Dubai is one of the world’s richest cities, known for its glittering skyscrapers and extravagance. But we rarely get to see how locals actually live.
I visited a typical Dubai neighborhood where locals live, and found a totally different city to the glittering metropolis tourists see. Here’s what it was like.
- As one of the richest cities in the world, Dubai has a certain image.
- I wanted to take a look at what we don’t typically see in descriptions of the city: where locals actually live.
- Finding a “typical” neighborhood in Dubai was tricky because the city is changing so rapidly, but I managed to get a glimpse of the Al Barsha area, which is new, growing, and popular.
- Here’s what it was like.
When most people think of Dubai, they picture the Emirati city’s glittering skyscrapers, beautiful deserts, and extravagant displays of wealth.
We rarely see scenes from where locals actually live — that is, aside from the glittering apartments in the marina, where the city’s elite live. So, on a recent trip to Dubai, I decided to find out what that was like.
Even the terms “local” and “typical” are tricky ones in Dubai, where its wealth explosion has resulted in an influx of people moving in from around the world and fundamentally changing the city’s demographics.
The two major communities — locals and expats — also tend to live in different areas, and many of the city’s older architecture and homes have been knocked down to make way for new projects.
But the Al Basha neighborhood, as a new and popular area, provided a good insight in to what it can be like to live in the city.
I found a community filled with attractive properties that summed up many of the qualities I found across the city: beautiful displays of wealth that seem a bit disconnected the surrounding community, and where the climate, culture, and transport networks mean people are unlikely to be seen out and about.
Here’s what the neighborhood was like.
Dubai is seen as a city of extravagance, and most tourists tend to stay inside the metropolis, aside from maybe a quick trip into the nearby desert.
But I wanted to look at where people actually live. So I took a trip to Al Barsha, one of Dubai’s newer residential neighborhoods.
Al Barsha is actually a huge area made up of various different sections. I spent some two connected sections, called Al Barsha 2 and Al Barsha South.
The area is further inland from a lot of Dubai’s most famous sights, like the marina or The Palm. Nonetheless, Dubai residents of all sorts live here: from single expats to large, local families.
Al Barsha isn’t close to the city’s metro, which focuses on the area along the coast, including downtown and the marina. So I took a Careem, the Middle Eastern ride-hailing company recently bought by Uber.
Much of Al Barsha is made up of huge villas closed off by big walls and gates.
Some sections of Al Barsha have more apartments than other sections. Al Barsha 1, for example, has more apartments than villas, according to Dubai-based property company Bayut.
No two villas looked the same, and many are in a host of different styles.
Buying a five bedroom house in this area, Al Barsha 2, can cost up to around $2.5 million, according to Bayut.
Renting a four-bedroom house in Al Barsha South can cost up to around $90,000.
Some even have futuristic designs.
And many prominently displayed the flag of the United Arab Emirates.
Many also had giant, ornate gates to close them off from the outside world.
Some of the road sides were well-maintained with grass and plants…
… but it was still hard to totally rid the neighborhood of signs of the desert.
As a result, residents seemed keen to keep their plants watered.
I quickly noticed just how few people were around. Anyone who passed me was driving — a common practice that often makes traffic in Dubai a nightmare.
Part of why there was no one around was likely due to how far we were from the metro and how close we were to major roads.
There were some bus routes nearby, though, and other parts of Al Barsha, like Al Barsha 1, is connected to the metro.
It felt strange to be the only person walking around. There were also no real neighborhood amenities — like a store or a café — within walking distance to many of the houses.
I didn’t cover the whole area, but many houses seemed very far from a lot of shops you shouldn’t need to drive to.