A drive to Business Bay in Dubai just a decade ago meant bumping down a sandy track with just a scattering of traffic cones to mark the route.
But those days are long gone, with developments signalling major new investment in the area, and upmarket restaurants and hotels, nightclubs and residential units springing up alongside the city’s canal.
Billboards announce “Business Bay is taking shape” and aspiring locals are confident the area is set to become the Manhattan of the emirate.
“I’ve seen Business Bay growing in terms of infrastructure, especially with it now being linked to Sheikh Zayed Road,” said Vikas Pahuja, 39, who has lived in the area for more than two years.
“It’s exciting to see new hotels and there are more trees being planted and a park that is coming up. There are also some great nurseries, clinics and restaurants arriving.”
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Business Bay is part of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision for the continuing development of the city.
The Ruler of Dubai hopes the area will become a city within a city, creating a new commercial and residential hub along Dubai Creek.
Once completed, the development will include more than 500 offices, substantial retail space and will have about 300,000 residents and workers. It is expected to cost about Dh110.1 billion.
Mr Pahuja said a lot of young families were now choosing to move to the area because of its proximity to good schools, offices and the Dubai International Airport.
He said dropping his daughters Kashvi, 14, and Sukhmani, eight, to school was just a 15 to 20-minute car journey.
The only thing the area still lacked, Mr Pahuja said, was a good hypermarket and perhaps a sports centre.
“We end up going to the Mall of the Emirates, BurJuman Centre or Wafi Mall,” he said.
Mother of two Sheetal Wanzare moved to Business Bay with her family in 2012. She described the building of new roads, a jogging track, health clinics and First Al Khail Road flyover that quickened travel to Abu Dhabi. “There was no proper road or infrastructure in the community [when we arrived]. Within a few months, we saw the development,” she said.
“When your child falls or has a minor accident, help is available. But the most special thing for me is the community feel. Even though there is ongoing construction in the area, we wouldn’t want to move.”
For Eman, a British resident who lived in Business Bay until last year, the area meant great views of the canal and a short commute.
But one thing that continually frustrated her was the similarity of the buildings’ names, which made it difficult for taxis to find her.
“My building was in a quieter part of Business Bay, so I had to book cabs, especially before important morning meetings,” Eman said.
“At least 80 per cent of the time, and despite my being very specific, the drivers would go to another better-known building with a similar name to where I lived.”
Mustafa Al Ibrahim, manager of Anbar Cafe by the canal in Business Bay, said he thought long and hard before choosing where to set up his business.
The cafe has 400 visitors on weekend evenings, with customers coming to enjoy the food and the view.
“This area is famous for its international population,” Mr Al Ibrahim said. “We’ve had a very good response and we hope to grow further.
“When we first came there was nothing here and there were no people.
“There wasn’t even water in the canal. Now we have visitors coming here for the view and to enjoy sitting by the canal in good weather.
“Business Bay is the future of the emirate.”