Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Night Magic

Dubai offers a few spectacular night time views. These would include any skyline perspectives which feature the 162-story Burj Khalifa or Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR), with its streaming cars and the Dubai metro cutting through its canyon of towers.

Marina Heights Tower
(manual zoom with open shutter)

The outline of the Palm Jumeirah from a high enough vantage point would also be spectacular, as well as views over Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lakes Towers, as seen in these photos.

JLT left of SZR, Dubai Marina right
w/Marina Heights in the foreground

And that is why I chose a pad in Dubai Marina, on the highest floor I could afford. A penthouse was not in the budget, but in the 63-story MAG 218 tower all 55 floors with apartment units were typical. All were identical with one and two-bed units. It made the perfect choice for a high floor flat at a reasonable price.

SZR and Dubai Marina's iconic Phase One towers

They cleaned the windows today! Not spidermen, but guys who ride down the sides of towers in cradles on pulleys. I think I know one of the window washers, so I don't mind too much when I open my eyes and see someone peering through my window at 63 floors up.

Who needs window shades?

What an amazing job to have. They get to take in all the spectacular views. But I am sure they don't get paid much here in the UAE, despite the risks. Cradles do fall on occasion and it has got to be really hot riding down the south face of a tower on a hot Dubai summer's day. The one washer I know is Nepali, so I guess the heights, at least, are no worry.

Eid Mubarak!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Emerald City

Dubai's tallest block from Internet City's reflecting pool

Dubai sometimes evokes images of the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City. It has got that singular glass tower with cascading levels that rises high into the sky, standing brilliantly as the tallest manmade structure on earth. But the Burj Khalifa is not the city's only triumphant pinnacle. There are many other gleaming skyscrapers of various shapes and sizes.

In Dubai Marina, the so-called tallest block on the planet also conjures up that Emerald City image.

Internet City

In the foreground of the Emerald City towers is Dubai's Internet City, a cluster of lowrise office blocks and lakes laid out in campus-like fashion. It is built in a chic corporate manner à la business Americana--think Microsoft in Redmond Washington, Apple in Cupertino California or Infosys in Bangalore.

Tallest block from the Palm Jumeirah access bridge

The Emerald City rises majestically above the land and seascape! Turn the clock back 10 years and this highrise oasis did not yet exist. The city is not only amazing for its heights but also for its speed.

But things have slowed down post 2008 and the new normal in Dubai means growth at only twice the speed of the average city rather than 20 times.

The tallest buildings, still under construction, exceed 100 floors

Life in the tallest block is still evolving. There are a lot of new residents as some towers have recently been completed, but still many more residents are yet to come. Construction goes on on towers, road works and a new high-tech tram line.

Most residents keep cars in the big podiums at the base of each tower, but visitors and shoppers fend for space on sandy lanes and plots that surround many of the towers. Shops also are scarce but increasing with small groceries joining dry cleaners and the odd bank branch, pharmacy or cafe.

Street culture has yet to emerge in the tallest block, but nice strolls can be had in the vicinity, either along the several kilometers of bricked promenade along the Marina canal or in the neighboring, more established Media and Internet Cities' business plazas.

An Evening Stroll

So, I start my evening wondering where to go for a walk this time. My backyard, so to speak, is a forest of towers. How about the Palm Jumeirah then? On my last walk I enjoyed the breeze and greenery around Media City and Internet City's lakes.

I walk past the canyon of towers and cross the road that separates the tallest block from Media City.

Media City is very much the contrast with lowrise office blocks, lawns and a central lake feature.

The office blocks surround the lakes in courtyard fashion with parking areas discretely hidden behind rows of trees or along roadways.

The most spacious lawn fronts the Media City office blocks which sport familiar signage from media heavy weights like CNN and Reuters. The lawn is so spacious that it is used for open air concerts during cooler months.

After a 10-minute walk along the road that transects Media and Internet Cities, I reach the Dubai Pearl construction site which has a closed off ramp leading up to the bridge that crosses to the Palm Jumeirah island.

