Outdoor life for kids in the UAE

Pristine at the park

I’ve been asked over and over again – “Is Dubai an ideal place to raise children?” or “We are thinking of moving to Dubai and we have 2 kids, is that a good idea?”

Honestly, there’s no cookie cutter answer to these questions. I wish there was but every family situation is unique. And I can only share my insight based on our personal experience. My daughter’s school recently had a Sports Day event a few days back and these questions sprung up from my mind, especially after I saw my daughter actively participating in the sports events, beaming with joy, running around with her friends under the sun.

Luckily, the weather right now is very pleasant so the children can enjoy running outside without the stifling humidity and scorching desert heat.

Sports Day

I get asked by parents who see the appeal and potential in Dubai but who have children and who are therefore naturally concerned about the type of lifestyle their children will have if they move to the UAE. Here’s what I have to say…

The cost of an international school education in Dubai is most certainly a negative factor.  Fees vary depending on the school and the age of the child, but we’re paying US$8,000 for annual tuition (and this belongs to the cheaper category compared to other British curriculum international schools) – factor in uniforms, extra equipment and school trips on top and it quickly adds up to some seriously high sums of money.

If that doesn’t bother you, the next would be the weather.

The next point you need to consider is that the weather in Dubai is not conducive for outdoor play for the majority of the year.  In the summer, it is simply too hot to allow children to safely and comfortably play outside.

We love living in the UAE – if not, hey, we wouldn’t last for seven years. But if there’s one thing that makes me a bit sad about living in Dubai, it’s the connection of children with nature, or the lack of it.

Outdoor life.

Grass beneath their feet.

Trees to climb. 

Those simple little things.

There are green spaces, yes, big parks like Safa Park and other smaller ones in the small residential areas. But our outdoor life here is limited – we can’t really allow the children to roam wild and free during the hot months that start as early as May and end in November.

Pristine’s love the outdoors so even though she was a bit sick, that nasty cough was back, she didn’t want to miss it for the world.

Sports Day

So, where can and do children hang out to play or socialize? Most meet at friends’ temperature controlled homes or they can hang out at the shopping malls on weekends and in the holidays. I admit, it was ok for us during the early years but a few years on, the mall culture can get to you. It can be exhausting and monotonous even with new and glitzy malls being opened every now and then. Mind you, the government is really doing a great job in entertaining us during the hot summer months. There are plenty of free entertainment inside these malls. But somehow right now, we got too lazy to go out every single weekend and would prefer to stay at home and play (though my heart just breaks for the kids when we couldn’t go on holidays during the summer/school vacation due to my work…). They loved the time when we went to Japan in the summer, sweat and all.

A part of me wishes my children can be more in touch with nature like I was while growing up…

With all that negativity aside, however, there can still be a benefit to enjoying a brief adventure in the United Arab Emirates with your family – it broadens children’s horizons (and yours), generally makes the kids more tolerant, enable them to learn a new language (Arabic which is mandatory even in international schools), make lots of friends from different nationalities and certainly more understanding that there is a far wider, diverse world out there.

Anyway, back to the Sports Day event…

It was a pleasant day for the children with the sun playing hide and seek most of the time and wind was cool. We thought, why don’t we bring the little guy out as well? He loves parks and crazy about running where he can feel unstoppable.

Sports Day

I saw the small kids in kindergarten at the grounds and remembered the time when Pristine was that small. Now she is in Year 5. Next year, Ben could be in that group of kids.

Sports day

Pristine was just telling me the other day that it’s horrible her little brother cannot talk properly yet. “Mom, he needs to go to school. He needs education.” So funny. I agree that he needs to go out more with children his age so I’ve started taking him to the park on Saturdays now that I don’t have work on Saturdays anymore (started last December).

Benjamin at Sports Day

When he walked closer to where the smaller kids were, some of the girls ran to him and started patting his head. He surely loved the attention!

Benjamin at Sports Day

Bye, girls! See you next year…sort of conversation going on here. I am already sure he’s going to love school and every chance of outdoor fun like this when he is ready.

Clouds in November

I love Dubai in November. This is my 6th November and I love it, still. Dubai is hot – the kind of hot that sends people on exodus every summer. The kind of hot that wipes out all outdoor activities. But in November? Dubai redeems itself in November.

The summer heat and the gray, ugly hazy sky is gone, replaced with this. Dubai is beautiful now and in the coming winter months (until early March?). It follows the Goldilocks rule: not hot nor cold but just right!

Yesterday, the clouds were just beautiful. I wanted to go straight to the park, spread the mat and just lie down stare at the sky.

When afternoon came – the clouds got bigger and darker. A sign of rain coming soon?

Speaking of rain, we have not been lucky so far. Would you like to take a guess when we’ll have our first rain of the season? Leave your guess date here!

Predict Dubai’s first rain of the season 2012

You know what November means for us desert dwellers? Cooler, nicer weather and RAIN! I started a poll in 2009 to let my readers predict the first rain of the season. Rain comes to Dubai only on the cooler months between November to March. The last time it rained here this year was March (I think) but yeah, we have been very dry for quite a while.

