Only 30 years ago, Shaikh Zayed Road was a two-lane thoroughfare extending into the desert. In those days, it was known as Defence Road. Then in the mid-1990s, 30km of sealed roadway was added and the name was changed. Today, Shaikh Zayed has expanded into a 10-lane road that extends 55km to the Abu Dhabi border and forms part of the E11, the longest highway in the UAE, which stretches from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al Khaimah.

As Dubai's population has grown and various residential developments, free zones and commercial towers have sprung up along it, the road has progressively widened. With the Dubai Metro Red Line shadowing much of its route, Shaikh Zayed Road will soon become a public transport hub too.

So what's it like living in the fast lane? Where are the best spots to buy? And what will it be like once the construction dust settles? asks the residents of Dubai's main drag for their thoughts.

Dubai Marina

This waterside development is off Interchange 5 between Jebel Ali Free Zone and the Dubai Internet and Media cities, with many buildings − such as Marina Diamond, Marina Residence, Emaar's Marina Towers − overlooking Shaikh Zayed Road. Properties in the secondary market fetch Dh2,432/f², according to Landmark Advisory.

Part of the New Dubai, Dubai Marina comprises of more than 200 high-rises and residential skyscrapers, all positioned close to the man-made waterway. It is considered one of the more desirable places to live in Dubai because of its location and proximity to entertainment and leisure facilities.

Justin Stevenson, listings manager for Sherwoods International Property Consultants, says, "Marina villas and apartments have held their price exceptionally well; not only is it in an excellent location but it provides an array of lifestyle opportunities."

Joel Paz who lives in Yacht Bay Residence just off Shaikh Zayed Road agrees. "The location is perfect. Especially if you need quick access to Shaikh Zayed Road, towards either Abu Dhabi or Dubai."

However, rents and purchase prices are high and the extensive construction under way in the Marina and near the entrance to The Palm Jumeirah means a lot of noise and disruption for its residents. Joel views traffic as one of the biggest problems of being located so close the Shaikh Zayed.

However, he says the location does have its advantages. "Since I can see Shaikh Zayed Road from my building, I can plan out my route when the road is in gridlock,"
says Joel.

Traffic flow has been improved by the opening of new flyovers and interchanges in the vicinity. Parking varies building to building, with most residents having one allocated space. Due to its location, finding a cabs is never a problem. "You can easily hail a taxi and never get rejected by one in or out of Marina," says Joel.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers

Usually referred to as JLT, this development comprises 79 skyscrapers constructed around four artificial lakes, only one of which is currently filled. Upon completion, the area will be covered by lakes, waterways and landscaping totalling 730,000m². However, the development is still in its infancy and is surrounded by construction sites. Property prices here in the secondary market are Dh800-900/ft², according to Sherwoods Independent Property Consultants.

"JLT is an area that has been affected by an almost 40% drop in value with only 50% built and construction ongoing meaning that some amenities are yet to be enjoyed," says Justin. Jane Kennedy, who lives in Green Lakes Towers,
overlooking Shaikh Zayed Road, says ongoing construction and one-way internal roads are the main disadvantages of the area. "The downs include the construction noise from adjacent buildings and the weird internal road network of Jumeirah Lakes Towers," she says.

Although construction is an eye sore for its residents, people flock to JLT's apartments due to their reasonable prices.
"JLT is a good alternative to the Marina at a slightly lesser rate per ft²," says Michael Michael, sales director, Landmark Properties.

"The difference between the two is Shaikh Zayed Road, which splits them. However, once the lakes and construction are complete, JLT will offer a more laid-back environment but again, with ease of access to Shaikh Zayed Road."
Despite the circuit-style internal roads, the area does not suffer from too much traffic.

"It can be a little slow on Shaikh Zayed but I always drive against the traffic. Compared to the other end of Shaikh Zayed, near the Trade Centre and Burj Dubai, the JLT section's a dream," says Jane. She also enjoys the view of Shaikh Zayed Road from the 31st floor apartment.

"From our bedroom window we can see the whole of Shaikh Zayed lit up at night: from Dubai Marina to Business Central Towers, with Burj Dubai in the background. The view from the pool is similar. The view from the gym, however, is even more amazing: you can see past JBR to the Gulf and The Palm."
The amenities and quality of the new buildings in JLT have made the area popular. "The ceilings are high, the kitchen has beautiful granite benches and the en-suites are well thought out. The entire apartment has gorgeous wooden floors," says Jane.

