My Dubai Rent takes you inside a reader's home to have a look at what they get for their money, how much they pay in rent and asks them what they like and don't like
Seven years ago Shereen Shabnam and her family began renting a mature four-bedroom villa close to a newer dynamic district of Dubai.
As a public relations content strategist for PR agencies and the media industry, Ms Shabnam values the central location of the home at Al Badaa, opposite the City Walk shopping, dining and residential destination and close to Downtown Dubai and Al Badaa Park.
The Fijian lives with her British husband, Eric, an English language specialist and stage actor, and their daughter, Natasha, 23, a forensics and criminology graduate.
Ms Shabnam, 50, took The National on a tour of their spacious villa.
Please tell us about your home
It has two floors, four bedrooms, with three bathrooms upstairs.
Downstairs is the kitchen, a maid’s room and a guest bathroom, a storage room, and our living room.
The unique selling point is having a private garden area with a view of Burj Khalifa, as well as a courtyard with a pool.
Our kitchen is where we spend the most time, as we cook a lot. It has a handy walk-in pantry.
The garage accommodates all three of our cars and our entrance is on a service lane, so it is very serene … a nice quiet street with no traffic coming through.
Where were you residing before moving to this address?
We lived for a long time in University City, in Sharjah, also in a four-bedroom villa.
And then for a few years in Mirdif, Dubai.
But we always wanted to live in this particular area given my erratic schedule as a media/PR personality.
After 23 years in the media/PR industry in the UAE, I work closely with four PR agencies for content strategy, including Coral Coast PR.
Why did you choose to live in this area?
Location was key to me. I have clients all over the city, so being central in Dubai was an important consideration.
I saw this place in 2015 and was determined to move in the minute a villa became available.
What are the advantages of being at this address?
We are right across the road from City Walk and next to a branch of Life Pharmacy with an Aswaaq supermarket and a Carrefour Express right on our doorstep.
I love that my office at Aspin Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road is less than 10 minutes away and the “family gym” at Shangri-La Dubai (near Financial Centre metro station) is just next door to that.
I believe in living a wholesome quality of lifestyle and to avoid spending time on the roads, driving in traffic.
Is it a sociable neighbourhood?
Yes, we have our neighbours gathering in the courtyard in the winter whenever possible, but the kids tend to get together more regularly.
How have you made the villa feel like home?
We are all keen readers, so every part of the house has a book library and collectively we have over 1,000 books in the villa – plus a comic collection.
There is also a hat collection, a shoe collection and a model car collection – to reflect my passion for cars. We are also art collectors.
The furniture in my house is rustic wood. I have a Rajasthani sofa chest that is over 100 years old and takes eight men to move. It’s a bit of a liability to have because of its weight and I would like to get rid of it, but my friends reckon that it is a good investment piece to own.
We only invested in the garden (in terms of upgrades), as during the pandemic we spent a lot of time out there. So, we bought plants and outdoor furniture.
Is there anything you would like to change about the place?
I want to get lighter curtains next time around … I always had dark maroon ones as I wanted splashes of red around the house.
Bills are a bit high, being a huge villa, but the location makes it worthwhile.
Do you think living there offers value for money?
Yes. Our rent is Dh165,000. Most people in our neighbourhood are paying over Dh200,000 for their home, but I opted for an older villa as it has more character. I like all things that are vintage and old.
Do you plan to stay in this property?
I love it here. It’s full of my stuff, my memories and it fits in with my lifestyle.
I have property in Fiji and Spain, but would like to own a place in Dubai. However, even if I buy a place here, I would still prefer to stay in my current home because it’s the most prime location this city has to offer.
Are there any downsides to living there?
Being an old villa, we have constant problems, such as plumbing stuff and water heaters, but nothing major.
But it gets resolved quickly, thankfully, by our maintenance team for which I am grateful.
However, the traffic near City Walk is getting worse by the day as a lot of people use the exit to avoid Salik on Sheikh Zayed Road, and that is a problem.