How to Familiarize Areas or Districts in Dubai

The best way to explore and familiarize major areas in Dubai is through public transport. Take the metro, tram, bus, water taxis and cab. Buy a silver or gold nol card and you are ready to go. Nol card is the universal rechargeable card use in all form of public transport.


Within a week I’m pretty sure you will be able to navigate the city alone without any trouble. Dubai is physically divided into nine sectors which are then divided up into communities or administrative regions in Dubai. Borders are usually defined by roads. A complete list is available from the Dubai Municipality Geographic Information Systems Center.

If you're starting to look for a job, you have to get familiar with these areas:
  • Downtown Dubai – This where the Dubai Mall area is and other business hub of the city. 
  • Al Karama 
  • Deira 
  • Bur Dubai 
  • Dubai Marina / Jumeirah Beach Residence 
  • Al Barsha 
  • Jebel Ali / Free Zone / Al Maktoum International Airport/ Dubai Investment Park Dubai Expo 2020 Festival City 
  • Media City/Knowledge Village/ Internet City 
  • Global Village/Dragon Mart / Academic City 
  • Studio City /Motor City 
Some of the more well-known areas and places for Filipinos to live in Dubai are:
(Excerpt from Dubai Government website)
  • Al Barsha - residential area near Ski Dubai and Mall of the Emirates on the way to Emirates Hills, popular with Western expats. 
  • Al Garhoud - residential area between Dubai International Airport and the Dubai Festival City development. The Aviation Club, Deira City Centre, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Dubai Tennis Stadium, The Irish Village and Welcare Hospital are approximately in this area as well as the new Park Hyatt hotel. Also a few new car showrooms. 
  • Al Hamriya - on Deira side of Dubai along the coast towards Mamzar Beach Park, older more established area (there's also an Al Hamriya in Bur Dubai but people are usually talking about the one in Deira when they mention Hamriya). 
  • Al Karama - well known for cheap shopping (fake goods and pirated DVDs), residential area popular with Asian nationalities, near Dubai Central Post Office (CPO) and Burjuman center. 
  • Al Mamzar - near Sharjah on the coast. Residential area more popular with Emiratis. Al Mamzar Beach Park is popular. 
  • Al Muntasa (Al Muntasah / Muntazah) - between Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall and Jebel Ali. 
  • Al Muraqqabat - Deira, apartment buildings and commercial activities with a few hotels. 
  • Al Quoz - mostly industrial areas on the desert side of Sheik Zayed Road between Safa Park and Al Barsha 
  • Al Qusais - often written as Al Gusais, last stop before Sharjah. Residential area near Al Mulla Plaza, popular with those who want to live in Dubai at a cheaper price - but pay for it in extra frustration with traffic jams (not that anywhere in Dubai is immune from traffic currently). 
  • Al Rashidiya - residential area with many larger villas, between Dubai creek and the airport. Popular because some say it has 'character' (whatever that means). 
  • Al Rigga Al Safouh / Al Sofouh / Al Sufouh - between Madinat Jumeirah / Burj Al Arab and Knowledge Village / Dubai Marina, with access to Jumeirah Palm near Knowledge Village. Al Sufouh Road runs parallel to the coast. Villas on the desert side, a couple of beach palaces on the beach side. Some (diminishing) public beach access. Traffic jams in the evenings as commuters try to avoid the Salik road toll on the Sheikh Zayed Road, but a more than acceptable place to live, if you can find something. The Al Sufouh Tram will run through there by about the end of 2009. 
  • Al Satwa - between Jumeirah 1 and the Trade Center roundabout. Another suburb with 'character' as well as good shawarmas from the Picnic Restaurant and the infamous Ravi's 'peel-off-your-stomach-lining' Chilli Chicken. Plenty of shops with car batteries and plastic clothes pegs as window displays. Tucked away in the back streets are a few old villa complexes where expat residents poke their heads out of the gate every now and then, cluck at how Dubai is not what it used to be, and return to polishing their pith helmets or whatever it is they do in there (although they'll have to make way for the Jumeirah Gardens development one day). A splendid place to wander about, once. Watch out for teenagers spitting, throwing sticks and stones and generally harassing people, especially women. Several stories and letters appeared in the local press in 2006 & 2007 reporting unpleasant incidents. Parts of Al Satwa are slated for demolition during 2008, and a new, much more expensive, community will rise up from the ashes - Jumeirah Garden City, to be developed by Meraas. 
