This area was once regarded as lying on the wrong side of Sheikh Zayed Road, the main artery which runs through the city. As such, it was spurned by expatriates who preferred to live on the side of the road closest to the sea. Now, it is its proximity to Sheikh Zayed Road that is responsible for the increase in its popularity. Since the opening of the ever popular Mall of the Emirates, the demand for property in this area has increased.
Many expatriates are attracted to this area because of the large stand alone villas which are rented out for relatively reasonable prices. These are also popular with the local Emirati population so you have to move fast if you manage to find one. Foreigners are not able to buy property in this area.
Until recently, there were a lot of expatriates in this area on lower incomes who were living in shared villas. However, towards the end of 2008, the Dubai Municipality announced a new ‘one family per villa’ rule. This is currently being enforced with hefty fines of up to AED 50,000.
Al Barsha has an unplanned, neighborhood feel that does not exist in the new developments on the outskirts of the city. You will find most of the galleries in the city here and this adds to its somewhat hip reputation.
International Schools: Dubai American Academy, GEMS World Academy
Supermarkets: Lulu Hypermarket, Choitrams, Carrefour (in Mall of the Emirates)
Restaurants: There are a wide variety of restaurants at the Mall of the Emirates to suit every taste and budget. Other bars and restaurants can be found at the Emirates Golf Club and at the Millennium Hotel.
Cinemas: CineStar at Mall of the Emirates
Sport facilities: Ski Dubai (in Mall of the Emirates), Emirates Golf Club
Although the Arabian Ranches development lies on the outskirts of the city, it is well-served by a road system which ensures that residents can reach the rest of the city in less than half an hour. This was one of the first large developments to be purpose-built and, as such, it has a very established, suburban feel with all the amenities you could envision. It consists of eleven gated communities of villas, which vary in size from small two-bedroom properties to large and expensive six- and seven-bedroom properties. Each community has its own play area, including a communal swimming pool which is attended by a trained life-guard. This area is considered to be very safe with a good community feel and, as a result, it has become very popular with expatriates. It is one of the areas where foreigners can buy properties.
International School: Jumeirah English Speaking School at the Arabian Ranches (JESS at the Ranches)
Supermarket: Le Marche, Spinneys (Dubai Sports City)
Restaurants: There are two family restaurants serving Thai and Arabic food as well as branches of Pizza Hut and Burger King. All of these also do home deliveries. There are up-market restaurants in the Golf Club and the Polo Club.
Cinemas: CineStar at Mall of the Emirates
Sport facilities: Arabian Ranches Golf Club, the Dubai Polo Club, Dubai Autodrome, Dubai Sports City
This is one of the oldest areas in Dubai, located to the south of the Dubai Creek. Most of the buildings in this area are old low-rise apartment blocks with the exception of a few new high-rise buildings. Foreigners cannot buy properties in this area. Rental prices vary greatly depending on the age of the building and the facilities that it contains.
Many Western and non-Western expatriates live in this area. They are attracted by the reasonable prices and central location.
Bur Dubai is home to many offices, business and shopping centers, including the Burjuman shopping mall as well as more traditional souk areas.
International School: Dubai English Speaking School (Oud Metha)
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Carrefour, Choitrams, Union Coop
Restaurants: There are a wide variety of different restaurants featuring cuisine from all corners of the world, but especially from India and South East Asia. Some of the most popular are the Tex-Mex themed Barry’s Bench, the award winning XVA Cafe
Cinemas: Grand Cineplex, Oud Metha
Sport facilities: Fitness First Club in the courtyard of the recently restored traditional Bastakiah center, and the Danat Dubai for dinner cruises on a traditional dhow on the Creek.
Deira is across the Creek from Bur Dubai. It is the oldest part of Dubai and many long-term expat residents first lived here when they came to Dubai. Most of these expatriates have long since moved away as other parts of the city began to develop. Some stay, however, attracted by the authentic local character of the area that does not exist in most other parts of Dubai.
Properties in this area are all apartment buildings and are only available for rent. They vary in age, size, condition and facilities. The ones along the Creek are modern, have many facilities and are, as such, very expensive. Their views over the Creek, however, can be quite breathtaking. The further away from the Creek you travel, the older and more crowded together the buildings become. Rents are correspondingly more reasonable.
