Since spring is officially here now, I’ve been thinking about our version of the season and how there is plenty of green around even though we live in the desert. When you’re on the ground in Dubai, at times it’s easy to forget you live in the “sandpit” as many expats call it. Take a short drive outside of the city or look out a window a few floors up and your perspective will change.
Dubai suffers from a bit of a Napoleon Complex in the water department; there seems to be a need to overcompensate for the lack of fresh water in the area by creating anything one can possibly imagine that requires a ton of water. I’ve never seen so many water parks in a 90 minute driving radius. (five of them!) The landscaping can be over-the-top with flower lined highways and immaculately maintained neighborhood gardens. There’s even the world’s largest flower garden featuring millions and millions of flowers laid out in geometric shapes and patters, called Miracle Garden. (some people call it “awe-inspiring” as in the linked article, but I find it sterile and too artificial). There’s also the man-made Marina and the man-made islands which are occupied by hotels, houses, shopping and dining areas, all within a stone’s throw from water, of course. Even the names of neighborhoods play into the fantasy: Discovery Gardens, The Greens, The Meadows, The Green Community, Arabian Ranches, the Springs. Can’t you just smell the freshly cut grass and visualize the expansive pastures?
Dubai is also peppered with plenty of parks. Even though all the manicured flowers, grass and bushes generally make me feel uneasy because it’s so out of sync with the natural landscape of the region, I do enjoy the city’s green spaces. When I lived in Austin and Houston, Town Lake and Memorial Park were a short drive from my house and were my favorite places to run (ahem, when I managed to run). Safa Park is likewise encircled by a running track (a bit short at just over 2 miles, but nice and cushiony). On Fridays through June, there is a food and craft market featuring organic produce and countless gourmet goodies, treats to eat, cookbooks and fresh flowers to buy. The food section follows the crafts area which is bursting with products to browse including toys, clothes and decorative items for children, soaps, jewelry, artwork, and pet items. It’s a great place to people watch as Dubai’s diversity is on full display. Absorb countless languages, variations of accent and styles of dress, all while enjoying a delicious snack and a leisurely shopping experience. What a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.
Signs along Sheikh Zayed Road (the major highway that runs parallel to the park on one of its sides) indicate that major construction is about to begin to extend Dubai’s creek through Business Bay, cutting across Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah Beach Road and lead out to the ocean. Part of the transformation includes reducing Safa Park’s green space to include more, you guessed it, water. This is unfortunate because on weekends when the weather is nice, it’s already packed wall-to-wall with families barbecuing, people playing soccer and Frisbee, and children playing. (Especially if you have lived in Dubai at some point, check out this article in Time Out to see a graphic of what it will look like, and then click through the slide show to see other up and coming projects. This city is changing at warp speed.) The parking lot near entrance 5 of Safa Park is already closed due to construction and I suspect this new project is the reason. Of course, this new extension of the creek plays in nicely with the water motif, as there will plenty of new shopping areas, biking trails, homes and hotels along the canal.
A few pics of Safa Park and Ripe’s Market follow. If you haven’t been to the market yet, check it out before temperatures become unbearable. Tick tock!
For more info about Safa Park, check out this post from fellow Dubai blog, Abby’s Roads.