  • Al Shindagha - near the coast, Port Rashid, and remarkably close to Shindagha Tunnel under the creek. Bus station and commercial area. 
  • Al Wasl - between Jumeirah and Sheikh Zayed Road, mostly residential with expensive villas. 
  • Corniche Deira - more likely to be called the Deira Corniche. Hyatt Regency Dubai & Galleria hotel and residence is here (the one with the revolving restaurant) along with a pleasant walk along the corniche and past the nearby automotive accessory shops. 
  • Dubai Investment Park Dubai Marina - a hole in the ground filled with water, surrounded by apartment buildings, and close to the sea, Jumeirah Palm Island, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, and Knowledge Village. A good spot to live, although can be noisy. The Dubai end is preferable to the Jebel Ali end. Dubai Marina Mall is a decent enough shopping center to service the area. 
  • Jebel Ali - on the coast side is Jebel Ali Free Zone and Jebel Ali Port (from which you can apparently see the moon on a clear night). On the other side of Sheikh Zayed Road is Jebel Ali Village (built in 1977), previously a popular friendly expat village but now a popular friendly collection of run down old villas. Most expats will proudly inform you that Jebel is Arabic for 'hill' (because that's the only Arabic word they know). When they do, ask them if that means 'Ali' is Arabic for 'satellite dish' (it's not). Jebel Ali Village is slated for demolition in late 2008, to make way for a new development by Nakheel. Residents were given a year's notice to move out by August 2008. Jumeira (usually spelt Jumeirah) - older region than Umm Suquiem between the very large flagpole and Umm Suqueim along the coast. Popular place to live if you can afford the rents, mostly residential. 
  • Jumeirah Garden City - a new development to replace areas of Satwa and Al Wasl that are being demolished in 2008. 
  • Jumeirah Lake Towers - across the road from Dubai Marina and development a year or two behind but a similar idea with apartment buildings surrounding bits of water. 
  • Jumeira Palm (commonly spelt Jumeirah Palm) - large man-made island built offshore between Umm Suquiem and Dubai Marina - nowhere near Jumeirah in fact - and partly owned by the England football team. Villas were due to be completed in 2006 but due to development delays (villas started to become available in mid-2007), a large tent city of homeless owners sprouted in Al Quoz Industrial Area 2 where residents played football with David Beckham - a well known homeless person. 
  • Mankhool - part of Bur Dubai with computer shops, banks, tailors and shops selling plastic buckets. Some apartment buildings also. 
  • Mirdiff (or Mirdif) - Dubai version of suburbia. Quiet (apart from the occasional plane - it's on the airport flight path) family living in small to medium sized comfortable houses - they were cheap a couple of years ago but rental prices are quickly catching up to the rest of Dubai. The Union Properties Uptown Mirdiff development with a large Spinneys supermarket has meant residents don't have to drive so far for groceries. And in March 2010, the large Mirdiff City Center shopping mall opened up. =
  • Nadd Al Hamar (usually written Nad Al Hamar) Nadd Al Shiba (usually written Nad Al Sheba) - where the horses race in the Dubai World Cup. Camels too (but not in the DWC - they have their own track). 
  • Naif (or Naif Square) - on Deira side. Presumably people live there, it seems to be a popular source of Dubai newspaper articles that put you off your breakfast. 
  • Oud Metha - near Dubai Creek Park on the Bur Dubai side. Rashid Hospital, Dubai Courts, St Mary's Church and the Cyclone nightclub form an eclectic mixture of institutions in this area. 
  • Port Saeed - some residential accommodation available. 
  • Ranches (usually referred to as the Arabian Ranches) - a popular new villa-for-expat-purchase development out in the desert somewhere. Easy to get lost in, and impossible to find your own home unless you leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the mornings before going to the office. 
  • Ras Al Khor - on the way to Al Aweer at the end of Dubai Creek. Home to flamingos and mangroves - at least until developments like The Lagoon and Dubai Lagoon appear.
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About the Author
RAFAEL ROXAS is an OFW and Entrepreneur. He is an active digital nomad that helps individual, start-ups and SME's establish their brand. He started the projects for Filipino community PinoyHow and FilipinoWorldwide - Q&A, training and information hub. 

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