Surfing with a purpose

The UAE has a number of websites offering a hub for people to make new connections, to find out about what’s happening in their local area and sometimes just to have a good whinge.

A meeting of members of Abu Dhabi Mums in Zayed Sports City. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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Know thy neighbour – through a community website. The UAE is fast becoming home to a number of online groups offering various kinds of meeting grounds for people looking to make new connections, locate goods and services, find out what’s happening in their neighbourhood or, sometimes, just have a good whinge.

This site has almost 30,000 topics in the “Café” section – under “Community Groups”, for example, you can find a Pakistani Ladies Social Group, a recipe exchange and a place for pet lovers. The classifieds rival other famous online buy-and-sell sites. There’s even a talk radio space, where you can listen to shows about giving birth in the city and volunteering opportunities.

Abu Dhabi Mums began nine years ago when four mums and their kids decided to meet each week. Now, it is a multicultural organisation with more than 600 members, led by a team of volunteers. Despite its name, dads are welcome, too. The site features discounts at local businesses and a monthly timetable of sessions, including playgroups, singing, bouncy castle sessions, infant massage and rides at the Royal Stables. Sessions for newbies take place on the second Tuesday of the month at Zayed Sports City.

DubaiMums organises regular coffee mornings and invites a local business to come along to talk to the mums about its services. Mums also meet up with the kids every Monday at the Extreme Fun indoor entertainment centre. Members also get discounts from local businesses. The site is run by Jenny Ashton, who offers her own business expertise as a property and financial adviser.,

The Dubai site was founded by Leslie Turner in 2011, followed a year later by the Abu Dhabi version. Now, four women of different nationalities work on it, three full-time, with almost 50,000 readers a month in the UAE. Both sites are online lifestyle magazines. “We find the best-kept secret addresses of the city,” Turner explains. Other categories include private sales, restaurants, well-being, home decor and travel. Readers are contacted through four newsletters a week. The “career girl” section will soon be expanded, featuring job offers, tips to set up a business in the UAE and interviews with female entrepreneurs.

Christopher Payne moved to Al Ain with his wife and two sons four years ago and set up his site soon after. “I am thrilled my little hobby has been of so much help for people,” he says. There’s a page on where to go to get your computer repaired in Al Ain, with a fetching picture of the man who works in the shop, and tips for camping in the local area. The site has 150 articles and gets up to 1,500 visitors a day. You can also download a free 250-page e-book about Al Ain.

Dubai Kidz was set up in summer 2005 by Petra Sander, when she found it hard to find a nursery place for her toddler twins. The Abu Dhabi version followed when she moved to the city three years ago, then the two city sites were merged and relaunched as The site presents a daily snapshot of hundreds of services, facilities and events, from education and health to party-planning and drumming.

The American Women’s Network of Abu Dhabi provides so many activities that American ladies have no excuse for being bored in this city: supper clubs, book clubs, mah-jong and bridge groups, and neighbourhood walks, to name a few. Plus, for mums and tots, there are trips to Yas Beach, a Healthy Mamas group and a Truck Derby for kids with a passion for wheels. The Network even has its own guidebook, Living in Abu Dhabi, for newcomers. Formed in 1994 by a group of expats, AWN welcomes all women with links to the Americas.