I know someone has asked this question before but the thread was a couple years old...
I am a mother of three preparing to move to Dubai (as long as DH's job works out) and would love to get any information or tidbits. I'm a natural momma and will probably be homeschooling so any input on those things would be appreciated.
My children are 6 (g),4 (b),and 2 (g).
I think you'll like Dubai, if you can bear the heat and humidity. I don't have any specific info to share on Dubai living but there's a huge expatriate community so I think you'll be fine. :)
I spent the past year in Dubai, and plan to move to Abu Dhabi for the next year(s) starting this fall. I can tell you there are some terrific mamas to be found, but you may need to do a little "digging" to find your community.
Cynthia's got the heat and humidity nailed. There is also the dust. It is a unique and sometimes confusing combination in terms of weather. November through April are fantastic, weather-wise, if you like sunshine every day.
There are a number of natural parenting and hsing groups in the UAE, on various social sites--FB, Yahoo Groups, etc. You'll want to use Google and specific search terms. There are a couple of quite active expat forum sites that can be very helpful with questions about such things as compensation packages, shipping, residential areas and renting, and that sort of thing.
The population is heavily weighted toward expat, but in my experience the transient attitude of many expats, maybe the self-absorption of the work- and party-centered lifestyle of a lot of non-family expats, and the tendency of many nationalities to seek out "their own" presented a real challenge for us. It takes some time, everyone seems to agree.
We spent last summer there, and I decided once was enough. Kids and I returned stateside this summer, and our plan is to be anywhere but the Gulf over summers as long as dh's job keeps him there. We'll return in fall, once temps fall into perhaps the 90s for highs (maybe?). Or low 100s. Lots of people leave over the summers, but there are always families who stay, too. Malls in Dubai try to put on kid-friendly programming, and there are ongoing sport things. Pool swimming and indoor gyms become a staple, and the malls are where people go outside the house. There are several malls, and each one is built and themed differently, to try and keep things fresh. There are cinemas everywhere. Clubs by interest can be found on Meetup.com. There are a number of book clubs and coffee mornings that can serve as a springboard for meeting people.
For me, as a former summer lover and a farmer, it was too much to ask me to adjust to strolling malls as a sanity-maintaining hobby. Over the rest of the year, I was happy to be found running around Al Safa Park and/or walking up and down the public beaches in Jumeira. I brought a bike but wasn't particularly pleased riding it in Dubai traffic. As a family, we tried to get out and see all the Emirates, as well as Oman.
My favorite parts of Dubai are Bur Dubai and Al Ras. I love the old city areas, love to visit the Hindu temple, take an abra across the water, chat with the shopkeepers across the Creek in Al Ras, shop for wholesale scarves, spices, perfumes at the shops. The Metro offers cheap access to lots of the city, and my kids and I enjoy getting a day pass and seeing how much we can do with a day. If you like a broad variety of ethnic food, you will probably not be disappointed. There are a number of kid-specific things to do, including Kidzania, a children's park within the bigger Creek Park, and some little things at Safa Park like rental bikes and little electric boats. Seasonally there's Global Village, which is hard to describe, but not expensive. Jumeira Beach Park has a ladies-only day on Monday, and boys up to age 8 are allowed. I think Safa Park may also have a ladies' day, but I'm not sure. There are several water parks, if you're into that. Al Ain has a nice zoo. Word is Sharjah has a lot of museums for kids, but I have not explored any of that. There is a little "cultural education" area at Shindagha Heritage Village, and the Dubai Museum is cheap and educational (the first time).
There's an organic grocer in Dubai Mall. I also know Life Pharmacy sells many familiar supplement and homeopathic brands, as well as natural toiletries and such. Lots of variety in supermarkets, and we were able to find nearly everything we ever needed to meet needs and/or satisfy cravings. I didn't personally watch TV, so I can't tell you about what's on.
There are all different kinds of residential areas, from grittier, older, "old town" apartments, to gleaming "new downtown" high-rise apartments, to sprawling villas of Emirates Hills/Arabian Ranches/etc., to older villas of Jumeira or Umm Sequim...plus the beach-lifestyle JBR, the airport-flightpath Mirdiff, and more inexpensive (and more bachelor-filled) International City or Discovery Gardens. Some people live in Sharjah for the cheaper rent, and pay for it in commute time.
What sorts of specific questions do you have?
My kids are a little older than yours and were in school this year. Next year, the plan is to use an online school at home.
Hi....I just came here looking for advice on moving to Abu Dhabi! Thanks for the insight. Beginning to get a little excited!
I hope you won't mind offering more advice!
We live in The Caribbean and my husband leaves in 10 days to start a job there. Myself and 3 children will follow in a few months.
His job is at the airport so I guess schools and accommodation should be nearby.
Is it possible to spend about $2,000 per month and get a villa/apt with 3 bedrooms? I looked at Al Reef. Looks beautiful but not sure of location or price. Also...do you know anything about schools??? I have homeschooled for 2 years and we are ready to try school. (11,9,3 yr olds).
Driving scares me! It's so slow here!