Taking this ramp I follow the crossing for another 10 minutes or so, stopping to snap pictures before reaching the other side.

Along the way I enjoy the treat of panoramic views of the Dubai Marina/JBR beach front as the Palm Jumeirah monorail makes its way slowly overhead.

It would seem that the intent was to create a pedestrian promenade here. The walkway along the bridge is wide and laid out with red bricks and it has at regular intervals observation decks which jut out over the ground below.

But the land below the bridge and the huge monorail station building consist of stalled construction sites which create an eyesore.

There is no sign of the promenade coming to life soon. After snapping photos I made my way back to Internet City to enjoy again the peaceful greenery and magnificent views of the tallest block.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dubai Marina Dreaming

In 2002 Dubai Marina did not yet exist, apart from a few impressive billboards along Sheikh Zayed Road and the already dug out canal hidden behind a sand embankment.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued. Driving frequently from Abu Dhabi to Dubai at the time, this promised marina had a captivating allure for me.

<< the new (towers of the tallest block) and the old (traditional wooden abra) in Dubai Marina

It will probably never really get built, I'd think. But if it did, what a great place to live!

You keep dreaming... It wasn't really like me to let my imagination run unchecked.

By 2005 that dream for me and Dubai was closer to becoming reality. In the intervening three years Dubai had made immense progress on remaking itself.

The original Dubai Marina project consisting of six towers at the head of the canal was complete and occupied. Meanwhile hundreds of other towers and thousands of villas had been built or started all over Dubai--a city whose land area under development seemed to be doubling every three or four years.

the twisting Infinity tower (u/c) at left and original DM six-tower development at center

In the intervening years the thought of moving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai had also moved from wishful thinking to real possibility. In 2003 and 2004 I visited Emaar's sales centers in the Greens and the Marina. The prices, however, were too high I concluded. A year later, when prices had risen even higher, it began to seem inevitable that I would make a freehold home purchase in Dubai. The time to act had come.

(images taken 27 March 2011--click on for enlarged view)

I again visited Emaar's sales center, but didn't like the take it now or lose it kind of sales pitch nor the prices, still seemingly too high. I visited Nakheel and was smitten by the property on offer in JLT (Jumeirah Lakes Towers) but found Nakheel's sales technique and prices even more objectionable than Emaar's.

The last straw, so to speak, was Damac. They maddeningly pitched their latest project out in the desert in a non-existent development. They wouldn't hesitate to promise the world at the highest prices I had yet seen. I shouldn't touch them, I thought, with that proverbial 10-foot pole.

dragon boat practice near the DM yacht club harbor

Alas, I found some sense of comfort in the manner of the well-known rental agent Asteco, in partnership with the unknown developer, MAG. The high-rise tower on offer was to be built in the Marina--plus point one--and it was in a good location at that, just across from the original six-tower project.

Everything more or less coalesced around what seemed to be a good choice--location, price, design and manner of the sale. It wasn't, however, a sure bet.

Nothing in Dubai was then. It was an off-plan purchase which had not yet broken ground. The developer also had no track record, apart from a JLT tower in the early phase of construction. There was no surety, really, apart from the reputation of Asteco. Still, compared to everything else I had experienced up to that point, it seemed as good a bet as I was going to get. My Dubai dream was to be realized in the MAG 218 tower.

the Dubai Marina Yacht Club harbour

That was mid-2005. Five years later, with a couple of job changes and a world economic crisis in the interim, my Dubai Marina dream became a reality. It was two and a half-years late in coming and a lot of the Dubai development plan would--due to the crisis--not be realized.

That said, the Dubai Marina and Dubai on the whole has realized the most incredible transformation the world has ever seen, going largely from barren desert to supercity in the span of less than a decade. Dubai and the Marina are nothing short of miraculous.

Dubai Marina, from 63rd floor of my Dubai Marina dream home