Deira is home to many different cultures and nationalities. It is less popular with families and many women report that they feel uncomfortable traveling alone at night, something which is very unusual in Dubai.
International Schools: There are no international schools in Deira. Surprisingly Deira International School is located in Festival City in the Al Garhoud district. The nearest schools are those in Festival City and Oud Metha.
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Carrefour, Choitrams, Lulu Center, Fruit and Vegetable Market
Restaurants: Most restaurants in this area serve Arabic, Lebanese, or Asian food. You can find many small, privately owned restaurants in the many winding back streets. The five star hotels in the area offer up-market dining. The most noteworthy are Spice Island at the Renaissance Hotel for dishes from around the world, Gordon Ramsay’s Verre restaurant at the Hilton Dubai Creek, and the Boardwalk for international al fresco dining with views over the Creek.
Cinemas: CineStar at Deira City Center, or Grand CineCity at Al Ghurair City
Sport facilities: Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Galleria Ice Rink (The Galleria)
Dubai Marina / Jumeirah Beach Residence
Dubai Marina and the Jumeirah Beach Residences form a veritable maze of high-rise apartment buildings. They surround a man-made salt-water lagoon, but the dense concentration of buildings means that the majority do not have sea views. Buildings come in a range of heights, sizes and architectural styles. The lack of uniformity adds to the attractiveness of the area.
There are a variety of types of property including long and short term lets. There is a choice of furnished, unfurnished and serviced apartments to suit all life-styles. Foreigners are able to buy property in this area. Prices are relatively high, reflecting the standard of the buildings, and the popularity of the area.
This area promotes itself as being the heart of new Dubai. It certainly has a reputation for being young, hip and fashionable. The trendiest part for visitors to this area is known as the Walk. This is a 12 km stretch that lies along the marina itself. The cafes and restaurants along the Walk are very popular with young and old expatriates alike.
International Schools: The nearest schools are in Jumeirah / Umm Suqiem or in The Lakes / The Meadows / The Springs / Emirates Hills.
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Waitrose, Al Maya
Restaurants: There are many award-winning bars and restaurants in this area, including Barasti Bar and Maya at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, the Beach Bar & Grill and Eau Zone at the One & Only Royal Mirage, the Buddha Bar, Indego and Gary Rhodes’ aptly named Rhodes Mezzanine at the Grosvenor House. People also travel to this area from all over the city to dine out at the Walk.
Cinemas: Grand Megaplex at Ibn Battuta Mall
Sport facilities: Water sports and well-equipped gyms are plentiful in this area. Clubs include Dubai Water Sport Academy, Hiltonia Beach & Pool, Oasis Beach Club, Ocean Explorer Fishing Charters, Ritz-Carlton Beach Club, Sheraton Jumeirah Health & Beach Club and Sky & Sea Adventures.
Festival City / Al Garhoud
Al Garhoud is the area around the Dubai airport. It is part of old Dubai and until recently was less popular with expatriates as the center of the city shifted slowly southwards. However, that all changed with the opening of Festival City. This complex contains a very popular mall which hosts events including a Kylie concert, performances by the Chinese State Theater, and the Dubai X-Games. There are many 5 star hotels in the area and it is also home to the exclusive Al Badia Golf Club.
The accommodation in Festival City consists of low-level apartment buildings. Currently, the apartments are only available for rent.
International Schools: Deira International School, Universal American School in Dubai
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Hyperpanda (in the mall), Lifco, Choitrams
Restaurants: There is a wide variety of restaurants in Festival City, from fast food to specialty restaurants. The many hotels in the area have popular bars and restaurants. In Al Garhoud, close to the airport, the Irish Village is one of the most popular bars with the expatriate community in Dubai.
Cinemas: Grand Festival Cinemas at Festival City.
Sport facilities: Fitness First Club, Aviation Club, Al Badia Golf Club, Creek Golf and Yacht Club
This development lies on the Emirates Road about 25 minutes out of the city. It is a large area of apartment blocks with studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Clusters of apartment buildings are named after different countries and their architecture reflects the countries they are named after. Once complete, International City is expected to house 60,000 residents.
Foreigners can buy property here and prices are a lot cheaper than many other areas in Dubai. Rental prices are also lower. Many of those who had been living in shared villas and who had to move out when the ‘one villa one family’ law was introduced, have ended up here. Although the location is somewhat remote, it is a better alternative for many than moving outside the Emirate and having to face long commutes every day.
