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When Aladdin City was announced by the Dubai Municipality in April, it was an addition to a string of other developments planned in the coming years. The numbers at first glance are more than impressive — three towers, a built-up area of 110,000 sq m and the highest tower rising 34 floors. The development will also include 900 parking spaces.
The project is ambitious in many ways, but even more so is its location—the Dubai Creek. A lifeline of the emirate until real estate and retail took over, the Creek embodies all that Dubai stands for — trade, culture and hospitality. Today, the Creek is not only a focal commercial point in the city, but a hub for Emirati culture as well.
Numerous structures of historic importance adorn the waterway and provide an insight into the Emirati way of life decades before the city opened up to progress.
Property consultants acknowledge that while areas such as Shindagha and Al Fahidi District hold immense cultural value, there is potential to drive tourism that will in turn positively affect real estate value.
''The Creek is predominantly known for its historical character, while heritage tourism in Dubai is relatively untapped,'' says Harmen de Jong, a Partner at property consultancy Knight Frank. ''As such the government of Dubai has identified heritage tourism as an area of opportunity and growth. Once heritage tourism has reached its full potential, we expect it will not only attract more tourists to the area, but also increase their average length of stay and drive up real estate capital values.''
Although it seems the Creek has run out of space for further development, new projects such as Aladdin City are testimony to how real estate in Dubai is driven by a desire to create unique and commercially successful ventures. Aladdin City won't be the last project to take shape in the area as there is a concerted effort to drive tourism in the run-up to the World Expo 2020.
''In order to attract more visitors to historical parts of Dubai, particularly in Bur Dubai and Deira, in the medium to long term, a number of government-sponsored projects have been announced,'' says De Jong. ''For example, the Al Seef Street Redevelopment by Meraas along the Creek in Bur Dubai will include the construction of a floating market, hotels, restaurants, art galleries and shops for Emirati handicraft.
''Moreover, the Jewel of the Creek is a large-scale, mixed-use project located near the Aladdin City project, comprising hotels, serviced apartments, offices and residential towers. In the end, the Creek's overall facelift is expected to make the area a more desirable location for both commercial and residential tenants.''
According to De Jong, commercial and residential property prices along the Creek do not show any signs of abating. Still considered by many as the heart of the city, areas close to the Creek in Bur Dubai and Deira command reasonably high prices and will continue to do so as expansion plans are implemented.
''Decent-quality residential apartments located close to the Creek command approximately Dh1,000 per square metre per year in rent. Lease rates for high-street retail tend to be double this amount. However, retail outlets in areas that see higher than-average footfall, such as Al Fahidi Street in Bur Dubai, are typically rented out for Dh2,500 per square metre per year or more.''
The old areas of the Creek mostly have hotel apartments, according to Robin Teh, Country Manager — UAE of Chestertons Middle East and North Africa.
''However, Dubai Culture Village apartments are currently being sold in the range of Dh2,000 to Dh3,000 per square foot,'' he says.
''Eventually, Aladdin City will be a landmark destination within Dubai and properties within the area will command a premium.''
The Dubai Creek or Khor Dubai is probably more prominent as a destination for trade, although its contribution to Emarati culture is invaluable. It is currently bidding to be a Unesco heritage site.
A natural seawater inlet of the Arabian Gulf, the Creek stretches 14km, ending at the Ras Al-Khor wildlife sanctuary.
In 1833, some 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe, led by Shaikh Maktoum Bin Butti Al-Falasi, settled in Bur Dubai. The economy consisted of fishing and trade, and although the creek's limited depth didn't allow large ships, it was the city's only port.
While Dubai has grown and expanded tremendously, the Creek remains the heart of the city. Three residential areas emerged as the population expanded: Deira, which was the main commercial district, Bur Dubai and Shindagha, which is a thin strip of land separating the creek from the sea.
In Bur Dubai, the ancient skyline still stands, characterised by the distinctive wind-towers or barajeel of the Bastakiya neighbourhood.
Historical buildings along and near the Creek include the Al Fahidi Fort, schools, mosques and the reconstructed houses in Shindagha.
The traditional souqs of Deira and Bur Dubai have also been carefully restored and continue to thrive and contribute to the city's economy.
Dubai Museum: Located in Al Fahidi Fort, it was built in 1787. It is the oldest building in Dubai.
Dar Al Nadwa: A two-storey cultural landmark in Al Fahidi District built in 1925. It consists of numerous rooms and an inner yard surrounded by a reception area called Al Liwan. It was renovated in 2001 and made suitable to hold lectures, exhibitions and forums.
Bait Al Wakeel: Built in 1934 by the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai from 1958-90, as the emirate's first office building. Completely restored, it now houses a museum devoted to Dubai's fishing and maritime tradition.
Shaikh Saeed's House: The official residence of the late Shaikh Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai from 1912-58. In use since 1896, the house features a rare collection of historical photographs, coins, stamps and documents.
Read about the vibrant commercial hub in old Dubai
Source: Suhaib Abdullakutty, Special to Property Weekly