So, when do you think we Dubaians will get our first drop of rain of the season?

Predict a date and win a prize! Here are the rules:

  1. Pick a date from today, 5th November onto the 30th (I’m pretty sure it’ll rain before the end of this month so I didn’t include December)
  2. Leave a comment with your date of choice (your bet Dubai’s going to have the first rain of the season). If you leave your blog URL in the comment form, I’ll link to it.
  3. This post will be updated with the names of the commentors as they come in.
  4. You can pick any one date but I’ll open the bets to three people per day only. Once three people have picked a day, that day will be closed.
  5. When the skies open up and we get rain here, with the road getting wet – the road has to get wet so a 10 second drizzle isn’t counted, then I’ll announce the winner(s)! Naturally, once it rains, this contest will be closed.
  6. I will update all of you of the weather via Twitter, so if you are on there be sure to follow me – @sandierpastures on Twitter.

I’ll include a news clip/article for evidence – rain in Dubai always land in the news so you’ll know this game is fair. ;-)

The prize will be $30 cash via PayPal or if you do not have a PayPal account, an equivalent Amazon gift certificate or if you’re from UAE, a 100 dhs gift certificate to Kinokuniya bookstore is yours!

* This contest is open worldwide.

Now hit the comments with your bets!

  1. November 5 –
  2. November 6 –
  3. November 7 –
  4. November 8 –
  5. November 9 – Christina Cosa (entry received through email), Ghadeer
  6. November 10 –
  7. November 11 –
  8. November 12 – Erika
  9. November 13 –
  10. November 14 –
  11. November 15 – ilen
  12. November 16 –
  13. November 17 –
  14. November 18 – Jessica
  15. November 19 –
  16. November 20 –
  17. November 21 –
  18. November 22 –
  19. November 23 – Christina, Cindy Brooks
  20. November 24 –
  21. November 25 – Abigail @ Nappy Tales, Virgini Shan (entry received through email)
  22. November 26 –
  23. November 27 – m
  24. November 28 – FlippedGarfield (entry received via Twitter)
  25. November 29 – Marcy, anthony peterson
  26. November 30 – Maura

Someone called Iris voted for December 6.

The prize is not much but wouldn’t it be fun if it rains on the date you think it will? Good luck and wish us rain, soon! 🙂

Top photo credit

Yes, it gets cold in Dubai

How’s the weather from where you are? Here in Dubai, as far as the midday sun is concerned, ‘winter’ is already over. But on early mornings and evenings, it is still cool – or cold, depending on the years you have lived here.

~ Dubai winter sky in my side view mirror ~

So when I mentioned on Twitter that I was feeling really cold, our room temperature being at 20C (68F), I got some reactions:

“You’re kidding! Dubai is NEVER cold.”

“At 20C, I will sleep naked!”

“Maybe cool but not cold, that would be the perfect room temp!”

Ah, yeah, these all came from cold bloodied people from the north of Northern Hemisphere.

Truth is, it DOES get cold in Dubai, those days when we wear fleece jackets and don’t want to come out of our duvets in the morning. DUVETS. In the desert. What an abomination, right? But really, no one has the right definition of what is cold and hot. It all goes down to acclimatization and all in perspective. Saying it doesn’t get cold in Dubai is like saying it doesn’t get hot in Canada but I know Toronto can reach as far as 35C in the summer!

It does get cold in Dubai in the months of December to February. It’s the time we shy away from the glorious beaches because the water is cold. It’s the time we take out our ‘winter’ jackets despite the mocking looks of red neck tourists coming from snowy places!.

We tell our friends coming to bring warm clothes and light jackets and of course they don’t…then regret it later and spend their travel pocket money buying one here. True story!

Strange April weather in Dubai





I never knew I’d see the day the these four words would be in the same sentence – thunderstorm, lightning and rain in April in Dubai! Last night was just crazy with howling winds, claps of thunder and flashes of lightning.

We are not used to this kind of crazy weather as you know 330 out of 360 days in a year, we have sunshine, blue and cloudless skies! When the first lightning flashed during our dinner last night, Pristine stopped eating and said, “Mom, someone’s taking a picture of us from outside the window!”

Of course there were no paparazzi around. It was lightning brought by the bad weather that is said to continue until Wednesday, a great break from the sizzling temperatures (read 40C at midday!) we’ve been having lately.

More on the weather yesterday with photos from Gulf News.

Dubai flooding after continuous rain

Just in!! As tweeted (by myself and other Dubai residents) about the rain that evolved from lovely to catastrophic…

Take a look at how the street outside my work building looks like after whole day of drizzle in Dubai!

Salahuddin street 2009.12.13

Everyone should bring their swimsuits when it rains here.

