Seldom does one grow up with the city they live in…

Dubai is a young city. This version of it we’re living now younger still, with all the glitz, glamour, high-rise homes and high-flying life. Not that long ago, things looked a lot different – the incredible skyline we see every day now as we drive past Sheikh Zayed Road didn’t exist. Sheikh Zayed Road didn’t even exist. The World Trade centre stood like a lone beacon in the midst of sand and stone, and it was a simpler time, with simple pleasures and a slow life.

Those who grew up in Dubai are the witnesses of the explosive evolution it went through, in a matter of a few decades. These people have grown up with the city, watched as it matured and came into its own as they did. It’s a unique experience, one only those who grew up here can lay claim to.

What are some of the most quintessential Dubai childhood experiences these people have had, you may wonder. Well, we asked our readers who grew up in Dubai for their best growing-up-in-Dubai memories, and we have them all compiled here. The best lessons and love letters to this city.

It was like living in DisneylandJoanna Kasprzyk

Restaurants open late night and every home delivery was a click away, regardless of the time. And those late corniche walks 😭Tooba Aamir

Beautiful empty natural beaches & sand dunes for miles and miles…Eva Carola Muths

Rigga street and cycling with neighbors around ♥️🍉Dareen Al Sarraj

Going to Sinbad’s in Al Ghurair with family and friends <3Aarti Saundalkar

My favourite memory growing up in Dubai is going to the petrol pump McDonald’s after school with my friends. Even in the summer heat of Dubai, we’d walk all the way and spend countless hours talking, laughing and gossiping- they’re definitely some of my happiest memories as a teenager Zaynab Kamran

Playing football in the lanes at 5pm sharp and drinking orange juice after it, drinking Barbican and pretending it’s beer –  Aditya Krishnan

The ‘robot’ joker in Lamcy Plaza Zaina

Family picnics at Mamzar! And sliding down the half pipe meant for skatingSarah Daud 

The diversity of people. Being out of Dubai right now has made me realise that I took Dubai for granted. The acceptance of differences and opinions is something that I truly missFidha Riaz 

Lacnor chocolate milk for 50 filsMuskan Samtani

School picnics to Zabeel Park and Creek ParkImad Baig

That clown thing in Lamcy Plaza!! Also that yellow Modesh cartoon so nostalgicVeena

Shani – fruit flavoured drink, the only fruit it ever saw, was the ones printed on the canSahil Anand

Going for late night Filli chai sessions with friends and talking my heart out with themSamia Ali

Hanging out at Burjuman – Isra

Used to love the summer here when they would show Disney movies in the cinemaSharanya Paulraj 

Mini melts ice cream!! Jeena Joyee 

Didn’t grow up in Dubai but I did in Fujairah – I miss Magic Corn and walks on the cornicheAmaka Zulu

I think just the privilege I’ve had to experience so many different cultures and people. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. Oh also, minute maid orange juice, that probably had no nutritional value whatsoever, but it tasted good on a hot day after riding all the water rides at Dreamland (if you know the aeroplane on the ride over, you know, that you don’t really know the origin story.)Shelby Gee

The creepy clown in Lamcy Plaza going up and down the pole, the Magic Planet play area in Deira City Centre, Wild Wadi (the OG one) – Ayesha Razzak

One of my favourite memories growing up was going to IKEA when it was still in Deira City Centre which was my favourite mall because I lived in Rigga/Port Saeed for about 1o years!!! Leanne Guerrero

Visting Modesh Fun City every single summer, waiting for those blue and yellow flags to be put up –  Nikita Bhatia 

Walking on Sheikh Zayed Road in Grade 10Kartik Bhagat

Going to Lamcy Plaza and getting freaked out by the Lamcy Plaza clown, going from Emirates Station all the way to the (then) Sharaf DG station with friends, playing football at the Abu Hail pitch with the boysAryaan Asad

Waiting for the rain haha, it used to be so rare that it felt like a little gift every yearHannah Danny

Laban Up and sleeping in the school busNayana Chulliyot 

Absolutely affordable school canteen food and sharing it with friends while playingAlia Aysha Mariam

The Funday section in the newspapers, going down to play with friends, school bus ridesDrishti

Going to Lamcy Plaza and believing that clown was real every time I went thereDianca D’Souza 

Not favourite but unique – there used to be a clothing store called Sana in Karama, only the OGs know about it – Aman Abdilla

Metro rides at night, shawarma runs with the girls, sitting at Burj Park, camping at Qudra! <3 Riya Bubukwar

The DSF carnival that used to take place. My dad had just started a business at the time so he barely spent time with us, but the carnival was the place we went to almost everyday where we’d play games and eat and just watch the fireworks before going home content. I miss that a lot now, Dubai has changed so muchRenishkan Zaveri

Garba at Zabeel ParkKhushi Popat

I loved and lived by e-Junior, every day after school – it’s such a memory for me because I’d be watching everything, like local cartoons and like everything from PBC kids, and then take a fat nap with my momSruthi Rao


Images: Getty/Supplied