While I was approaching fellow bloggers for my September Collaboration post on Last Minute Eid Holiday Ideas In and Around Dubai, I came across the delightful Tani De Gregorio of Our Big Dubai Adventure. She introduced herself as a new mum and expat in Dubai who talks about the little joys and travails of moving to a new city.
She kindly volunteered to write up answers to some of my curious questions regarding the experiences of new mums in Dubai. From the best times to travel in the Dubai Metro with a pram, to the most baby friendly malls in Dubai to free parks for child recreation – Tani has it all covered!
Together, we dedicate this post to all you parents of new-borns who are still getting used to parent-hood in Dubai. Even if you’re still not one, do give this post a read as it is full of interesting insights and anecdotes.
Over to Tani.
What’s a Comm & Events girl doing when she relocates to Dubai and decides to take a career break to be a full-time mummy? Apparently, there’s a good chance that she starts blogging. At least, that’s my story.
After having grown up in Germany and lived in Lausanne, Paris and London for the last years, I moved to Dubai at the end of last year, together with my husband and our little Mr. L. While I was planning to start working shortly after our arrival, I quickly found out that moving to another continent with a 3-months old baby was not something you just do along the way. So, I decided to re-assign my priorities and to focus on our little family for a while.
My blog www.ourbigdubaiadventure.com came to life this summer with the aim to share a bit of our daily life as an expat family and, hopefully, to give other expat mums some interesting ideas about what to do in Dubai and, most importantly, to make them smile.
When did you arrive in Dubai and what were your first impressions?
We moved to Dubai in November 2014 without having even visited the UAE before. My husband got a job opportunity here and we decided to go for this new experience. With our first baby on the way at that time, everything went very quickly. My first impressions of Dubai were really positive – and very different from what I expected Dubai to be.
People were very open-minded, friendly (especially when you are carrying a newborn) and helpful. Dubai is also very convenient for mums: I wish Europe had as many changing and nursing rooms as Dubai!
With my husband travelling a lot, the settling-in period was however not always easy. It took some time to feel “home”, to know where to go with a baby, to get into contact with other mums and to make friends.
So, how did you get into contact with other mums?
To be honest, at the beginning, I didn’t know where to start. The first thing I did was to check out the website www.expatwoman.com/dubai. I saw that they were organizing coffee mornings for expat mums and just attended one of those. It was a very nice experience that I can only recommend when you’re new to Dubai. That’s how I met three of my good friends only some weeks after our arrival.
Anyways, the best advice I can give is to simply go out and talk to other mums – at play areas, at mummy events, in changing rooms, everywhere. Most probably, they will know the feeling of being new to Dubai and can give you some great advice about what to do with a kid in this city.
When Luca was a little bit older, we started to attend some of the events organized by Aquarius Magazine (www.aquarius.ae), to go to baby swimming (www.waterbabiesdubai.com) and baby sensory classes (www.babysensory.com). Today, I am mainly meeting mums via friends or at the play areas.
Yes, there are many play areas in Dubai but have you also found some free parks, beaches or open spaces in Dubai that are great for children?
Well, during the summer months we have rather used indoor play areas to be honest – it was simply too hot to go to any parks and to play outside. They can be quite pricey, that’s true. But many of them have great offers!
One of our favorite play areas at the moment is Kidz Venture at the Double Tree by Hilton, JBR. They have a buy one get one free offer on Sundays (second hour is free) and a super saver Monday (first hour AED 30, additional hour AED 20).
Plus, there are some small play areas that are even free! At the Monte Carlo café in Dubai Marina, for example, you just need to drink something to be able to use the soft play area. When the weather allows it, we obviously head out to play outside! However, Luca was still quite small when we did so. That’s why we mainly stayed in the area of Marina / JBR / JLT. There’s a very nice little park in JLT that has everything you need for babies and toddlers!
On the weekends, we usually went to Al Barsha Pont Park and Zabeel Park from time to time. It’s especially nice to go there on Ripe Market days (check out @ripefresh on Instagram for details) even though there’s a little entrance fee – but it’s totally worth it and nice for the little ones as well!
And how do you get to these locations? Any tips for using public transport with a baby in Dubai?
We only have one car and, during the week, my husband uses it. So, let’s say, I had to become familiar with Dubai’s public transport system quite quickly!
Taxis are fairly affordable here in Dubai compared to the cities in Europe where we have lived before – and there are plenty of them! If you want to avoid taking the car seat that comes with your pram – or if your baby has simply outgrown the latter – you can even find taxis with included baby seats. We usually use Careem’s kids cars and love them. The drivers are very helpful and friendly. There’s an app by the way that allows you to book everything within two clicks.
I also regularly take the metro. Despite the fact that there are only two lines, Dubai Metro will bring you to some key destinations such as Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta. So, if you’re not living too far from a metro station, it’s a convenient, cheap and effective way to travel around Dubai.
However, consider that there are many places that are not accessible by metro and chances are that you will need to use another form of transport, too. Since the end of last year, a tram is also part of Dubai’s transport network (www.alsufouhtram.com). We use it quite often to go from our apartment in Dubai Marina to the JBR side when it is too hot to walk. It even links with the Palm Monorail that brings you to Atlantis The Palm. Last but not least, taking the water taxi can be a fun way of travelling around with a baby or toddler. Our little Mr. L loves to take the water taxi in Marina. It’s really easy and quite quick!
Are there times when the Dubai Metro gets too crowded for babies and prams?
