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Renting, ranting and the international flat-hunt… - By Rebecca Wicks

Last night I went for dinner in the most amazing flat � it was in one of the original towers in the Marina and was filled with art and trinkets and the kind of furniture people like me (who gets everything from IKEA) can only dream about. I long for a home that’s filled with the essence of me, and not cheap tat from a catalogue shop. I’m sure we all do. But the truth is, this generation rarely has it because we all move around so much. I’m 28 and I haven’t been in one place for more than two years since I was 18. And before that of course, I was living at home with mum and dad � getting my laundry done for me, getting my plates washed for me, getting driven around� er� well, like I do here, really.

I’m quite comfortable here, of course, but as much as I long for a home of my own, I can’t see it happening for a while; as soon as I got one, I’d feel stuck, my feet would start to itch and I’d be off again. Sydney? New York? Paris? It’s really quite possible to live anywhere these days, isn’t it, if you score the right job and set your heart on it. It’s probably why people are investing in properties at a later age, and marrying at a later age, and having kids when they’re in their 60s!

Everyone around me seems to be moving house lately, and of course, if buying isn’t an option, you’re forced to fling yourself full throttle into the rental market. As most of us know, it’s no easy feat to rent a place here. Finding a suitable apartment that’s not going to force you into poverty or desperation over an unreasonable, ill tempered or ignorant landlord is hard enough, but if you’re single and looking for a room in Dubai, the competition is fierce. My friend had to go through an interview process the other day, along with about ten other people. All wanted a large en-suite room in a huge, happy villa, somewhere off the Beach Road. Sounds like a dream indeed, and at 4,000 dhs a month, the cost was actually pretty reasonable, judging by the rates these days.

She’s now tentatively awaiting a “call-back”, not unlike a contestant in a riveting talent contest. Was she good enough? Was she funny enough? Was she pretty, clever, tidy and cute enough to join the gaggle of expats in their dream home? Or did they give it to the guy who came equipped with a 52� TV for the living room and free passes to his 5 star restaurant round the corner? It’s a tough game at the moment. You have to be a player.

I decided to do a little research. If we can really live anywhere these days, how does Dubai compare to other cities? Well, most decent, double rooms here now will cost between 4000 and 5000 dhs. Let’s say 5k. That’s roughly 763 UKP a month. If I lived in London, judging by the rental property website,, I could have my pick of locations for that money. And I definitely wouldn’t be slumming it. I could have a room in Greenwich overlooking the Thames, for 523 UKP per month, all inclusive. For five-quid more a month than I’m paying here, I could live 5 minutes walk from Marble Arch. That’s central London, Zone 1. When did Dubai become as desirable/overpriced (depending on how you look at it) as a city under pressure from a credit crunch?

If I moved to New York, based on what I pay here I’d have 1388 USD to spend on a place per month. Looking at their biggest website,, I could have a double room, sharing with two other girls on the Upper East Side (E 70's and 2nd Ave - Carrie Bradshaw style!) for 1250 USD. If I wanted to “slum it” and live 5 minutes away from Manhattan in North Brooklyn, I could live 5 minutes walk from the subway in a double room, in a nice, fully furnished apartment, for 800 USD.

I wouldn’t have a swimming pool or gym in London or New York, of course. And I wouldn’t have a maid. But I would be able to cross the street without dodging a bulldozer, wading through sand or hailing a cab that may or may not get me there in one piece, due to lack of public transport.

I’m not entirely sure why Dubai � a brand new city of shopping malls and moderate current tourism interest � has suddenly grown just as expensive as two of the busiest, most popular destinations on the planet. Still, it’s an unfortunate fact that until we feel the need to settle and invest, and set up our homes full of art and fancy trinkets, there’s really no choice but to pay the going rental rates, wherever we might choose to lay our hats.

Posted: 18 September 2008

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