Hailing from Christchurch, the green gateway to New Zealand’s South Island, the Stevens family have turned themselves on their heads to make a happy home in Dubai. Along with two children, Lucy and Toby, two cats and a very cool orange sports car, Rochelle and Craig are enjoying a mammoth adventure. We spend a sun-soaked afternoon in Arabian Ranches with them as they tell us all about it.
You have a lovely, cosy home here and seem really settled. How long have you been in Dubai?
Rochelle: We moved here in August 2014. I landed here with the children in August and we moved to Arabian Ranches a month later.
Craig: We chose to live here in Al Reem 1 and it definitely has worked for us. It’s a busy neighbourhood, very friendly and family orientated.
Rochelle: Craig came out first, to scope it all out and have a little look around. I didn’t want to see Dubai until we moved with the children. So, I didn’t come on a look-see or anything. I was nervous that if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t agree to move here. So I basically came sights unseen. [Laughs.]
Wow, that was brave! So, you landed with the children and that was it – you had to just start figuring it all out?
Rochelle: That’s right. I don’t know if you would call it incredibly brave or incredibly silly, but this was Craig’s dream job and I wanted him to have a fair go at it. So, I sold the house, packed our boxes and off we went.
Craig: I have always wanted to work abroad. I’m an air traffic controller and my two dream airports to work at have always been in London and Dubai. So, this is amazing for me, to be here, doing something I love in a country we have quickly grown to love.
Do you think you both have been bitten by the travel bug?
Rochelle: Without a doubt. We always wanted to move away from New Zealand and have an adventure for a while. It nearly happened in 2007 and then we had Lucy and that was a huge adventure.
Craig: My biggest fear was that we would wake up in 25 years and think: “Here we still are, and is this it now?” Even though we love New Zealand, the world is a huge place, it’s great to travel. It’s great for the kids to have the opportunity to see it.
Rochelle: How many countries have we been to kids, in the last two years?
Toby: I know, I know! It’s 17.
Wow, that’s a lot of air miles! So how did you choose Arabian Ranches?
Craig: I saw a few places before they all came out.
Rochelle: We knew two people when we arrived. At the time, we were looking for a house that had four bedrooms, a nice living space and a garden. Al Reem 1 here in Arabian Ranches fit our needs and most importantly fit our budget.
Craig: We loved the layout, the family room and the extra space upstairs where the kids can chill-out and have fun. But now we think we may need less bedrooms and more living space.
Rochelle: We didn’t know many people when we moved here first and we had lots of visitors coming from New Zealand, so we needed the bedroom space. But now that we have made friends and our visitors are dwindling off we are looking around a bit for a different style of home. We still want to stay in the Ranches and in a development with the same feel.
Craig: I work shift work and it takes about 20 minutes for me to get to work at Dubai World Central airport and it’s really close to kids' school.
Rochelle: The kids go to Victory Heights school. We tried another one first, but Victory Heights has a better fit for us and the kids love it there.
So what do you like about Al Reem 1?
Lucy: Our friends live down the street so we can pop to see each other and play. Toby: And the park is really near us. I like the park. And the pool.
Rochelle: Now that we are well settled, the kids have made friends here. The back door is constantly opening and shutting with kids popping in and out. And now that we know the area they can even bike or scooter to the park.
And what are the main amenities for the family?
Rochelle: There are five streets here and three parks, so there is loads of fun stuff for the kids to do. We hang out at the pool a lot and there is also a lake to scoot around and a tennis court. Basically, everything you could dream of.
Craig: We really noticed the trees when we were looking around. The green areas are established and all of this feels inviting to us. Some places we looked at around Dubai felt a bit dingy, but here felt like home. We love the community centre, Géant has good fruit and veg, we have the medical centre, coffee shops, a pet shop. It’s all right here.
So, did you start from scratch when you got here with regards to furnishing, or did you ship a lot of your stuff from New Zealand?
Rochelle: We came with 17 boxes. Basically soft toys, Thomas the Tank Engine train tracks and not much else. So, we’ve bought everything here in Dubai. I’ve found some favourite shops, like Lucky’s and, of course, Ikea.
Craig: We also adopted two cats, Tiger and Lilly, which quickly have become a part of our family.
Rochelle: We love the cats and would love a dog. But if we have to relocate back home, the cost of doing this with animals is so expensive so we have to be responsible. We left our own cat behind with family when we came here and we were all sad, so we bribed the kids with kittens. [Laughs.]
And what about that very cool car parked up outside?
Rochelle: Craig had a toy car his mum bought him when he was a kid, a Challenger. He wanted one just like it, and where else could he do it!?
Craig: It was a Mustang, the toy I had, a yellow Mustang. I loved that car. When we came to Dubai I promised myself I would get one just like it. But then I saw lots of Mustangs on the road so I changed tack slightly. I still wanted a cool car, but the Challenger just appealed to me more. I love it, it’s a bit dusty now, but when it’s all cleaned up, wow!
What’s your favourite thing about the house and Al Reem 1?
Rochelle: The community feel. In New Zealand where we lived, we had a lovely home but we had to follow certain rules regarding the garden and plants etc. Here we have freedom to do what we want.
Craig: We’ve just done a lot of work on the back garden, put down some fake grass and cleaned it all up. We love to barbecue so this is a great space for us now to hangout in. In fact, we have two barbecues!
Rochelle: We inherited some plants from neighbours who were moving around, so that’s pretty cool. And my parents sent us some lovely ornamental New Zealand birds to make us feel at home. We have a Kea and a Tui. The kids love hanging over the wall and spotting all the neighbourhood animals out here.
Rochelle: Not really. Maybe the speedbumps. [Laughs.] We are at the back of Arabian Ranches, so I meet a lot of speedbumps every day on the school run.
Craig: They’re not so bad, you get used to where they are and adjust. I love it here – the weather, the lifestyle – we are having the time of our lives.
Rochelle: The kids love it here. They’re happy at school, have made friends and in the winter there is so much opportunity for being outside doing cool stuff.
Toby and Lucy, what are your thoughts on it all? Have you settled here in Dubai?
Lucy: I was sad leaving my friends, but I’ve made some really nice friends here and we have lots of fun.
Toby: I was four when we left. I remember our house a bit. I like Dubai, my birthday is tomorrow and I’m having an animal party!
Arabian Ranches top features
Arabian Ranches Golf Club
For golf enthusiasts its perfect to have a club right on the doorstep. The club, with its newly renovated terrace, is also a great place for the family to hang out and have a meal, with a well designed outdoor playground so the kids can play while you relax and enjoy the ambience. The restaurant offers delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options and it’s a nice spot for those nights when you book a babysitter and enjoy a date-night.
A real neighbourhood space, the community centre has a bright and well-stocked Géant supermarket which stocks all the leading brands as well as fresh fruit and veg. There are also plenty of coffee shops and dining options for the whole family, a pet shop, dry cleaners, pharmacy, hair salon and beauty salon. So you don’t have to stray too far for anything important. It also boasts a medical centre and dentist.
An edible garden right in the suburbs, with lots of fruit trees and herb patches to wander around. A cute little playground and some shady spots to relax in makes it perfect for walking.
The Village Green
The kids love letting loose at the playground or having a kick around on the grass. This area right near the Community Centre is quickly becoming a hub for residents with many markets and mini festivals taking place throughout the year.