to convince even the most hardened sceptics of this blossoming neighbourhood.