Long-term residents spill the beans on Dubai’s hidden gems
Dubai’s communities are always a work in progress. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a new attraction pops up and you’re left scrambling for information.
Not anymore! We have people in the field with their ears to the ground, giving you the lowdown on all the cool spots to hang out, the hidden gems, best eateries, what not to miss and much more.
And who better to show you around than the long-term residents, aka the UAE Insiders. They invite you into their every day, giving you a behind-the-scenes tour of each community, so you can see first hand what life is like in a neighbourhood.
An insider view
Meet some of our #UAEInsiders from old and new Dubai showing us around town.
The utopic life in JBR
Benn D., a 28-year-old British expat, has been living in Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) for almost four years and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Everything I need to live my best life is literally on my doorstep. Living in JBR allows me to spend more time on the things I love without the need to get in the car. Even my favourite eatery is in my building,” Benn tells Property Finder.
He describes JBR as a vibrant yet laidback community with a focus on wellness, sunshine and beach vibes.
You are most likely to find Benn working up a sweat at Barry’s Bootcamp, idling around one of the cafes and restaurants at The Beach or treating himself at healthy hotspot Hapi (they make a great beef broth).
He is also a fan of Black Tap at the Rixos Premium JBR for its monstrous burgers and decadent milkshakes.
If you are in Benn’s neighbourhood, he recommends going for a walk to enjoy the sights and taking a selfie with the colourful artworks on the steps leading up to each development. “Or just enjoy the huge stretch of golden sand and crystal-clear water,” Benn suggests.
Two’s company in Downtown
If you are in Downtown Dubai, you’re likely to bump into Mary K. and Ines R., two friends who love to hang out in the neighbourhood. Their favourite haunts are the Dubai Opera, Dubai Mall and the vibrant area around the Dubai Fountain.
“I love everything about Downtown Dubai, it is the definition of luxury,” Mary, a 33-year-old Asian expat, told Property Finder.
Ines loves how she can enjoy after-work hours in Downtown Dubai without taking a taxi. “Everything is nearby and open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Downtown Dubai is the centre of social life in the city,” the 27-year-old French/Algerian expat said.
Ines frequents Calabar Lounge at The Address Downtown after a hard day’s work.
She counts the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain as must-visit landmarks in the neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, Mary loves the architectural mix of old and new Dubai in the area. “There’s few places you can live in that you can consider an icon,” she added.
The road to discovering happiness
Imagine waking up to the chirping of birds and the sight of lush gardens, all without burning your pocket paying high rents. This is why Mithun M., an Indian expatriate, has been calling Discovery Gardens home for the past 10 years and counting.
He initially moved to this community since he was working in Abu Dhabi and this would shorten his daily commute to 1 hour.
“I have seen this community evolve from scratch. When I moved in, I was one of the first residents. Today, Discovery Gardens boasts all amenities you can think of — swimming pools, tennis courts, a community centre and good road infrastructure. What’s not to like,” Mithun told Property Finder.
On weekends, Mithun loves to watch a film at the Novo Cinemas in Ibn Battuta shopping mall, which is just a 5-minute drive away.
He also spends considerable time at the Discovery Pavilion, indulging in Indian street food at Chappan Bhog, shopping for his weekly groceries at Carrefour or grooming himself at Tito Gents Salon.
“Head to JJ Chicken coz they make a mean chicken shawarma or try the salads at Papa Murphy’s Pizza,” recommends Mithun.
He is also upbeat about the upcoming Metro link. “Can’t wait to have a Metro station within walking distance from my home soon.”
For the love of the suburbs
It was the love for a quiet lifestyle that made Agata, a Portuguese expat, and her family choose to live in Arabian Ranches. She has called the Ranches home for nearly 4 years now.
“We decided to purchase our home in Dubai and selected Arabian Ranches after viewing several Dubai residential communities. It was our preference to stay a bit further away from the centre of Dubai as we prefer a quieter lifestyle,” Agata, 39, told Property Finder.
She was sold on the variety of villas, the different architecture within each cluster, the amenities offered and how the community seemed very well looked after.
Agata describes Arabian Ranches as one of the most established communities for families living in Dubai.
“It’s quiet, very well-developed and maintained. There are several green areas, lakes, pools and parks available to residents, families and their children. There are also several good schools within short distance which is very important and convenient for families with children,” she pointed out.
Agata often hangs out at The Hamptons Café, Shakespeare and Co in the retail centre as well as Maison Mathis restaurant, which has a beautiful view of the golf course and lake.
She also loves exercising and spending time with her children in the playing areas, pools, sports courts and parks dotted across the community.
Suburban life in the city centre
Location, location, location is a phrase Tanya I.K. swears by when she decides where to live in Dubai. The founder of Interior TakeOver has opted to live in City Walk where she lives the suburban life in the middle of the city.
“My favourite thing about living in City Walk is the convenience. Some of Dubai’s most loved entertainment venues are walkable,” the 33-year-old Dutch/British expat told Property Finder.
Tanya has been living in City Walk for 3 years and previously on Sheikh Zayed Road. “I wanted to stay somewhere central but also live in a villa,” she added.
She recommends the City Walk mall as the best place to hang out in the neighbourhood. “I also walk to La Mer while Mercato is my go-to mall.”
Tanya also frequents the chic La Ville hotel and restaurants such as L’Eto, Saladicious and Home Bakery in City Walk.
“There are also some great parks in my community to take my son to. When the weather is great, we head to the beach,” she signed off.
Jumeirah’s very own
Linda C., a French-Moroccan expat, has been calling Jumeirah home for the past 8 years. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Back then, it was THE area to be in for young expat families. Now, I have all my habits here and don’t see myself living anywhere else,” Linda, 36, told Property Finder.
What drew her to the neighbourhood is that it is near the beach yet not too far from the heart of the city.
Linda also loves how Jumeirah is calm and family-friendly with a lot of hidden gems.
Her go-to hangout places in the area are the perennial favourites Mercato Mall, La Mer and City Walk.
She also recommends the longstanding café Comptoir 102 for healthy treats. But, ask Linda on her absolute favourite and not-to-miss place in Jumeirah and she replies pronto: “The beach.”
Soaking up the Deira charm
Anita, 22, an Indian-Russian expat, loves how versatile and diverse the neighbourhood of Deira is. “It is an amazing area as you can really enjoy the diversity Dubai stands for,” she told Property Finder.
A long-term resident of Deira, Anita is fascinated that the community houses such a motley mix of nationalities. With a treasure trove of places to visit, Deira is a tourist’s paradise with its winding alleys, quirky cafes and bustling souks which sell everything from gold, spices, textiles and gadgets. Anita frequents the souks to take in the sights, sounds and the bargains.
She points out that Deira offers housing options for people on all budgets. “It’s beautiful and affordable and gives you the choice of both expensive and cheap options.”
On weekends, Anita indulges in some retail therapy at Deira City Centre, takes an abra ride on the Creek to soak up Deira’s beauty or wanders through Gold Souk, checking out all the latest bargains on jewellery.
She also recommends checking out the multi-brand store Priceless, trying Far Eastern cuisine at the Bamboo Lagoon restaurant in JW Marriott Dubai, or just chilling at the Park Hyatt Dubai.
Want your shot at fame? You could be a #UAEInsider too. Here’s how: Share a post about your community and tag it with #UAEInsider on social media. The best post wins an AED 1000 gift voucher.
For inside information on more neighbourhoods and hidden gems across the UAE, check out our Community Guides.