Mum-of-two and founder of My Gym, Pia Bahri is a long-term Dubai resident. She moved to the UAE at the age of 14 and has spent her formative years in Dubai. After a recent spell in the meadows, she now lives in Dubai Marina.
Where do you and your family live?
My son Rehman who is almost nine and my seven year old daughter Iman and I have been living in the Marina for the past three years after having moved from the Meadows where we lived for five years. So we are veterans of New Dubai and have seen it go from being quite isolated to a vibrant, thriving residential and commercial area.
What’s the best thing about bringing up your family in Dubai?
I have lived in Dubai since I was 14 and I am very happy to raise children here as it is safe and there is a wonderful cosmopolitan population. I love that my children meet people of different nationalities and cultures and experience different cuisines. They get the stability of staying in one place with the experiences that travelling, and a transient environment offers.
Why did you choose this particular area?
My children go to Jebel Ali Primary and I wanted to be near school, their friends and all their activities. Living in the Meadows was lovely and quiet but the Marina offers the convenience of a bottle of milk at your doorstep when it runs out, space to walk, run and cycle safely on Marina walk, fantastic Al fresco dining and entertaining options when the weather is nice - all without a car. We can still use the parks in the Meadows when we need green without the costs of maintaining a garden and a pool.
Is it a sociable place to live?
The building I live in is very sociable. We have ‘interbuilding dinners’ and I love the fact that you get dressed and get into a lift rather than a car to get to your destination! The beach club is across the road so my kids can walk there when I am at work or travelling and with more and more of my friends moving to this side of Dubai there is rarely a dull moment.
Have you met other mums there easily?
As a resident of Dubai since 1985, I schooled here and got married and started a family here, so a lot of my friends are old timers like me. Also as the owner of My Gym, a fitness centre for children where I spend most of my day, I meet a lot of mothers on a daily basis. I have noticed and experienced on occasion that the fountain at the Marina is a good place to meet other parents as is the Plaza level of JBR in the evenings where a lots of kids come to play.
What are the family-friendly perks for kids in the area?
Honestly, it has everything one could wish for except perhaps a park within walking distance. There are play areas aplenty - though my children do not really use these, some great brunches, restaurants and delivery options, lots of music, fitness, sports and art offerings. There is access to the beach and the sea or boat trips in the Marina, Marina Mall and Ibn Battuta is nearby for cinema options. As for nightlife options for adults, there is Grosvenor House or the Observatory next door which is a great place to meet friends in a relaxed atmosphere.
Is there anything you don’t like about your neighbourhood?
The construction! It never ends and with the new transit system being built in the Marina, traffic is a bit of a nightmare but I am sure once it is finished it will be even more convenient for the residents as parking is an issue towards JBR. In the cooler months we can walk and they are putting in pedestrian walkways but in the summer long walks are not really feasible. A little more green would be welcomed as well.
What advice do you have for newbies in the area?
Explore! There are lots of lovely little places that I am still discovering. Dubai can be intimidating and a little cliquey but as so many of us are expats and have experienced being “new” at some point, make the effort and be open to meeting new people and you may be pleasantly surprised! Enjoy how family friendly Dubai is. For the most part your child is safe in a mall or play area when they run off and most places are really child friendly.
Swimming and board games. My daughter loves going to the cinema and making cupcakes and helping me shop! She has an opinion on everything.
We eat out a lot as my kids love Iranian food so the whole mealtime experience is great bonding time. We enjoy parks with friends and the beach club and just hanging out at home.
Kids play areas
We rarely use these but obviously My Gym is the favourite! My kids virtually grew up there and they regularly have play dates there which their friends love.