Satwa, the “Rogue City”

Satwa is the comfortable sweatshirt on the floor of the luxury closet that is Dubai. One of the oldest sections of town, it was slated for demolition just a few years ago, before historians protested that its extinction would be a huge loss for the city. So just blocks from the hoity toity Jumeirah Beach and the shiny modernistic City Walk, you can walk through what feels like a different country. Satwa feels like India perhaps, or the Phillipines, or maybeChina – or a mixture of all. Satwa is dirty and a bit torn up and above all, authentic.
Here you can buy just about anything, and at a fraction of the prices at Dubai Mall just a few kilometers away. Jimmy and I came here to get some clothes altered, and decided to get a nice business suit tailor made for Jimmy. Why not? Satwa is full of tailors and textile shops and the prices are incredible. We ate at Ravi Restaurant, which has become a local cult favorite but is still as it always has been – slightly gritty, down to earth, with amazing food at rock bottom prices (our dinner bill was 34 dirhams, or less than ten U.S. dollars). Satwa has been called the “rogue city” of Dubai, because it does not follow the rules: it is not perfectly clean and new and shiny. Just the opposite, and that is what makes it special in this city were everywhere else strives for perfection.
In the middle of Satwa is the very busy mosque, which is an important part of the neighborhood’s daily life. Shops here shut down totally from 1 to 4pm – and in the evenings especially everything comes back to life with color and with sound. If you are in Dubai, and want to travel to a different land, you do not have to go any further than Satwa.

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