Salahuddin street 2009.12.13 2

Just below where the yellow crane is, is the underground Dubai Metro system under construction. I wonder what’s happening down there with that flood above it! Moreover, I wonder how I’m going to cross that road to get into my car parked across!!

Summer is knocking, I don’t want to let it in

How’s your weekend? Mine’s a hot one – nothing kinky, just blistering HOT. I meant real deal, authentic hot – the temperature that is! Days of blow dryer in your face effect is back again.

Yesterday, we went out to have lunch to celebrate my aunt’s birthday. We had no car (the husband had to go somewhere) and had to walk to the taxi/bus stand, some 100 meters away from our apartment building and as soon as the sliding door opened, hot, heavy air slapped our faces, with some sand thrown in. It was searing hot at 42C and very windy – it was difficult to hold my hair in place at the same time hold my skirt ala-Marilyn Monroe. I had to go back, take off the white halter dress that kept blown by the wind and change into jeans and shirt.

Just kidding about the dress thing. 🙂

Anyway, just when I thought summer is a little bit late this year, summer knocked on us yesterday. Today is also a hot one outside. There’s a big summer sale at a mall just across the road from my office, with up to 60% discount on practically everything but I am able to keep 100% of my money because of the heat. Who wants to go out and walk outside when it’s searing hot?

Sometimes the heat can have its advantages.

Sandstorm, thunderstorm, what next?

The sands were moving as I got down from the bus on my way home yesterday afternoon. The wind was strong. Sandstorm!


* Photo not my own but still depicting the sandstorm in Dubai. *

I couldn’t open my eyes because unfortunately, I was walking on the opposite direction as the wind. The wind picked up the sand and smacked me right in the face, in the arms, neck, all over! When I got home, I was surprised to find sand in my brassiere because of the sand attack!! Also, I swear I was closing my mouth but WTH, I had sand in my tongue, too.

The weather this morning was gloomy. I miss the glorious sunrise!

Sunrise in Dubai

~ Sunrise during winter ~

One thing I’ve learned while living here is that, we really get lots of beautiful sunrise in the winter months of November-February. When the summer season approaches, we get the boring gray clouds in the morning and of late, strange weather like sandstorm-rain-hot sun-rain again kind of freakish weather.

This morning when I drove to work, it rained! Talk about big fat drops of rain and strong winds, like in tropical countries. It was a little scary to drive in the rain. This sounds strange but after more than two years of living and driving in Dubai, the sight of the car window wipers hard at work disturbs me. A lot. I mean, we only use these wipers a few times a year so the constant movement of these 2 black things in front of me is pretty distracting.


~ gray skies ~

But who am I to complain, when usually during this time of the year that we sweat and heave and sigh of the heat and Turkish bath like humidity, this morning’s cloud cover brought down the temperature to a lovely 26C!

From where are you and how is the weather in your area? It it a lovely spring day?

The weather, work and the Oscars

Brain freeze today – must be the weather. Today is windy, hazy and very warm here, I mean outside. In February. Inside the office is cold, the warm blooded people has turned the a/c on again and set it at a temperature that could lessen mother Earth’s lifespan by half.

Then it must be because I am working on a Saturday, the day I most hate being in the office because my daughter is at home. Even after more than two years of living and working here I still can’t stop whining about not having the same weekend as my daughter. I resent leaving her at home because what I’d like to do on a Saturdays is to take her to the park, color books with her, play Lego, read books etc. Simply, I just want to be home, that’s it.

But in the middle of a global crisis and recession, where the number of people being made redundant increases day after day, I can’t really complain much, can I?

Speaking of my girl who loves anything musical, we watched the opening performance of Hugh Jackman during the recent Oscars show on YouTube some days back. What an impressive performance! Pristine played the video clip over and over again until our computer crashed (Hugh did not crash it – the old PC is faulty in the first place!). My girl is awed, keep asking details about “Jackman”. “Why did he call himself Wolverine, mom?”

The answer to that would be easy if only she isn’t too young to watch the X-men movie!

Hugh’s performance is saved in the Favorites folder and she’s watching it for days now so I guess Mr. Wolverine just earned himself an admiration from a younger audience.

It’s raining but I don’t mind

We’re having continuous bad weather for three consecutive days now. Dubai bad weather means gray skies and dropletsof rain but this morning, we woke up to a real downpour. The forecast says more rain will be expected today. Rain is a rare occurrence here in the UAE (although it has rained a lot in 2007 than in 2006) so I don’t mind a little rain every now and then. If only it doesn’t immediately flood, that is!

The rain clouds behind me.

Jan 15 morning rain

Photo taken on my side mirror while driving to work today.

By the time I reached Deira (and got stucked in heavy traffic), the skies have cleared up.

clear skies in Deira

Here’s an interesting photo from Gulf News taken at night in Sheikh Zayed Road, where the tall buildings are. Notice how the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building also the world’s most popular lightning conductor (due to its height) – was struck by lightning last night.

So it’s a little bit chilly again today and I like it. I’ll enjoy this weather until the dreaded summer comes.