The winding pathways of The Gardens, lined with palm, ghaf and neem trees, seem far removed from most of Dubai.
The greenery and low rents have kept residents in the pale pink and yellow low-rise complexes tucked away from city noise for more than a decade.
Cherylann D’Abreo has lived in the same flat since 2002, when she moved from Abu Dhabi with her family.
“When we saw The Gardens we fell in love,” says Ms D’Abreo, a senior sales manager at a media company. “People go to Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah over the weekends to see the greenery. Every day is a weekend for us.
“We live in the same building, in the same apartment. It is relaxed, like living in the city but on a holiday.
“But people initially would ask us why we wanted to stay in the desert.” When the first residents moved to the three-storey structures 16 years ago, there was no nearby mall or petrol station. They drove 30 minutes to a supermarket near Safa Park for their shopping.
The community in Jebel Ali was dismissed as isolated by others and it took some years for the area to develop into the popular community it is today. Ibn Battuta Mall opened in 2005, providing a leisure centre, and the Discovery Gardens area was built up three years later.
But The Gardens residents have always treasured the quiet surroundings. In the afternoon, children cycle from neighbourhood schools Delhi Private and Winchester, and by the evening they are out playing with friends.
The community has a cricket ground, football pitch, expansive park, tennis courts and three swimming pools that are free of charge.
“It was an eight-minute walk to school,” says Ms D’Abreo, an Indian whose sons are now in their twenties. As a family we loved to return from work and watch the kids playing in the ground outside.
“Children get fresh air, sunlight and don’t need to play in the long corridors of most buildings. You can go for a walk, swim or sit on the steps and you are not paying premium money for a healthy lifestyle.”
Rents have remained affordable compared to other areas in the emirate.
Festivals are celebrated among neighbours, with Hindus distributing sweets during Diwali, the festival of lights, and Christians sending across cake for Christmas.
Construction for the Route 2020 metro stations has started near Discovery Gardens.
“With the metro station within walking distance, living here will become even more convenient,” says Jordanian Yusuf Akad, who has three children. “For those of us who have stayed on this is great news.”
As the community expands, security has recently been tightened, with cameras installed across the area and a guard in every building.
Residents say the area is not for those expecting sparkling new buildings with marble entrances and swipe-card entry. Here, buildings show signs of age and have repair and maintenance problems. But the open spaces makes up for that, they say.
“The greenery does wonders,” says Nilofer Hashim, whose three children are aged between two and eight. “I don’t have to worry about how to entertain anyone.
“We have yoga classes on the grass when the weather improves. People thought of this place as isolated but it is a luxury to walk with the kids to a football ground instead of driving or taking a cab.”
Resident Priya Chopra says: “Nature is right outside your door. No two building windows look into each other, unlike other areas where people can peep into the neighbour’s house.”
Zainab Jaafar from Lebanon, who has lived in the community for 10 years with her three children, says: “It’s a different, quiet world we live in and I hope it stays like this.”