The major disadvantage of International City is the smell which often comes from the waste dump and sewerage works that lie just to the rear of the development. There are also very few footpaths or areas where children can play. Although there are some amenities inside this area, most residents travel to Mirdif or Festival City for shopping and entertainment.
International Schools: Uptown School (in Mirdif), Dubai English Speaking College (in Academic City), Repton School (in Nad Al Sheba)
Supermarkets: There is a lack of good supermarkets in the area. The nearest well-equipped supermarkets are in Mirdif.
Restaurants: There are a limited number of restaurants currently available. The most noticeable are iBite serving Lebanese food, Ming Palace serving Chinese food, Picollo Mondo serving international food.
Cinemas: Cinestar Cinema at Mirdif City Center, or Grand Festival Cinemas at Festival City.
Sport facilities: Fitness First Club (in Mirdif)
Jumeirah / Umm Suqeim
Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim lie parallel to the sea front. Two main arteries, Jumeirah Beach Road and Al Wasl Road, run through these areas.
There are many different types of property in these areas including low apartment buildings, villas, town-houses and large mansions. The vast majority of properties are villas, many of which are arranged in compounds. Most compounds contain a swimming pool and an area for children to play. Because this is one of the oldest areas in Dubai, most of the properties have very well-established gardens and most of the quiet back streets are lined with trees.
These two neighborhoods used to be the areas of choice for expatriates, especially for families. This has changed somewhat as new developments have been built on the outskirts of the city, many of which offer cheaper accommodation. However, they retain much of their popularity as they are close to the beach and have a diverse range of services and facilities. There are also several very well-established and highly-regarded international schools in the area. Foreigners cannot buy property in Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim.
International Schools: Jumeirah Primary School, Jumeirah College, Jumeirah English Speaking School, The English College, Wellington School, Kings School, Horizon School
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Choitrams, Union Co-op, Park and Shop
Restaurants: The Lime Tree Cafe, Shakespeare’s and Perk Cafe are all very popular expat hangouts. There are many fast food and family restaurants along Jumeirah Beach Road.
Cinemas: Grand Mercato at Mercato Mall
Sport facilities: Sports facilities are plentiful in this area. Centers include Al Boom Diving, Ballet Center, Dubai Aikido Club, Dubai Fencing club, Dubai Hockey Club, Dubai Karate Center, Dubai Kite Club, Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Ladies club, Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, Pavillion Dive Center, Safa Football Club.
Karama / Oud Metha
Karama is close to Bur Dubai. It is part of old Dubai and certainly possesses a lot of character. Some people refer to it as ‘little India’ because the majority of people living here are from the Indian subcontinent. There are many individual shops selling everything from souvenirs to cheap clothing to computers and flat-screen televisions. Most people, however, know this area because of the fake merchandise that is still available despite frequent government crackdowns. Most of the property here is located in old low-rise apartment buildings. Rents are typically low making this a very popular area for expatriates on lower incomes. Apartments are available for rent only.
Oud Metha is Karama’s rich neighbor. The apartments are newer, have more facilities and are typically much more expensive. One of the most exclusive malls in Dubai, Wafi Mall, is located in this area. There are also many five-star hotels. Dubai Healthcare City is being built in the heart of Oud Metha and this is expected to increase the popularity of this area.
International School: Dubai English Speaking School, Oud Metha
Supermarkets: Lulu Supermarket, Choitrams, Spinneys
Restaurants: There are many small, privately owned restaurants in this area serving traditional and authentic Indian, Asian and Arabic food. Karama is also home to the Rock Bottom licensed cafe which is popular with young expats. More up-market cafes and restaurants can be found in the Wafi mall, including the ever popular Carter’s, Baladna and Ginseng. Five-star hotels in the Oud Metha area also serve good international cuisine.
Cinemas: Grand Cineplex at Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha
Sport facilities: Golden Fist Karate, and Golden Falcon Karate Center are available in Karama. Pharaoh’s Club, Pursuit Games Paintball and Wonderland Skatepark can be found in Oud Metha.