My husband is hoping I will do research and give him schools/accommodation to check out!! ...and a place to buy a car. Cars look really cheap?! Do you have to be careful what you buy due to insurance? He was looking at a hummer. Only due to the safety and me reading that car accidents is the #1 killer. THAT scares me.
The dress code is something I will have to get used to. I am just not used to wearing much! Usually a tank top and short shorts.
Thanks for and advice you may have!
Living happily on a little island in the sun
Well, you can probably imagine the short shorts won't fly outside your own house, except on the beach. It's totally acceptable to be in a bathing suit on the beach.
There are a few American-curriculum schools. They are incredibly expensive. One is brand new, run by an Indian education corporations (called GEMS). My kids were in a GEMS school in Dubai last year, and we were not satisfied with the experience, especially for the cost. Most American schools have waiting lists, yet my kids both got into the school we'd applied to without issue. This school is a non-profit and looked to be quite good, but it is pricey, and my concerns with social aspects of expat kids (too much money and not enough responsibility), as well as school calendar-weather concerns, led us to choose against school this year. K12 has a Dubai office, so kids can enroll directly from the GCC countries, but my students are enrolled in the US. (This decision was based on customer service experiences in the US vs UAE.) If the company is picking up the school tab, that's one thing...but even so, there is a lot of teacher turnover in most schools, a lot of student turnover due to the transient population, and all of this affects quality of education.
There are a couple of MDC mamas living in Abu Dhabi, whom I have met IRL and I am looking forward to getting back and hanging out with them! There is an active and welcoming HSer group. What's cool is that there are people from all over the place. A lot to learn, if you're open and willing to get to know people.
Al Reef is off-island, I think, and off-island housing is less expensive than on-island. We opted for on-island, so ended up with something much smaller in order to fit the budget. Considering that we spend most of the day outside during the winter months, we hope the small apartment will be enough for us. Most housing is paid either annually or every 6 months, though more landlords are accepting monthly payments now. Water and electricity are not cheap. As you can imagine, AC bills get high. Internet was expensive in Dubai, but dh seems to think we got a much better deal in Abu Dhabi.
We drive a used Subaru. Yes, driving is aggressive and fast, and there are deadly accidents a lot. But I think awareness and mindfulness really can help you avoid a lot of trouble. Cell phone use and aggression are the top problems, exacerbated by lots of cultures not in agreement about expectations while driving. Avoiding peak travel times, living close to amenities to avoid too much driving, and not getting caught up in herd-think all help. Insurance is not terribly expensive IMO, but then, a used Subaru is not a Hummer. Lots of SUVs, and having a Hummer won't guarantee anything except a lot of trouble finding parking spots. That's part of why we chose to live on-island. We are in walking distance of most things we need and enjoy doing (parks, beach, groceries). Taxis are inexpensive but hit-and-miss for safe driving.
I never thought last year that I'd be saying this, but I am really looking forward to getting back for the winter. We'll be arriving shortly after Eid al Adha and plan to stay into June. I have an 11yo ds and my dd will be 9 in December.
thankyou so much. BIG change of plan! We are moving to Al Ain!!!!! In my maybe naivety I am kinda relieved..lol. I am very island and the thought of all that concrete, malls....chaos was scary. I understand Al Ain is a little slower!? It may be a better start for me...lol. Also, the whole ex pat community thing brings back memories of other places....not all good:) Pretty much every expat on our last island was very wealthy. We were(are!) not....at all. It was quite an eye opener!! but, I made a few awesome genuine friends.
From what I can gather on google so far..it will be easier to find a place to live. There are western schools and there are things to do. It's not completely desolate.
So, I am feeling ok with it and even excited but anxious about my entrance back into the real world!!!
I can't stand hummers but in my panic after reading that traffic addidents are the #1 killer I thought I may need one..LOL My driving also is terribly island. Don't get past 40mph!
So, I am looking forward to having a villa(fingers crossed). We are in a tiny apt here...with neighbors up, down,left and right!! Looking forward to being safe(crime here is pretty bad)....and experiencing a whole new culture. I am hoping we can get a dog!!???? noooooo idea how that would work there. Are there shelters to adopt from?
I am sure I sound very naive and will have a big shock when i get there but feel pretty open to the experience!!!!
Living happily on a little island in the sun
There are dogs and cats everywhere in need of homes and you'll have no trouble finding one. But keep in mind, it is pricey to ship animals OUT of UAE, and if you don't spend the summers there, you'll need a plan to care for a pet.
Al Ain is much, much slower but also less cosmopolitan and so you may possibly need to dress and behave even more carefully than in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi. There is a lot of agriculture out that way, though, which we have needed to visit from time to time for the good of our souls (we farmed before moving to UAE). Housing is much less expensive in Al Ain, and it's not a terrible drive if you want to spend weekend time in the bigger cities.
You're right about the shock, though. You know there is no avoiding it, but you'll be great.
thankyou! The more I look into it the more excited I get! I was so overwhelmed bu AD and Dubai! Someone called Al Ain boring. I think that will suit us fine..LOL Hoping the schools don't have huge wait lists. That is my mission this evening....to check out schools! thanks again.
Living happily on a little island in the sun