New to Dubai? Welcome to the ‘hood, mama! We’ve compiled a guide to get you started, from the websites to log onto when you don’t want to cook, to the places to add to your address book to entertain the kiddos. All you need to do is bookmark this page and start exploring the best that Dubai has to offer!
A is for Afterschool.ae; a fantastic website and resource for families in the city, which allows you to hunt for perfect extra curricular clubs and classes for your littlies. From arts and crafts, to horse riding, to learning languages, to joining football clubs, your kids will feel at home in the desert in no time with a new hobby and new friends. And with relocating abroad never being easy on the pocket (we’ve all been there, mamas!), there are plenty of special offers to snap up through the website too.
Being an expat Mama takes adjustment, especially when you are eagerly waiting a new addition to your brood. This is why we are thankful for the agency Babies & Beyond, who provide trusted newborn care, breastfeeding support, postnatal home visits, and baby-sitting services (for all ages) to make those early days with a newborn easier. It’s not the same as picking up the phone and asking your Mum to pop around – but it comes a very close second…
Need to get around town while you get your driving license and a new car sorted? Look no further than Careem; Dubai’s favourite on-demand car service, which offers the brilliant Careem Kids (providing safe drivers, reliable pick-ups and fitted car seats to keep your littles safe). Download the app to your phone, make sure your credit card details are entered (so there’s no need for cash) and pre-book a time (or ask for an immediate pick-up) – and then simply wait for the SMS to say your car has arrived. It’s as simple as that!
One of the oldest and best online resources for Dubai residents, Dubizzle comes into its own when you are looking to rent a property, buy furniture to fill it, or find the perfect family car. Okay, so you’ll need to scroll through thousands of classified adverts until you find what you are looking for, but stick with it mamas, as a bit of perseverance guarantees far better prices than you’ll find elsewhere.
Discovering The Entertainer is part of the initiation process of becoming a Dubai Mama. So we’re exaggerating slightly, but feeding and entertaining the family gets a lot more affordable when you have a book of 2-for-1 vouchers (the old school method) or the app on your phone (launched in the last few years). Put simply, you pay for a package of your choosing (with options ranging from Family to Fine Dining) – and if you pick places to try cleverly, you will never have to pay full price in Dubai again. Can you tell we are fans?
We love spending time in the kitchen as much as the rest of them – but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the hard work, right mamas? And when you are new to this city and might not even have a kitchen to hand, it’s even more important that you have the best resources to feed the fam. Step forward Food on Click, which allows you to order from hundreds of the best eateries in the city with just a few clicks – and if you don’t have any cash in your pocket, you can even use your credit card. It’s as easy as that.
Looking for a unique way to entertain the fam? Head over to new City Walk attraction The Green Planet, mamas – and we promise they will be impressed! Housed in a giant bio-dome (with air-conditioning, of course), the enclosed eco-system contains over 3,000 plants and animals to explore from the ground, bridges strung between the trees, and from cafes and bars dotted around the attraction. It’s educational and it’s fun, which makes it a big winner!
One of the first things you’ll need to do when you land in the desert is find yourself a medical clinic – and Healthbay Polyclinic, located on Al Wasl Road in Jumeirah 3, ticks all the right boxes. With services covered from paediatricians, to family GP’s, to obstetrics and midwife services (and much more too), the clinic will step in where your family doctor back home left off. That’s one important job ticked off the list, mamas!
You know the score, mamas. It’s late at night and you’ve just realised you’re missing important supplies for breakfast, are down to the very last nappy, or forgot to stock up on things for the kiddo’s packed lunches the next day – so what do you do? Forget jumping in the car on a late night mission, as it’s much easier to download new Dubai app Instashop onto your phone and order what you need in a few clicks – and as long as you live in an area that is covered by delivery, you can expect those items to arrive at your door within 30-60 minutes. Oh, how we love Dubai!
When you’ve just moved into a new place, there are always odd jobs to be done – from hanging pictures, to sorting out plumbing niggles, to giving the place a fresh coat of paint – and we always call on Dubai company Jim Will Fix It for the best rates and most efficient service. Prices are competitive and the team is totally reliable so it’s definitely one to keep on your speed dial, Mamas!
So you’ve arrived in Dubai and want to see the very best it has to offer? We can’t think of many better ways to start your expat journey than by gathering up the fam and heading to the beach – and believe us, when the littlies hit the sand and start paddling in the clear water, they’re bound to agree. But where do you head? We recommend Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim, where you’ll not only get plenty of space to spread out, but you’ll also have a choice of delicious food and drink options (anyone for strong coffee or a scoop of gelato?), shower and toilet facilities close by, and tons of entertainment for the kiddos (if they aren’t entertained enough already, that is). Trust us on this one mamas; it’s a true Dubai gem!
Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim
We have countless shiny malls, miles of beautiful beaches, and swimming pools aplenty – but sometimes, there’s nothing better than snuggling down with the littlies with a good book at home. That’s where The Old Library comes in, located in DUCTAC in Mall of the Emirates. You pay an annual membership fee (but at just 250 AED for a whole year, it’s not going to break the bank), which entitles you to take out 8 books at a time to enjoy at home. It’s a Sassy Mama favourite – and makes a great afternoon trip out to entertain them too!
Adjusting to life inside during the warmer months can be a big adjustment when you are new to Dubai – but on the flip side, this is a city prepared for indoor life and there is plenty to do. You only need to step inside a mall to discover they are packed with entertainment for kiddos – from gazing at sharks and fish in aquariums, to riding the biggest slide in the UAE, to meeting 155 million old dinosaurs (all The Dubai Mall) to rushing down ski slopes and meeting penguins (Mall of the Emirates), to walking through rainforests (City Walk Dubai), to watching films in 3D in kid-friendly cinemas (most malls). Life doesn’t have to be boring, even when the weather is steamy!
Okay, so it may sound like a luxury but a really good mani/pedi in Dubai won’t actually cost you the earth (and is the ultimate mama treat in between school drop offs, meetings and just to grab that half our of alone time). And luckily for us, a great nail bar is never far away, no matter where you live in the city. Whether you’re after some funky nail art or a quick re-polish, visit our guide to some of the city’s best places for the perfect paint job!
Heard of outlet mall yet, mamas? We guarantee it’ll become a regular haunt once you discover the joys that await inside. Located on the Dubai – Al Ain Road (Route 66 – don’t worry it sounds further than it is – and there’s always Uber or Careem), this huge space offers big savings on big brands. We’re talking beach wear, sports wear, kids clothes, home accessories and designer gear (oh hello 50% cheaper jimmy choos). Go with the fam and make a day of it, the dome kiddie play area is perfect for tots and there are food options galore and cafes at which to park the hubby if shopping’s not his thing. If you fancy a spot of shopping Italian style then the new Outlet Village Mall in Jebel Ali, designed to feel like you’re wandering through the stunning Tuscan medieval town of San Gimignano, offers mega discounts and great dining options for when you need a break from bargain hunting.
Given that we live in a desert climate, it’s amazing how many gorgeous green spaces there are in Dubai. While the city’s famous Safa Park has recently undergone a bit of a revamp to make room for the canal and Jumeirah Beach Park has disappeared as part of the same project, there are plenty of other places to picnic and play at. Our absolute fave at the mo has to be The Journey – a kiddie paradise just off the beach that offers a magical slice of wilderness and adventure for our littles. And for more green spaces, check out our list!
Lakes? In the desert? Complete with ducks, geese, swans and over 130 species of other birds? Yes, it’s true mamas, out beyond Arabian Ranches are a series of beautiful man-made lakes created by the civic body as part of an eco project. Go early in the morning or for sunset to catch the most beautiful light, picnic by the water’s edge while the kids paddle about – you can even pitch a tent and sleep out in the desert (without being too far away from civilisation if it’s your first time!). Head out on Umm Suqeim, parallel to the Al Qudra bike track until you get to the bike shop and roundabout – then prepare for a small amount of gentle off-roading.
Psst… rumour has it that visits to the area will be stopped if littering continues (tut, tut) so be sure to leave nothing but footprints!
A real Dubai institution, Ripe Market brings together some of the city’s coolest boutique vendors, yummy foodie offerings and a farmers market of Ripe organic produce for a fab family day out. Held every Friday, the magic happens when the weather cools (usually October) and the market moves outdoors to Zabeel Park and you can meander through bunting clad market stalls picking up everything from cute beach gear to home accessories, freshly baked bread to handmade kids clothes before stocking up on fruit and veggies for the week. Take a picnic blanket and hang out with a cup of RAW coffee and some scrummy munchies while the kiddos get busy in the little petting zoo. There’s even the occasional musician to groove to. During the hotter months, Ripe moves indoors to Times Square Mall so you can still get your weekly fix!
If you want a genuinely Arabic shopping experience with not a mall in sight then head to Dubai’s souks and pick up everything from spices to textiles, gold to perfume. ‘Old Dubai’ (Deira and the area around Dubai Creek) is home to the Gold Souk, a must-see even if you’re not buying (and if you have little girls who love all things sparkly or little boys who dream of pirates and treasure!). Right next door is the Spice Souk, a fave with many of the city’s best known chefs who come to find everything from saffron to dates at the best prices (if you’re a keen photographer then the colourful sacks are the perfect picture-postcard to send friends and rellies). Just a little further along is Deira’s Perfume Souk which offers everything from incense sticks to pure perfume, essential oils to traditional oud – and then… our absolute fave… the Textile Souk in Bur Dubai (an abra ride away across the waters of the creek), packed full of stunning silks, cottons and fabrics.
