Sunday, April 01, 2007


Although I don't live in Dubai, I visit it frequently. I drive around with my bicycle squeezed into my little Peugeot 206, which allows me to hop out and cycle around some of the nice new developments. The Gardens is one of my favorite. The roads wind and bend, there is little traffic and the adjacent Garden View Villas district, mostly uninhabited, offers hills and beautiful views of gardens and the surrounding cityscape.

On my latest trip I continued on from the Gardens to the neighboring Discovery Gardens project, still under construction. Visible from Sheikh Zayed Road and flanked by high tension electric cables, the mid-rise apartment blocks do little to inspire from that vantage point. They are attractive in design, but one wonders who would want to live amongst such a tangle of high voltage wires.

My bicycle trip, however, gave me a different and altogether awe inspiring view of this development. It was a trek of discovery best suited to a mountain bike, which is able to easily navigate the rough unpaved roads and ride unimpeded past bemused security personnel.

The development is impressive on a number of levels. First of all is its size. The collection of 7-10 story apartment blocks stretches on into the receding desert for at least a few kilometers. It would seem the number of blocks runs into the low hundreds. One can only imagine how many thousands of new apartments and tens of thousands of residents the development can accommodate.

Next, one is struck by the attractive designs, colors and layout of this development. It isn't just a collection of residential blocks, public housing style. It has a European Renaissance look, albeit a somewhat Dinseyesque version, suggesting Venice or other west Mediterranean cities. The assortment of buildings evokes an artist's palette with splashes of pastel pink, orange, olive green, white and brown. There are subtle architectural variations from block to block and section to section, and buildings are oriented individually in such a way as to avoid monotony.

Discovery Gardens was quite the discovery for me, although there is no sign yet of any gardens. Roadways and other infrastructure are not yet in place. Some buildings appear near completion, at least from the exterior, but the complex as a whole is months if not a year or two away from completion. It is clear, nonetheless that once complete, this community will be something of jewel.

A Matter of Perspective

With so many new developments all over Dubai today, it is easy to drive dismissively past Discovery Gardens. It is easy to think that there are so many of these--the Gardens, the Greens, the Springs, the Lakes, etc. It is even easy to overlook a development as massive as this one. Seeing it, however, from the perspective that I did, one can appreciate that it is, in fact, an essential piece in the beautiful jigsaw puzzle that is new Dubai.

The question arises, however, of when and from where the hundreds of thousands of new, sufficiently affluent residents will come to fill these new residences? The irony is that Dubai at present is a city where thousands live in overcrowded conditions, paying up to and over US $1000 per month for a single room in villa or apartment, or for $200 getting a share of a room with 4, 5, even 8 others.

It is also anybody's guess as to how many residences--ranging from studio apartments to multi-floor villas and penthouses--are under construction at present. The number goes well into the hundreds of thousands. Yet, how many among the destitute thousands who live in substandard accommodation today will be able to take up residence in these new, mostly high-priced luxury units?

That is a topic for another day. What is nonetheless amazing is the sheer scale of development. Whether it is Discovery Gardens, a high-rise tower community like Dubai Marina, manmade offshore islands and the like, there is an incredible number of unique and awe inspiring developments waiting to be discovered in Dubai.

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