Tag Archives: dubai

13th February 2015

8 Myths About Dubai

 

1389369_620256411345722_643562108_nMyth 1 – We worry about being arrested all the time. Friends back in the UK have frequently said ‘I couldn’t live there’ when they hear about people being arrested for breaking the law. But they could live here – it really isn’t hard if you know the laws and respect the culture. If you hear about somebody being arrested, it’s almost always tourists that think they can act exactly the same as they would at home. The irony is that I feel a lot safer in Dubai than I ever felt when I lived in London, there is very little crime and everyone is very honest – for example, if you leave your wallet in a taxi, the likelihood is that you will get it back. So no, residents don’t walk around trembling at the thought of being arrested. Respecting the local culture isn’t difficult either. We chose to come and live here, after all.

Myth 2  – It’s hot all the time. Lots of people hear the word ‘Dubai’ and think about the heat. It is in the desert after all. But we have winters too. They aren’t as chilly as home by any means, but between November and February, you’re going to need to wear long sleeves in the mornings and evenings. We also get a fair few overcast days and quite a few rainy days during these months. When it gets to April, the temperatures do soar and we spend most of our time inside until late October – but the irony is that during those scorching months, we are usually quite chilly as the air conditioning is switched up so high.

Myth 3 – There’s no green space. It’s true that we live in the desert and there is a lot of sand.  There are patches of sand everywhere, waiting for buildings to spring up or used as make-shift carparks. If you drive out of the city, it takes a matter of minutes to reach the desert – and when you get there, yes, you do see wild camels walking around. But Dubai also has a lot of green space. The city is full of lovely parks – from huge sprawling parks with boating lakes, to small community parks to head with the kids and a picnic. We spend a lot of our time at the weekend heading to these parks and spreading out a blanket on the lawns. So our children are definitely not alien to a bit of grass. We can get a green fix whenever we want it.

Myth 4 – You see people walking their pet tigers down the street. I’ve been here five years now and I’ve never seen it. Disappointingly.

Myth 5 – Everyone is materialistic. It’s true that there are a lot of people in Dubai with money. It’s also true that there are a lot of people without it. And it’s true that there are lots of people in between. It’s certainly not true that everyone you meet is money-hungry, shallow and materialistic. The community spirit is so strong here and there are appeals for charity donations and volunteering roles on a daily basis – and people respond in their droves. The truth is that people don’t come here because all they care about is money – they come here because that is where the job is and they want to do the best for their families or further their careers (and that is true for every job, every salary level, every nationality). I have met very few people that are shallow and materialistic (there are always a few, of course, wherever you live) but I meet lovely, down-to-earth mummies on a daily basis that are just trying their best for their kids. We don’t talk about what car we have, where we are going on holiday next, or what we fancy buying our kids to spoil them that week – we talk about the fact our toddlers are going through the terrible twos and got about two hours sleep the night before with a teething baby. Most the time, life is as normal and repetitive here as it would be at home, with the benefit of sunny weekends on the beach.

Myth 6  – Dubai is rubbish for kids. I wasn’t aware of this myth until a few friends at home mentioned coming to visit and told me that they wouldn’t bring the kids, as ‘obviously Dubai isn’t suitable for them’. I was surprised, as this city revolves around families. It’s so much more family friendly than I have experienced elsewhere in the world – kids are welcomed everywhere, breastfeeding is encouraged and accepted everywhere, and weekend events seem to revolve around families. Dubai has a very young population, as people tend to come here to have their families, before returning to their home countries several years later. Prams, pregnant ladies, and small children are everywhere you look – and the city seems to revolve around them.

Myth 7 – Dubai is rubbish for women. I’ve been here for 5 years and haven’t felt repressed or belittled once. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I feel totally respected in a way I hadn’t experienced until I moved here. It’s not surprisingly really, as women are traditionally the backbone of Emirati families. In fact, the UAE was ranked number one in the world for treating women with respect in 2014’s Social Progress Index study. I’ve been trying to think of examples to demonstrate this, but I’m struggling to put it into words. It’s really just a case of being seen wherever you go and helped if you need it.

Myth 8   – There is no culture in Dubai. Of all the myths, this is the one that winds me up the most. In fact, at a wedding recently, I got in a really animated discussion with a man who told me there was no culture (having been here for one day, nicely tucked up in his five-star hotel). There might not be much in the way of culture if you don’t venture any further than your hotel room, but head to the old town (or further afield) and you will discover so much waiting for you. You will find old wind towers built in the days before air conditioning, you will find abras crossing the Creek that have been in operation since the first settlers on its banks, you will find bustling old souks filled with glittering gold and pungent spices, you will find camel races with locals following the animals around the track, you will find historical villages showing off ancient crafts, and you will find so much more.  So yes, there is culture. You just have to be brave enough to leave those shiny hotel lobbies to find it.

And a few things that are true:

– A tank of petrol costs us about Dhs100, which is £20

– We have the world’s tallest building, biggest mall, tallest dancing fountains, and tallest residential tower.

– You can drink alcohol, as long as you have an alcohol license.

– 24 per cent of the world’s cranes are in Dubai – there’s that much construction.

– We have an indoor ski resort, located in Mall of the Emirates



5th December 2014

We visit Ski Dubai’s Frozen Winter Wonderland

 photo copyWe pretty much watch Frozen on a loop at the moment – so when Stanley and I were invited to the opening of the Ski Dubai Frozen Winter Wonderland event at Ski Dubai, I jumped at the chance to take him along.

The event is running at Ski Dubai until the end of February – and the experience starts the moment to step inside the entrance hall, with a series of traditional-style chalets offering Frozen-themed face painting, toys and costumes.

Once inside, kids can play in the snow park (Stanley was too young for this, but the toboggan rides looked like a lot of fun), have snowball fights, lie down and make snow angels, build their own snowman, and have pictures taken (which Ski Dubai will magically add a Frozen-themed background to).

The best bit for us, however, was the Frozen Sing-a-long Session (which happens five times a day).  Enthralled children gathered in the snow in front of a big screen and sung their hearts away to ‘For the First Time In Forever’, ‘Let it Go’, and ‘Shall We Build a Snowman’. And I have to be honest, hearing all those little voices in unison, whilst looking around at the snow and twinkly-lit chalets was a very magical and festive experience.

After the Sing-a-long, the children were invited into the party room to warm up, whilst taking part in Frozen Story Time and Snowflake Craft Sessions. We didn’t stay for the snowflakes as Stanley was getting tired, but I think the story time was just as enjoyable for Stanley as the sing-a-long. He loved it and has been talking about it all day today.

So what did we think? I had grand expectations before we went inside, with visions of bumping into Anna or Elsa, and perhaps even a reindeer (maybe even a talking reindeer, as this is Disney after all). This doesn’t happen – the experience is a lot simpler, but just as enjoyable. Little Frozen fans will really enjoy the whole experience – just make sure you plan your visit to coincide with the sing-a-long. I recommend arriving at the park 30-60 minutes beforehand, so you can enjoy playing the snow, before joining in with the songs and then moving to the warmth for the crafts and stories.

So overall, a really lovely experience, especially around Christmas. Here are the timings:

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And here are the photos I took while inside (bearing in mind I was with a toddler and had very numb hands, so apologies there aren’t more!)

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All of the Frozen activities are added benefits when you purchase a Super Pass that costs Dhs225.  There’s no advanced booking needed.

For more details, click here



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.