The Lakes / The Meadows / The Springs / Emirates Hills
This collection of developments is located off Sheikh Zayed Road, opposite the Dubai Marina. This area is considered part of new Dubai. In actual fact, heavy traffic during rush hours means that it is further away from the rest of the city than it appears on a map. Each of these developments is made up of town-houses and villas which are all in gated communities. Typically, medium-sized town houses can be found at the Springs and the Lakes, larger two-storey villas can be found in the Meadows, and large palatial mansions can be found in Emirates Hills.
The names of the developments give an idea as to the nature of these developments. They contain lakes, large green areas and quiet streets. Emirates Hills, however, is surprisingly flat with the name meant to evoke Beverly Hills rather than thoughts of undulating hills.
In many ways these developments are similar to Arabian Ranches. Built by the same developer, Emaar, some of the town-houses even look the same. Each gated community contains a play area for children and a communal swimming pool with a lifeguard in attendance. The area has an established, suburban feel and a reputation for being safe and family-friendly. It is very popular with expatriates, especially those who work in the south of the city in areas such as Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City.
Foreigners are able to buy property in this area and the wide-range of property types means that they suit a wide variety of budgets. Emirates Hills used to boast purchase prices starting at AED 27 million and going up to over AED 50 million. Town-houses and villas in the other developments are a lot cheaper and they are somewhat less expensive than comparable properties in the Arabian Ranches because they are perceived as being further out of the city.
International Schools: the Dubai British School, Dubai International Academy, GEMS World School, Regent International School
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Choitrams
Restaurants: The Nineteen Restaurant is a popular up-market restaurant at the Montgomerie Golf Club and Shakespeare’s cafe is one of the main expat hangouts in the area.
Cinemas: Grand Megaplex at Ibn Battuta Mall, or CineStar at Mall of the Emirates
Sport facilities: Lakes Club Community Center, Emirates Golf Club, Hayya! Fitness Clubs, Montgomerie Golf Club
Mirdif lies on the outskirts of the city. It is well served by the Emirates Road and Airport Road. There are no plans to extend the metro to this area. Mirdif’s proximity to the airport has disadvantages as the noise of planes flying overhead can be very disturbing, especially at night. It is a middle-class suburban area with a mixture of old and new villas. There are very few apartment blocks. As one of the older areas of Dubai, Mirdif has an established, community feel. Although there are some palatial mansions, the majority of villas are medium-sized and typically grouped into family-friendly compounds.
Local Emiratis live in Mirdif. It is also popular with Western expatriates, attracted to this area by the affordable prices of the villas. Prices for villas are lower than they are in Jumeirah, the Arabian Ranches or developments in new Dubai. Most villas cannot be purchased by foreigners. However, it is possible to purchase town houses and apartments in an area of Mirdif known as Uptown Mirdif.
Before the opening of Uptown Mirdif, this area was much less popular as there were very few shops or places to go for entertainment. However, now it is served by three different malls: Uptown Mirdif, Mirdif City Center and the Arabian Center.
International Schools: Gems Royal Dubai School, Uptown School
Supermarkets: Spinneys, Carrefour
Restaurants: The Uptown Mirdif shopping mall, Mirdif City Center and the Arabian Centre boast food courts with most fast food companies represented. They also have family restaurants.
Cinemas: Cinestar Cinema at Mirdif City Center, or Grand Festival Cinemas at Festival City.
Sport facilities: Fitness First Club
Old Town / Burj Dubai
The Burj Dubai, as the tallest building in the world, has become one of the most famous landmarks in Dubai. At its foot lies the Dubai Mall which is the biggest mall in the world. These superlatives have pushed up prices of real estate in the area. Before the city-wide crisis in the property market, real estate prices were among the highest in the world.
The surrounding area is known as Old Town, although this name is misleading as only a couple of years ago this area was desert and even today, construction work is continuing. Old Town lies off Sheikh Zayed Road and benefits from the easy access to other parts of the city that this road brings.
Properties include luxury furnished, unfurnished and serviced apartments in low-rise and high-rise apartment buildings. There are also three-story townhouses. Foreigners can buy property in this area and it is becoming very popular with single professional Western expatriates and couples who do not have children.
International Schools: The nearest schools are in Jumeirah / Umm Suqiem
Restaurants: Dubai Mall, one of the largest malls in the world, has a very wide selection of fast food and family restaurants. There are also several award winning up-market restaurants including Asado at the Palace Hotel, Left Bank at the Souk Al Bahar and the Mezza House in the Old Town residences