Low-rise and leafy, Umm Suqeim and Jumeirah represent residential living in Dubai at its best. These established beachside neighbourhoods have sprawling independent villas with large gardens and private swimming pools, plus a smattering of palaces shaded by towering palm trees.
They are not Dubai’s most affordable areas, but the budget-conscious could consider a flat or one of the cheaper compound communities, which have smaller gardens and shared facilities.
The area straddles Jumeirah Beach Road, or simply Beach Road, a slow-moving six-lane highway lined with unlicensed restaurants. Some of Dubai’s most creative coffee shops and burger joints have set up shop here, along with beauty salons offering blow-outs and manicures to the mostly moneyed community.
The outside lane of traffic frequently draws to a halt, as motorists queue for takeaway shisha and shawarma, and on Friday nights the thoroughfare is popular with young men looking to show off their latest supercars.
Access to this area is almost entirely by private car or taxi. There are buses running along Jumeirah Beach Road and the parallel Al Wasl Road, but Al Safa metro station is right on the edge of the Umm Suqeim 2, near Sheikh Zayed Road.
Water taxis are a limited option for Jumeirah residents, who can jump on at the Dubai Canal station and head into Business Bay, Dubai Design District and Al Seef, before the line loops around at Bur Dubai to make its return journey.
You can not buy in most of Umm Suqeim or Jumeirah unless you are Emirati. Many of the villas were built 30 years ago, and are showing their age.
The houses in the managed compounds are sometimes newer, and you can get lucky, but the kitchens are often dark and gloomy, and it is not unusual to find a bathroom with rusty fixtures.
The water pressure in the older houses is lack-lustre, and residents need to keep an eye on their bill in case it shoots up because of a burst water main.
You need to have a good relationship with your landlord, otherwise you could find yourself footing the bill for a new air-conditioning unit, or mending a leaky roof in the middle of the night.
Non-locals who want to buy should check out a couple of new developments.
“Madinat Jumeirah Living in Umm Suqeim 3 and La Mer are two freehold locations, with apartments and villas available for expats to purchase,” said British estate agent Harry Tregoning, the founder of Tregoning Property.
“They start at just over Dhs 1 million, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to the seafront villas.”
The biggest upside of Umm Suqeim and Jumeirah is the proximity of the sea. The beaches here are stunning, there are regular lifeguards keeping people safe in the sea, and even at weekends it is easy to find a patch of sand to yourself.
Exercise-enthusiasts love the running track, a bouncy green path which runs from Umm Suqeim Park at one end, all the way to La Mer, stopping briefly at the mouth of the Water Canal, before starting again by the Jumeirah 1 Fishing Harbour.
Laura Stockwell is a British estate agent and co-founder of Mr & Mrs Stockwell, a family business that specialises in Umm Suqeim and Jumeirah.
She described it as a vibrant, evolving district. “It’s popular with long-term expats who are more tolerant of the quirks of the old villas, and families with young children who like being close to the schools in Safa 1.
“Also with professionals who want to be close to DIFC for work, but also near the beach.”
There are countless cafes and restaurants serving food from every corner of the world. Some seaside areas, such as Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim 1, feel slightly overpopulated, with food trucks and fairground rides, but for the most part the coast has been carefully developed, and has a laid-back vibe.
The largest development is La Mer, in Jumeirah 1, which was designed with tourists in mind, and contains dozens of eateries, a water park and plenty of entertainment options for the kids, including a trampoline that looks like an enormous marshmallow.
The area is very child-friendly, with plenty of playgrounds and two largish parks for lounging and ball play. Umm Suqeim Park has great views of Burj Al Arab, and further inland, Safa 2 Park has several climbing frames for younger children, plus a football pitch and a basketball court. Safa Park, near Dubai Water Canal, has still not reopened since being closed for the expansion of the Creek waterway.
Fine dining and resort-style activities can be found at La Mer and the local five-star hotels.
The iconic Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel are at one end of Jumeirah Beach Road; the Four Seasons and the recently built Mandarin Oriental are in the middle. Midscale hotel The Rove, at La Mer, is a new addition.
There are pockets of Emirati authenticity.
Traditional dhows are moored in the mini-harbours along the coast, and Jumeirah Fish Market near Dubai Offshore Sailing Club is still one of the cheapest places in the emirate to buy fresh seafood. If you prefer your hammour ready-cooked, Bu Qtair Restaurant near Umm Suqeim Park is a Dubai institution renowned for its cheap fish and long queues.
Mrs Stockwell grew up in the area. “Jumeirah grew organically with expats and locals living side by side, around the landmark Jumeirah Mosque. Other developments out in the desert were purpose built for incomers, so have less of a local flavour.”
Several of Dubai’s older schools are located in the area. Jumeirah English Speaking School is a well-established not-for-profit with a long waiting list. Horizon International School, Kings School Dubai and Gems Jumeirah Primary School all follow the English curriculum.
American Collegiate School and Emirates International School are also very popular.
There are dozens of nurseries in Umm Suqeim, many housed in villas with spacious gardens. Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery has two branches, while Blossom, Children’s Oasis, Kangaroo Kids and Willow are popular among local mothers.
Medical centres include Dubai London Clinic in Umm Suqeim 2 which offers most services including A&E, and Emirates Hospital is near the Water Canal in Jumeirah 2. King’s College Hospital London has a small outpost in Umm Suqeim 1.
There are also innumerable clinics for aesthetic dentistry and plastic surgery along Jumeirah Beach Road and Al Wasl Road.
Conveniently, every major supermarket brand is well represented in these neighbourhoods. Spinneys, Carrefour, Park n Shop, Choithrams, Waitrose and Union Co-op all have branches, and there are multiple artisanal bakeries and premium butchers along Jumeirah Beach Road.
Shopaholics will love Mercato Shopping Mall, a mid-market plaza in the centre of Jumeirah selling everything from clothes to cosmetics. Box Park is a youthful outdoor shopping centre that runs along Al Wasl Road, and for designer garments, Galleria Mall and City Walk are on the outer edge of Jumeirah 1, while Mall of the Emirates is minutes away from Umm Suqeim 3.
Residents near Jumeirah Beach Road will notice fairly incessant traffic noise, plus the sound of overexcited car owners revving their large engines. The arterial roads of Al Thanya, Al Manara, Umm Al Sheif and Al Athar are also busy. There are lots of mosques in the area, so the call to prayer can often be heard coming from many quarters.
Villas near schools and nurseries are very popular, in part because they enable nannies to pick up the children, while their parents are at work. Large gardens are popular among expats, but harder to find. The properties in Jumeirah rent for more, because they are a closer commute to DIFC.
If you have children, estate agent Mr Tregoning recommended living in a gated community.
“If you want to live by the sea, there are several family compounds in walking distance from Sunset Beach and Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim.
“If you’re unmarried, or don’t have children yet, many of the apartments behind Sunset Mall in Jumeirah have sea views, and you’re only a few minutes’ walk from the beach and the popular seaside running track.
“Plus, don’t forget, you can now cycle all the way from Jumeirah Open Beach to the Meydan Cycling Track.”
Most residents seem to congregate around the beach, and as a consequence there is an outdoorsy, sporty atmosphere to both Umm Suqeim and Jumeirah. Both areas are very popular with families, as there is plenty of space in the parks and beaches for children to run around.
Mr Tregoning considered it one of the best places to live in Dubai.
“It’s a mature area of the emirate, based right in the centre of town, with a greater variety of accommodation options compared to the identikit communities further into the desert. It’s a great place to live, if you can afford the rent.”
Author: The National News