Dubai is frequently voted among the safest cities in the world and is a great place to bring up children.
With tax-free living and top-notch schools and hospitals, it is easy to see why the UAE is a popular destination for work. About 89 per cent of the population are residents, and people move from all over the world to make it their home.
Those moving to Dubai with families have a range of options.
The most popular choice is to rent or buy a villa with a garden, providing enough space for the entire family.
As a rule of thumb, the further away the sea, the cheaper the rent. Across the board, rent and sales prices are on the rise, but it's still possible to find a great deal on a family home.
With so many districts on offer, it can be hard to choose, so The National has collated some options for you. Here are five fantastic areas in Dubai in which to raise children.
Bringing up children in Arabian Ranches
From Dh260,000 (about $70,700) to Dh400,000 to rent a four-bed villa for one year
A gated community, Arabian Ranches has proven so popular that it has expanded into the desert with Arabian Ranches 2 and 3.
The original Ranches has more than 4,000 villas in 12 distinct zones, each with its own tennis courts, gym, playground and swimming pool complete with lifeguards.
Other amenities include a skate park and basketball courts, plus a nearby polo club with riding lessons for children and adults.
As with several communities in Dubai, the houses surround a golf course. Arabian Ranches Golf Club has a desert-style 18-hole course, with two popular local restaurants, The Ranches and Maison Mathis. The Hamptons Cafe, on the edge of the community, is also popular.
The villas are a mix of traditional Arabian and modern Mediterranean architectural styles and the more expensive properties are very spacious. Many have open-plan kitchens and his-and-hers bathrooms.
All have large gardens, some very large with private pools, but those will cost much more than the average mentioned above.
The nearby Ranches Souk in Arabian Ranches 2 has a Carrefour supermarket, several cafes, a Fitness First gym and a Cheeky Monkeys soft play centre for younger children.
For schooling, parents can choose between Raffles Arabian Ranches Nursery and Blossom Arabian Ranches 2 for younger children, or Jumeirah English Speaking School for older ones.
Repton Al Barsha, formerly Foremarke School, and Kings’ Al Barsha are a 10-minute drive away.
Bringing up children in Dubai Hills Estate
From Dh240,000 to Dh400,000 to rent a 4-bed villa for a year in the Maple communities
A new development close to the city, the houses are close to the 18-hole Dubai Hills Golf course, and fall in price the further you are from the fairways.
There are two restaurants within the golf club – The Duck Hook and the Hillhouse Brasserie – and both are very community-orientated and child-friendly.
Newly built villas all have gardens, albeit some quite small, and there are community playgrounds and pools dotted around the area, plus volleyball, basketball and paddle-tennis courts.
Other communal amenities include shaded pathways for jogging and walking, picnic lawns, outdoor gyms and even a dog park.
The development is moments away from the schools in Al Barsha South, including Repton Al Barsha, Kings’ Al Barsha and Gems Founders School Al Barsha.
Blossoms Nursery opened in October 2020 and it is conveniently next to the Geant Express, which is currently the only supermarket in the area.
Dubai Hills Mall has 650 shops and restaurants, a hypermarket, an outdoor concert area and an 18-screen cinema, reducing the need for residents to leave the district for entertainment.
King’s College Hospital, which is a few minutes’ drive from the mall, offers all the health services you might need, including an emergency room for breaks and burns.
Harry Tregoning, the founder of Tregoning Property, described the area as “very central”.
“It is really well located for schools and also the main financial centres for working parents,” he said.
Bringing up children in Palm Jumeirah
From Dh600,000 to Dh2.1 million to rent a four-bed villa on a frond
A landmark in its own right, The Palm Jumeirah offers seaside living at its best with a price tag to match.
There are several different types of villas available to rent, with mature gardens, swimming pools and private steps down to the shore.
Entertaining children is easy when you live by the beach, and many families buy canoes and paddle boards for water sports, plus snorkel sets with which to observe the visiting stingrays.
Furthermore, the Atlantis, The Palm resort on the nearby crescent houses some of the best attractions in Dubai, including Aquaventure water park, Dolphin Bay and Lost Chambers Aquarium.
It was not uncommon not so long ago for the community to have few supermarkets or shops, that is not the case any more.
“It is finally coming into its own since they opened Nakheel Mall,” Mr Tregoning said.
“It is now really well served by shops. There’s also Al Das Medical Clinic and Blossom Palm Jumeirah Nursery.”
Residents do need to travel off the Palm to educate their children and there can be traffic jams coming down the trunk at peak times.
The closest schools are 15 minutes away on Sheikh Zayed Road and include Gems Wellington International School, American School of Dubai and Dubai International Academy in Emirates Hills.
Bringing up children in The Springs
From Dh190,000 to Dh370,000 to rent a three-bed villa for one year
This leafy community was built for families and is gated for greater security. It is inland from Dubai Marina, behind Emirates Hills.
Most of the 4,800 villas have two or three bedrooms and are painted in pastel colours, with small private gardens.
There are some four-bedroom villas, but not many, Mr Tregoning said.
“It is a great starter community for new families with young children. It is established and green, and convenient for people working in Media City and JLT,” he said.
The community is built around several lakes and public parks, with playgrounds and reasonably sized swimming pools dotted around.
Families love the sense of community and it is safe for children to play in the park and ride their bikes together around the lakes.
Shoppers will find plenty of options, including The Meadows Souk and the Meadows Village, which has a Waitrose. The new upscale Springs Souk includes a Carrefour supermarket, coffee shops and restaurants, plus the indoor playground Dig It and Raffles Springs Nursery.
For older children, JSS International School, Emirates International School Meadows and Dubai British School are nearby, while Nord Anglia International School is only a 10-minute drive away.
Bringing up children in Umm Suqeim
From Dh270,000 to Dh1.1 million to rent a four-bed villa for one year
One of the older areas of the city, Umm Suqeim is a seaside district, with a mix of large villas, compound communities and palaces.
The area is made up of a mix of nationalities, said Laura Stockwell, the British founder of local real estate agency Mr & Mrs Stockwell.
“Families love living in Umm Suqeim because they have all the advantages of living in a city: good schools, a short commute, access to restaurants and shops plus the added bonus of being close to nature at the beach,” she said.
Kite Beach is one of its biggest attractions. The large stretch of sand also has food lorries and children’s activities, including bouncy castles, trampolines and go-kart racing.
The nearby skate park and outdoor activity centre XPark Jr is also popular with children of all ages, while Umm Suqeim Park and Safa Park 2 have playgrounds set in lush greenery, making them perfect for picnics.
Cafes such as Ailuromania Cat Cafe, where you can pet the resident felines, and Jones the Grocer welcome children, offering imaginative special menus and play areas.
There are plenty of supermarkets and malls dotted around, including Mall of the Emirates with its indoor ski slope.
The school run is expected to be short as the area has dozens of nurseries and schools, including Horizon International School, King’s School Dubai and Gems Jumeirah Primary School.
Medical centres include the Dubai London Clinic in Umm Suqeim 2, which offers most services and has an emergency room. King’s College Hospital London also has a small outpost in Umm Suqeim 1.
A version of this article was first published in October 2021