Satwa always reminds me of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. It's nothing to do with chocolate. Rather, it's the randomness of the place, and the feeling that anything is possible. Satwa is a complete contrast to the Dubai you are probably familiar with - the Dubai of the gleaming shopping malls and swanky five star hotels. Satwa is a bit rundown, a bit grimy and not a little bit tacky. It may not be picturesque, but it makes up for it with unpretentiousness, cheeriness and bucketfuls of character.
Satwa is one of the older areas of Dubai, located slightly inland from the famous and fashionable Jumeirah. The heart of Satwa is Al Satwa road, which is essentially a square with a rather fine mosque, a bus station and some municipality buildings at its centre. But it is the small shops that surround the square and over-spill into side roads that are the soul of Satwa. You will find pretty much everything and anything in these shops. Need new tyres? No problem, and while the mechanics are working on your car, why not pop into the shop next door and buy a new cover for your iPhone. The shop next to that has some lovely Arabic majlis seating that would look great in a gazebo in your garden. You don't have a gazebo? No worries, the shopkeeper has a cousin who has a gazebo shop just round the corner. Wait five minutes and he will get a boy to bring over a selection on his bicycle. Would you like to buy some new bath towels while you are waiting? See what I mean about the randomness and infinite possibilities of Satwa? If Willie Wonka were to open a chocolate factory in Dubai, I assure you, he would open it in Satwa. And the Oompa-Loompas would fit right in among Satwa's multi-cultural residents
Satwa is probably best known for its tailoring and material shops. The tailors in Satwa can rustle up anything from a simple pair of leggings to an ornate wedding dress in a matter of days, for a very reasonable price. In fact, if you go at certain times of the year, you can't get into the tailors shops because they are chock-full of hen parties organising bridal attire. Meanwhile, the material shops of Satwa offer a dazzling array of fabrics that would make Karl Lagerfeld weep. The infinite possibilities of Satwa mean you will find exactly what you are looking for, be it some curtain fabric to perfectly match your favourite rug or some glitzy fabric for a new evening dress. Satwa is perfect for fashionistas who want to wear the latest trends before they have even hit the shops. Simply take a catwalk photo to show the tailor. Then, choose a fabric, wait a few days, don and bask in the envy of all your friends. It's equally indispensable to non-fashionistas like me. I just take the few dresses I own that I actually like down to Satwa, get the tailor to copy them in various colours and 'ta-da,' I have doubled my wardrobe without the hassle of having to go shopping.
Satwa isn't everybody's cup of tea, some find the grime and organised chaos a bit unsettling. To my mind, Satwa is the ultimate shopper's paradise. It's easy on the wallet, and you return from a shopping trip from Satwa with things you didn't even know you needed. The randomness and the Oompa Loompas are just the icing on the cake....