Real estate and relocation agents Laura and Nick Stockwell met, by chance, in London over six years ago, but this wasn’t actually the first time their paths had crossed, they tell Carolyne Allmark. Both were born in the same Dubai hospital in the 1970s and both returned to the UK with their families after their fathers’ British Army Officer postings with the Trucial Oman Scouts in the UAE drew to a close. So, Dubai seemed like the natural place to put down roots together after they wed in 2012, and they found the perfect villa in which to raise their young family. And it just so happens to be just 150 metres from the now-demolished bungalow where Nick spent the first years of his life.
What an incredible story! It sounds like you’ve effectively “come home” by moving back to Dubai.
Nick: It does, really. We both spent the first eight years of our lives here. I went to Dubai English Speaking School where our daughter, Katinka, has her name down to go. Laura was at Jebel Ali Primary and the best man at our wedding went to Jumeirah English Speaking School!
I remember when I started boarding school in the UK being utterly miserable as it was so cold that winter. I asked my parents what on Earth they were thinking! But I always thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to move back there one day”. And now here we are.
Laura: When our parents lived here there was nothing, really. The emirates were forming, they had only discovered oil around ten years previously, there were no asphalt roads and a genuine camel patrol, so it was all very romantic and so different to today. We met by chance in a restaurant in London and realised our backgrounds and that our families knew each other within about 60 seconds, which was amazing.
Nick: We got married in July 2012 and moved out here by September 2012, so, literally, as soon as we could. Laura has always had an interest in the Middle East – she’s got a degree in Arabic and was working as one of the Duke of York’s private secretaries with a focus on the Middle East before we left London. And I was able to transfer out here with the bank I was working for at the time.
Nick, the house you grew up in isn’t standing any more, but it was on this street. Is that why you moved to this area in particular?
Nick: Yes, pretty much. Jumeirah has always been the original residential area of Dubai and there was a reason why people lived here 50 years ago or more – the centre of the city was the Creek at the time and this was just a nice place to live. And then all the expats started moving in and the schools and nurseries were opening, so it became properly established. When we first moved out we didn’t have children, but the plan was to have them, so we thought we’d just skip the apartment phase and go straight to the house and grow into it. We decided to get whatever was close to my office and DIFC and that was it! My hour-long commute across London was replaced by a nine-minute drive.
Laura: I think we were also influenced by the fact that a lot of our mutual friends from university were all living in Jumeirah and now almost 95 percent of our friends in Dubai live here.
Nick: We love the garden and the fact that it’s so established, although it’s taken a while to get it like this. The house is pretty old, but they built these old ones very well. The flow of the house is also lovely. Some of the newer stuff we see have tiny gardens, no privacy and it’s all about price per square-foot.
You’re in the real estate trade and this is your patch, so you’d know all about what you get for your money! Tell us about your business, Mr & Mrs Stockwell.
Nick: The idea to set up the company came up in a conversation with a friend because finding a house and a good estate agent is something everyone always complains about. My former partner and I then went our separate ways and Laura came on-board, so the family business was born. But we do more than just the estate agency – we live in the area and we love it and love finding people homes here, so we are broadening out into relocation consultancy as well.
Laura: Often, relocation agents live in the Marina and have no idea about advising families on where the nurseries are, where the clinics are, the best local ballet class, how to get to the nearest hospital and all those sorts of things that are important. When you arrive with children and you’re making that decision about where to live, you really need to know.
How do you like to spend time here as a family on that rare Saturday off?
Nick: For treats we will go to Tasha’s in Galleria Mall for breakfast, but one of the great things we found moving to Dubai is finding this house and not wanting to do anything actually, except just be here, enjoying home. It has a real soul. We often go to the Ripe Market at Zabeel Park and my favourite beach is the local one here – Jumeirah 1 beach opposite Mercato Mall.
Laura: The Four Seasons is just up the road – that’s our local! We can walk there, which is lovely, and we especially like Mercure Lounge, which is their rooftop bar. And I love Bu Qtair (the fish shack) for delicious prawns and the fish marinated in stunning Keralan spices.
Nick: We are members at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa in Jumeirah 1, as they have tennis courts, great pools for families and some amazing restaurants. We love Sho Cho, a Japanese place with a dance floor and great sushi that’s right on the beach, and Loca, a Mexican pub, which doubles as a sports bar.
Laura: And, of course, the Iraqi restaurant Masgouf in Jumeirah 2, which is just down the road from us and makes the best hummus in Dubai!
What sort of accommodation would families looking in this area find?
Laura: There is a mix of compounds and independent villas and definitely a mix of nationalities, which we like.
Nick: We had a moment a few months ago when the tortoise went missing so I did that archetypal suburban thing of putting up missing posters, which actually meant I got to meet quite a few people in the neighbourhood, too!
What would you say is the biggest draw for families coming to live in Jumeirah 2?
Laura: For me, it’s that you have this self-contained community that’s so easy to live in. You can do the kids’ school, supermarket, doctor, café, restaurants, lifestyle and beach, all in this area, but still get everything you need from the city as it’s so close by. Whether that’s working in DIFC, having dinner in a skyscraper or popping out to Box Park. We wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Three things to enjoy in Jumeirah 2
Al Khazzan Park
This new solar-powered park close to City Walk is already a hit with local families and a regular spot for the Stockwells, who love to grab a coffee at the recently opened Inn The Park, inside the grassy grounds.
Two-year-old Katinka Stockwell attends Ladybird Nursery just down the road, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and is one of the oldest, most established nurseries in Dubai.
Jumeirah is home to the original branch of Magrudy’s, known as the oldest toy shop in Dubai, where Laura recalls buying Cindy dolls as a child and Nick used to go for his school uniform! Still going strong, it now stocks a brilliant range of booksand stationery.
www.magrudy.com (04 344 4193).