So far, I’ve never had any problems with that but we are mostly using the metro in the afternoon – probably not the busiest time. There is even a separate cabin that is exclusively for women and children and a Gold Class cabin, which however requires a gold metro card. As we use the metro quite often we’ve opted for the latter and I have to admit that, even though the other cabins are not overly crowded, it really is appreciable to be able to have some extra space for your stroller and to be able to sit down next to your baby most of the time.
Do you also see differences when it comes to malls? Are there malls that are more “baby-friendly” than others?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I think that every mall has its advantages and drawbacks.
Ibn Battuta, for example, is great as it has some nice baby shops and is on one level only. No need to queue in front of the lifts. However, there are no proper baby changing / nursing rooms – at least, not that I know. You also need to go outside and cross the road when you come from the metro station.
Mall of the Emirates is much busier and has several baby changing / nursing rooms but they can be very crowded (pssst, there’s a hidden one in Centrepoint, behind the baby section and next to the kids play area, that is very clean and less occupied!). Our little L also always found it a bit difficult to nap at MOE, but then, this depends on the baby, I guess. I still like to go there for the good choice of baby shops (and shops for mummy as well ;-)).
Marina Mall has an important number of baby changing rooms for its size, I find. Recently however, the lift you need to use to access Marina Mall from the tram station was broken several times – not very baby / stroller-friendly.
Then, of course, you have Dubai Mall where you can find anything – nice baby changing rooms, a large selection of baby shops (we always need to have a look at the Mamas&Papas store and at Hamleys!) but you’d better know when to go there (not on the weekends!), how to get there (ideally by car as it’s a long walk from the metro station despite the fact that it is inside) and where to park (on level 7, Cinema Parking to be able to go directly to the baby/kids stores).
So, where do cool mums shop for their babies?
Well, haha, I don’t know if I’d call myself a cool mum but having lived in Paris and London I am generally looking for the little boutiques, for the hand-made pieces that stand out a bit. Of course, you can find anything you need at the big stores such as Mamas&Papas, Mothercare, Babyshop etc. and I really like them because they are very practical. But it is sometimes nice to see something different.
On hot summer weekends, we go quite often to Times Square Center to stroll across Ripe market, ARTE market or Baby Bazaar, where you can find many lovely things for babies and toddlers, many of which are made in the UAE. I especially like to support local mumpreneurs such as the lovely ladies behind Moxilicious (www.moxilicious.com), Luca’s favorite moccs!
If you are looking for wooden toys (which are hard to find in Dubai), have a look at Harmony House Toys (@harmonyhousetoys on Instagram). They are usually also present at the Ripe Market. Recently, I have also discovered two lovely little boutiques: Poupette à la Plage at Box Park (and Box Park itself is worth a stroll!) where you can find absolutely beautiful clothes for your little ones (I especially like the swim wear) and Caramel & Sun, a lovely little store that has newly opened in Mercato Mall and that sells high-end design products for kids and teens.
When we need to make a bigger purchase such as a stroller or a high chair, we usually go to Just Kidding – they have everything you need to make sure your little one is the coolest kid in town.
Where do you get the best information about what to do in Dubai with kids?
Oh, definitely word of mouth! You cannot imagine how quickly mums in Dubai share information via Whatsapp groups, Instagram etc. Apart from that, I would say www.sassymamadubai.com. You can subscribe to their newsletter and get the latest news directly in your email box. The Entertainer can also give you some nice ideas for activities with babies and kids – and their buy one get one free offers will give you a supplementary incitation to go. Personally, I find Facebook groups very useful as well. The Marina Mums Group for example is very active! Ask a question and you will get a response within some minutes – be it regarding the best brunch for kids or the nearest tailor. My favorite source of information are however blogs. I like to read the reviews of other mums, their impressions of different play areas etc. It feels like sharing information with a friend.
So, do you follow any fellow mommy bloggers in Dubai? If yes, which are those that inspire you?
Dubai has many amazing mommy bloggers and, yes, I do follow quite a few. All of them inspire me – for different reasons. One that stands out is my friend’s blog meandthebump.com simply because her blog was the first I came across when we arrived in Dubai and Mie has become a friend since we met last year. I also love to read Louise’s posts on mumofboys.co.uk – they are just so spot on! Recently, I have discovered Harkee’s blog astheygrow.me and really appreciate her writing. Seashellsonthepalm.com, tuesdayschild.me and mummydu.com never fail to inspire me as well. I could mention so many more!
Last question: Dubai’s best kept secret for new mums?
Without any doubt: Julie Mallon, a sleep consultant, a qualified midwife and health visitor but most importantly a very knowledgeable and caring lady! She is an angel!
When our little L was five months, he suddenly stopped sleeping through the night. We felt helpless as there seemed to be nothing we could do to calm his crying at night. In only two weeks and during three visits (but many more phone conversations), Julie helped my husband and me help Luca sleep through the night again. She made a huge impact on us as a family.
Thanks to Julie, I learned so much about babies and how to interact with them. I can only recommend her! And having talked to many mums that suffer from sleep deprivation, I think Julie certainly is one of Dubai’s best kept secrets. Here’s her website: www.nurturetosleep.com
Isn’t this post by Tani truly a treasure trove of useful information? Head over to her blog Our Big Dubai Adventure and subscribe for regular updates – especially if you’re a new mommy.
Thank you for reading and your support as usual, and if you’d like to read more about any of your favorite topics on Slice of Dubai, leave your request in the comments below and we will try to make that post happen! You can also keep in touch with us by subscribing to the Slice of Dubai Newsletter, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Until next time,
Love from Tani and Arwa! xoxo