And we can’t forget Dubai’s modern versions of the traditional souk – Souk Al Bahar at Dubai Mall is not only home to some of our fave shopping spots but also to great restos (especially those with a view of the Dubai fountains and Burj Khalifa) and Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a magical labyrinth of indoor streets where you’ll find everything from art to fashion plus loads of yummy eateries and the option for an abra ride along the wonderful waterways too.
Think you need a car to get around mamas? Think again! Other than having a fabulous fleet of taxis and with Careem or Uber available at the touch of a button – Dubai’s metro system is awesome and there are also water taxis, a tram-line and even buses to jump on and off (and air-conditioned stations to wait at). Dubai Metro is just as great for getting from A to B (it currently runs from Jebel Ali to just past Dubai Airport, covering most of the major malls and work hubs) as it is for getting your bearings and taking in some sights high above street level (and if you’ve got a train mad tot at home then a metro ride is just the ticket).
Remember the days when having curtains made took weeks and involved several visits to source fabric? Or when getting that chair reupholstered meant trying to squeeze it into the trunk of your car before schlepping across town? Well, that’s just not the way it’s done in Dubai, home to thousands of skilled tailors and craftsmen who weave (and sew) their magic into our homes and wardrobes. Need custom made blinds or cushions? Not a problem (visit our list of where to get things made) – or maybe you have a favourite dress you’d like to have copied? Well, then a trip to Satwa for the most amazing choice of fabrics and tailors (plus lots of other cool little trinkets – read our guide for inspo) is a must. And anything is possible from the comfort of your own home – if you can’t get out and about then the fabrics and craftsmen can come to you. Amazing.
Okay so you’ve bought your dream dresser on Dubizzle… now what?! You need to get that thing collected and delivered to your home (and our bets are that hubby isn’t going to help). Whether you’re shifting furniture, moving house, buying up heavy plant pots or finally getting rid of that bookshelf you’ve never really liked – rent a van (and man) to help. You’ll find loads of them recommended by friends, neighbours, school mamas, your gardener – there’ll probably be a few ‘man with van’ business cards stuck under your door each day.
Basically, if you need a van – with a man – then don’t worry, this city can do it!
Trust us, when it’s hot hot hot out there, a visit to one of the UAE’s fab water-parks is going to be high on your list of priorities. There are 2 main water-parks in Dubai – Aquaventure at Atlantis, The Palm and Wild Wadi at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – both perfect for a family day out. Want something a little smaller? The splash pad at The Beach, JBR and Splash ‘N Party in Safa 2 will suit younger kiddos who can’t handle crazy slides yet. There are water-parks galore to choose from across the UAE – from those you can spend the night at (yes, really) to inflatable water fun areas out at sea – check out our full list and take the plunge!
If there’s one thing we’re not short of in Dubai it’s hotels… but here’s one with a difference. Hidden in the heart of the beautiful historical Al Fahidi neighborhood on the Creek (a must-visit for anyone living or visiting Dubai), XVA Art Hotel is a former home turned boutique hotel offering only 14 individually designed rooms, an award winning restaurant and the perfect place at which to escape the world (there are 3 tree-shaded courtyards that are also air-conditioned in the summer and that we long to lounge in with a book). Also home to the XVA Cafe (Gordon Ramsay says it’s his fave in Dubai), rumoured to have the best cheesecake and mint tea in the city. The hotel’s art gallery and design shop are just the thing for picking up something gorgeous to recreate the magic at home.
And breathe… you’ve moved to one of the most exciting city’s in the world but life here can seem challenging at first (visas, home rental, school placements etc). We know just the thing to chill you out and make you feel like you’re ready for life here, for navigating the crazy roads and for the beach (the infamous ‘Dubai stone’ – or 14 lbs of excess weight that most of us gain when we move here can be avoided!). From ‘hot’ yoga to pilates, buggy fit to hooping (as in hula) – check out 15 of our fave workouts that’ll make you feel right at home.
Time to get familiar with some of the local flavours mama! Zaroob is one of our fave spots to grab a bite in Dubai – with the most insane menu of fresh juices and a cool, eclectic interior that combines elements from Arabic culture with a modern twist (think traditional fabrics and hints of neon). The Arabic street food inspired menu is a big hit with our team (and the kids – who love dipping into hummus and eating with fingers). We highly recommend the saj bread wraps, fattoush salad and super falafel. Oh… and they’re open 24 hours a day in case you get the munchies at midnight!