TECOM

Just off Shaikh Zayed Road near The Greens, the Dubai Technology, E-Commerce and Media Free Zone (TECOM) has a mix of commercial and residential properties. Apartment prices in the secondary market are 1,678/ft², according to Landmark Advisory.

"TECOM is more of a commercial hub," says Michael. "This area is more attractive to those living and working in the TECOM area as well as Knowledge Village, Media and Internet City. However, TECOM's easy access to the new Metro and Shaikh Zayed Road offer an added benefit to properties in the area."

The area is in close proximity to the shops and cafes of The Greens, as well as the restaurants of the Media Rotana Barsha and Grand Millennium hotels.

Kevin Broad, who lives just a five-minute walk away from Shaikh Zayed Road, thinks the area is well positioned but overpriced. "I think the location that I live in as convenient for many reasons such as its proximity to Abu Dhabi, Media City and facilities like Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta and the beach. I still don't think that it's good value for the price that I pay," he says.

Kevin and his wife lives close to the Dubai Metro Red Line, which for the time being is a source of annoyance. "I will be living near a Metro station once it is completed. There appears to be a station, which is about a five-minute walk away, which will be very convenient. They are also starting to do some construction next to the line in TECOM, which I think will be related to the Metro that is now starting to disrupt traffic badly."

Being surrounded by construction sites and roadworks, TECOM has been subject to a lot of noise, disruption and traffic congestion.

"The roadworks which have been taking place between the TECOM and The Greens area have been going on for as long as I can remember," says Kevin. "Our area as a whole is an unfinished construction site with very little street lighting, no street names/numbers (making it very hard to get cabs) and little to no landscaping or communal green areas. Also, people use the roads around our area to dodge Salik gates."

Rush hour on Shaikh Zayed Road is another negative point. "It can sometimes take up to 45 minutes during rush hour to travel about 500m from my apartment to the Eppco petrol station on Shaikh Zayed Road. Fortunately, I don't work 9 to 5 but even outside these hours there is always traffic," he says.

Al Barsha

Al Barsha's residential offerings include some apartment blocks situated on the stretch of Shaikh Zayed Road between TECOM and Mall of the Emirates.

The area is divided into two different zones; the main area, which features a number of large villas with big gardens, and Al Barsha 1, located near Mall of the Emirates which is comprised of a number of apartment blocks. The area is bounded to the north by Al Sufouh, to the west by Emirates Hills, the east by Al Quoz and to the south by Al Khail Road.

Although about 75% of property here is locally-owned and inhabited, there are a few freehold buildings. "The recent release of a number of residential apartment blocks has made this area more attractive for young individuals who prefer to live slightly outside the more populated areas,"
says Michael.

Al Barsha's close proximity to Shaikh Zayed Road and accessibility to most parts of Dubai also makes it popular.

Rachael Ricketts, who lives between the Holiday Inn Dubai, Al Barsha and Golden Tulip Al Barsha, chose the area for its location, but isn't very impressed with the quality of her apartment.

"The amenities are not good. Now they have gotten rid of the swimming pool and car parking, the aerial has been cut off, lift is not working, and the gym is now an office for the construction company," she says.

Dubai International Financial Centre

DIFC is a financial free zone. Although the main Gate District of DIFC is comprised mainly of offices, there are also a number of retail and residential units completing the upcoming 'city within a city.'

"DIFC is very popular among investors who want to buy to let, however the property is yet to be completed," says Justin. "Certain buyers will pay a premium for the access to Shaikh Zayed but these are usually the professional bachelors in Dubai."

As the financial centre of Dubai, DIFC attracts people who work in the industry. "We would compare this to the Canary Wharf of London whereby city executives, high profile law firms and financial staff would be attracted to living in this commercial hub," says Michael.

"DIFC currently has the highest rate/ft² due to its demand and preference for the restricted number of units against the number of employees in the area."

The DIFC Apartments, formerly known as the Jumeirah Suites, is a residential pocket. These serviced apartments can be found in the DIFC Gate Village and consist of 36 penthouses, 37 apartments and four live work units. Located on the podium level, this complex includes a reception, residents' lounge, conference/business centre, spa as well as dining options.

Properties in the secondary market at DIFC are priced 3,0841/ft², according to Landmark Advisory. Although the DIFC Apartments complex is the only functional freehold residential area, more apartments are under construction.

DIFC's location just off Shaikh Zayed Road, near the Emirates Towers places the area at the heart of Dubai and made it popular with young professionals. Here, life in the fast lane can't get any faster.