Shaikh Zayed Road: Oasis of architecture

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By Alice Johnson, Staff Reporter  www.gulfnews.com

Thirty years ago, Shaikh Zayed Road was a simple two-lane road amid the desert sand. Today it is one of the UAE’s busiest, biggest motorways, with six lanes in each direction. At one end the historic landmark of the World Trade Centre and at the other, the newly-opened Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest tower.

    *  Shaikh Zayed Road is one of the UAE's busiest, biggest motorways, with six lanes in each direction.     * Image Credit: MEGAN HIRONS MAHON/Gulf News
* Shaikh Zayed Road is one of the UAE's busiest, biggest motorways, with six lanes in each direction. * Image Credit: MEGAN HIRONS MAHON/Gulf News

Over the years, towers have sprung up along the arterial road, as if feeding on an oasis of architecture in the desert.

Driving down this portion of Shaikh Zayed Road is humbling, with towers suddenly astride either side of you, it makes it feel like you’re crawling through a cave, or like you’ve suddenly become an ant crawling through huge blades of grass.

Executive business towers are dotted amongst residential towers. Pavement cafés, banks, hairdressing salons, supermarkets, restaurants and outlets nestle below the blocks. Businesspeople and residents alike step just metres away from the busy highway into the quiet cafés, away from the buzz of Shaikh Zayed Road.

Civilised place

Gulf News caught up with some of those found going about their business aside the arterial road.

Jason Cabusao, 28, a Filippino, is a resident of Shaikh Zayed Road.

“It’s a very civilised place. It’s always busy, even at night. I’ve been living in Dubai for five years now and I like it because the Metro is very accessible.”

Ben Parducho, 33, also a Filippino, works as a secretary in one of the towers along Shaikh Zayed Road.

“It’s very cool, there are lots of friendly people. Having the Metro here is cool and it’s very nice.” He has been in Dubai for one year and eight months and was found taking his friend’s dog King for a walk.

King, five months old, lives in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, but likes to go for walks around the quieter areas. The thing he likes best about his walks is chasing the pigeons.

Sumatha K., 43, an Indian, works in one of the residential towers on Shaikh Zayed Road.

“I’ve been living in Dubai for the past 12 years. I work as a housemaid and I have a very nice employer. I like the Metro a lot. My daughter also works in a bank on Shaikh Zayed Road,” she said.

Four Metro stations on the operational Red Line serve the motorway, with pedestrian bridges over the busy lanes of traffic: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall; Financial Centre, Emirates Towers; and the World Trade Centre Metro stations are currently open. Business Bay Metro station will open in the future. Buses also serve both sides of the road, connecting the city.

Numerous hotels also line the skyscraper boulevard: providing perfect resting places for tourists and businesspeople and serving residents with restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

Towers Rotana on the Abu Dhabi-bound side of Shaikh Zayed Road, hosts the renowned Flavours on Two. Each night the buffet is of a different theme. Sunday is flame and rotisserie; Monday is Indian; Tuesday is flavours from Blighty (Britain); Wednesday is seafood; Thursday and Friday is Italian; while Saturday is international.

The Crowne Plaza, on the same side, hosts American food outlet TGI Friday’s for the hungry, pan-Asian restaurant chain Wagamama, and Polynesian-themed restaurant Trader Vic’s.

The Zinc nightclub is open until the early hours of the morning, for those who like to dance the night away.

It also has a small shopping centre on two floors, with a supermarket, chemist, a number of souvenir shops and a newsagent. The public car parking at the back is also handy.

On the Sharjah-bound side of Shaikh Zayed Road, the Dusit Thani stands with its notably unique architecture. Its signature restaurant the Benjarong serves authentic cuisine in a traditional setting. One private dining area provides low seating with cushions.

Those after some regional food should head to Safadi, which also serves shisha, while further down the road at the Axiom café, Wi-Fi connection is free of charge. Subway and Johnny Rockets provide fast-food lovers with their fix, while Shakespeare’s café is a great place for lunch.

Architecturally-attractive and upstanding, the Emirates Towers comprise a business tower of offices and a hotel tower.

Underneath these twin high-rises is The Boulevard shopping centre, hosting numerous high-fashion brand names for the discerning shopper.

Harry Ghatto’s karaoke venue on the upper floor is the place for budding singers: it seems the talented — and not so talented — congregate here.

With interchanges at either end and slip roads serving both sides, access to all the facilities Shaikh Zayed Road has to offer is easy.

  1. Flavours on Two — restaurant in Towers Rotana, Abu Dhabi-bound side of Shaikh Zayed Road. The restaurant serves up cuisine from around the world with different themes depending on the evening. Italian, British, Indian and international nights are held.
  2. Architecture — The best way to see the Shaikh Zayed Road architecture is simply to take a drive down the road from either direction. Start at the World Trade Centre roundabout and view the spectacular Burj Khalifa at the new interchange.
  3. Safadi — restaurant serves Levantine cuisine, including shawarma, hummous and moutabel. Shisha is also served. A traditional dish of lamb’s brain is presented in a sandwich at this restaurant.
  4. Crowne Plaza — The multitude of restaurants, bars and clubs at this venue make it attractive for residents and visitors alike. Views of Shaikh Zayed Road can be afforded from either Wagamama or TGI Friday’s.
  5. Dubai Metro — Joyriding on the Sharjah-bound side of Shaikh Zayed Road is another great way to see the sights. Take a trip at dusk to see the sun setting between the skyscrapers.