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Finally, I found just the place to rent — heading towards Abu Dhabi, a few kilometers away from Dubai, off Shaikh Zayed Road

Gulf News

I was shocked to learn that a recent survey said that the part of Dubai I am residing in is among the not-so-happening places to live.

It had taken a lot of time and energy to find just the right place for my family after hours and hours of trudging up and down staircases of posh buildings in downtown Dubai (“Friend, this is the price now. If you come to me tomorrow the rent will be higher, or the flat will be gone. Trust me.”)

The apartments looked claustrophobic and the only thing you could look at from the balcony was more buildings or construction crew building what is termed as mixed-use development; residential flats with shops on the ground floor.

I wondered what would happen if my wife found out about the survey. Every silly thing is online today. Earlier, I would have been able to hide the newspaper or tear the page that featured the survey and she would not have been any wiser.

My wife believes it is important to have the right home address. “You can’t bring us there and dump us just anywhere,” she said in the fast and furious email exchange across the oceans and seas as I got more and more desperate trying to find a flat where there was open space, greenery and walkways as the children were now used to the wide open spaces of Ontario, Canada.

I had arrived in Dubai when landlords were projected in the media as the enemy and who were out to squeeze the last dirham out of you.

Housing was in short supply and if you were among the lucky few who stood in a queue all night and bought yourself an apartment or a villa off plan, you could set your own price. The return on investment (ROI) on property was something ridiculously high — though even now it is still not bad compared to other cosmopolitan cities around the globe.

Finally, I found just the place to rent — in the opposite direction, heading towards Abu Dhabi — a few kilometres away from Dubai, off Shaikh Zayed Road. The Gardens in Jebel Ali was built for people working in the Jebel Ali docks and for crews from the endless stream of ships that were now docking at this massive new port.

But nobody in the Jebel Ali Free Zone wanted to live there as they could not afford the rents and everybody would trudge all the way to the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah in a serpentine queue of cars to find cheaper accommodation. And that’s how the beautifully landscaped The Gardens became open to everyone for rent.

When my family arrived, we drove from the airport and through the desert and kept on driving and there was silence in the car as we whizzed past dull looking sand dunes. There was no Ibn Battuta Mall or the IMAX theatre at that time and my wife looked at me across the seat over the heads of our sleeping children as we finally took the sixth interchange down into the community.

Years passed since that day and this semi-gated community has grown and getting in and out early morning is quite a task owing to the heavy traffic. Alternative overpasses were built and a second conclave opened nearby called the Discovery Gardens, and Jebel Ali was finally the place to live in.

The survey has placed Jebel Ali below Deira and Al Mamzar, but above Al Nahda, Al Quoz/Al Khail, International City and DubaiLand.

The top-three rated places in Dubai are Motor City, The Greens and Emirates Living, according to the survey. I always thought the best spot in Dubai is Palm Jumeirah, where @iamsrk (Shah Rukh Khan) and David Beckham have homes overlooking the beachfront.

— Mahmood Saberi is a freelance journalist based in Dubai. You can follow him on Twitter at mahmood_saberi