Tag Archives: Children Dubai

2nd December 2014

Dubai for Kids – My Top 10 Picks

IMG_6922As it’s National Day in the UAE today, I thought a post about my hood was appropriate.

Since moving to Dubai, one thing that friends and family back in the UK seem surprised about is that the city is great for kids. There is this perception that living in a desert climate and Muslim culture wouldn’t be compatible with family life. Of all the misconceptions that people overseas have about Dubai, this is the one that really winds me up. Because this city is absolutely focused around family life and I think (and hope) that my boys have a very happy life here.

As well as being a mum with two little boys to entertain, I visit and review a lot of places in the city for the various publications I work for, so I like to think I have pretty good insider knowledge of where is good to head. So to celebrate National Day, here are top 10 places in Dubai to hang out with kids…

1 – The Beach at JBR

www.thebeach.ae

Location for taxi driver: JBR at Dubai Marina

Public Transport: JLT Metro Station (and walk over the bridge towards sea).

I’m probably a bit biased about this one, as I can see it from my bedroom window – but this area of Dubai, running in front of JBR complex, just keeps getting better. Not only is there a stretch of soft white sand for kids to play on and splash in the shore, but there are a plethora of kid-friendly restaurants, a splash zone attraction for toddlers, and now an inflatable play area in the sea for older kids (and adventurous adults).

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2 – Kids Connection at WAFI

www.wafi.com

Location for taxi driver: WAFI Mall (and follow signs in mall for Café Court)

Public Transport: Al Jadaf Metro Station

I’m not usually a fan of indoor play areas (although we don’t have much choice in the summer months) but I do love Kids Connection. Not many people seem to know about this quiet play area, where they have recreated an outdoor play area on the inside, complete with countryside murals on the wall and a range of traditional wooden play things, including climbing frames, seesaws and swings.

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3 – The Lost Chambers at Atlantis

www.atlantisthepalm.com

Location for taxi driver: Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah

Public Transport: Monorail from terminal next to One & Only Royal Mirage

We love this day out. Park the car (or catch a cab) to the monorail terminal next to One & Only Royal Mirage, jump on the monorail that runs up the trunk of Palm Jumeirah, and you will arrive at disney-esque hotel Atlantis The Palm. Inside you will find amazing aquarium The Lost Chambers at Atlantis, which will keep even the youngest toddlers entertained. There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat afterwards – we usually head to Cold Stone Creamery for delicious ice cream concoctions.

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4 – JLT Park

www.jltcommunity.com

Location for taxi driver: JLT Cluster P (behind Armada Tower 2)

Public Transport: JLT Metro Station and walk around the lake

Another hidden gem, this park is one of my favourite green spaces in Dubai. There’s free parking, a great kids play area (a very safe distance from the road), and 55,000 square metres of grass for kicking ball around or laying out a picnic blanket.

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5 – RIPE Market

www.ripeme.com

Location for taxi driver: Zabeel Park, Gate 1

Public Transport: Al Jafiliya Metro Station

This is my favourite thing to do at the weekends at the moment. RIPE Market is on every Friday morning between 9am and 2pm at Zabeel Park. I can’t fully describe how lovely this event is, with foodie, craft and gift stalls along palm-tree lined paths and a petting zoo and pony ride area for kids. We head over shortly after opening for the boys to play, crawl and eat pancakes, my husband to swig strong coffee, and me to sip from a fresh coconut whilst browsing the stalls. If you haven’t been there yet, you must go!

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6 – Marina Promenade

Location for taxi driver: Marina Promenade, opposite JBR Amwaj

Public Transport: JBR 2 Tram Station (you can connect onto tram at JLT Metro Station)

I should probably keep quiet about this one, as we love how peaceful it is on Marina Promenade, which is right underneath where we live. Unlike Marina Walk (the other side of the Marina), it is rarely busy – so there’s lots of room for kids to zoom past the boats and water on their scooters. There’s also numerous family-friendly cafes along the promenade and a kids play area under the bridge.

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7 – Markette Restaurant and Creperie, Dubai Mall

www.thedubaimall.com

Location for taxi driver: Main entrance, Dubai Mall

Public Transport: Dubai Mall Metro Station

There are a gazillion places I could recommend to eat with kids in Dubai, but one that I really enjoy is Markette at Dubai Mall. It is located right opposite Dubai Aquarium, so you can sit and eat crepes while watching sharks swim around – which is guaranteed to impress even the hardest to impress kids. I recommend heading there early to avoid the crowds.

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8 – Kiddies Café

www.kiddiescafe.com

Location for taxi driver: Lake Shore Tower, Cluster Y

Public Transport: JLT Metro Station and walk around the lake

We haven’t been to this café and play area since the weather got cooler, but it was a lifesaver in the summer months – and also when I first had Wilfred and needed to get Stanley out the house. You can have a cup of coffee in front of the big glass windows, whilst watching your children have fun in the giant play area, jungle gym, ball pit, and craft room.

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9 – Reform at The Lakes

www.reformsocialgrill.ae

Location for taxi driver: The Lakes Club, The Lakes

Public Transport: None close by

Another great food spot with an outdoor play area – but this time, you can get gigantic plates of breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner while the little ones play. It’s not the cheapest venue (we usually keep costs down by going for breakfast) but it’s well worth it if you need some time to yourself while the kids are entertained. It has a pork license too – and I can’t recommend the pancakes, crispy bacon, and maple syrup highly enough (my mouth is watering just thinking about it).

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10 – Starbucks, Al Mehemal Street

http://mena.starbucks.com/

Location for taxi driver: Drive to end of Mehemal Street in Jumeirah 2 and you will find it on the corner of 24B street.

Public Transport: None close by

Why would I recommend Starbucks? Well this is probably the best coffee shop for kids in the city – as when you open the door to the garden, a totally secure play area awaits, complete with climbing frame, slides, and swings. So you can sip you latte, while the kids are entertained. Head over on weekdays and you will probably have the garden to yourself.

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23rd July 2014

Why I love bringing up my children in Dubai

Ever since we flew back to the UK for summer, I have been asked the same questions. Do you really want to go back? Do you actually like it? How do you cope with the heat? So I thought I’d answer all those questions in a blog post.

I don’t want to turn this into a post comparing bringing up children in the UK to bringing up children in Dubai. I don’t want to slag off the UK as it’s my real home – and the truth is that I don’t know what it’s like bringing up children in the UK, as I’ve never done it. Both of my boys were born in Dubai (in 2012 and 2014), so I can’t compare the two. I do however know exactly why I like being a Mummy in the UAE, so that is what I will tell you about. I hope this post is helpful for those considering a move to the Middle East (or even a holiday) – and interesting to those who are just a bit curious about what it’s like to be an expat mum.

Children rule the world

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The UAE is insanely child-friendly – and I love the way that my children are acknowledged in every shop, café, and restaurant. In fact, they are usually acknowledged before me with big, silly, over-the-top greetings that immediately make them smile. It’s not uncommon for the baby to be snatched away while we enjoy coffee, passed between staff members as they coo and tickle until he dissolves into giggles. Eyes turn to our children whenever we go – it’s like we became famous the minute we popped a baby out.  Who knew it was that easy.

Friends that have moved to the UAE with existing families have told me that it takes a while to get used to just how much attention their children get – but it’s all I’ve ever known and I lap it up. I love the way that Stanley expects to be welcomed so warmly – I can see his eyes search for a staff member and smile in anticipation. I see him wave and smile at passers by, especially at pick-up and drop-off time at nursery, when he thinks every parent is equally happy to see him. That’s got to be such a lovely way to live, always expecting the best in people and knowing you are welcome wherever you go. It must do wonders for a child’s self-esteem.

Now we’re back in the UK over summer, Stanley is saying hello to everyone in shops, ordering his own drinks in cafes, and smiling at random passers by. I don’t think he’s noticed that the greeting isn’t always reciprocated!

The weather

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It might sound barmy to say that I love the weather in Dubai, as everyone knows we have crazily hot weather in the summer – but the truth is that we are lucky enough to be enjoy outdoor life for 8 months of the year. The other 4 are a little toasty admittedly, but Dubai caters for this with air-conditioning literally everywhere you turn and a plethora of indoor activities and play areas to keep us busy. So we aren’t hot, we’re just a bit cabin-fevered from always being stuck indoors.

For those 8 months of the year when we can head outside, our weekends are spent playing on the beach, eating breakfast alfresco as we watch yachts glide past our table, strolling along the marina near to our apartment with scooters and pushchairs, and enjoying picnics in the park.

I love the weekends in Dubai. We don’t tend to plan until Thursday evening, sending off a score of messages to friends to suggest breakfast or beach meet-ups. My husband does his fair share of childcare at the weekend too, allowing me time to meet my friends for lunch or head to a spa for some relaxation. Whist I miss family and friends from the UK so much, it is nice to have our time entirely to ourselves to focus on our family. And when we come back to the UK, those times feel even more special.

Every colour of the rainbow

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A lot has to be said for the multicultural world we are bringing our children up in. Stanley goes to a British nursery, but is one of only a handful of British children on the register, with his classmates hailing from all over the world. A lot of his friends (and my friends too) don’t speak English as a first language – but that means nothing to him, as this is normality.

We go to the mall regularly at the weekend and most of our fellow shoppers are wearing Khaleeji dresses, burkas, headscarves, and saris. Some of these outfits are quite extreme to Western eyes, but Stanley doesn’t even see them, these outfits are as normal as if we were in the UK and shopping amongst a crowd of summer dresses and shorts/T-shirts. We hear the call of prayer four times a day wherever we are – in the mall, in the car, at home. We hear it so much that we don’t even hear it.

At nursery, he learns French and Arabic – and whilst at the age of two, this involves colouring in national flags and singing nursery rhymes, I love the fact these languages will continue as he grows up. I love that his classmates, teachers, and teaching assistants will be from all over the world.

Our safety bubble

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There is very little crime in the UAE and I love this safe little bubble to bring up my children.  I’m a Londoner at heart and can’t completely switch off being street wise, but I have got used to parking the buggy in an aisle in the supermarket and popping off to gather bits up as the baby studies a row of colourful tins. Children play outside in groups, racing up and down on their bikes without adult supervision, just like I used to do in the 1980’s.  We don’t make a habit of leaving the car and front door unlocked – but we have done plenty of times without any worry. A friend recently expressed surprise that I ever locked the car at all, as her’s remains permanently open.

I know that one day we will return to the UK and I will have to teach my children to be a little more street wise – but having very little children in a safe place is very reassuring.

So that’s why I love bringing up my children in the UAE – and if you are considering the move, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to try it.

So am I actually looking forward to heading back? Well yes actually, I really am.