Lily Brown, aged seven and with the cutest gap-toothed smile, turns a cartwheel and nearly knocks her baby sister out of her mum’s arms. Her brother Greer, two, runs riotously around her, clapping his hands in glee while five-year-old Cohen looks on from the sofa. This is the Brown home: busy, buzzing and full of mischief. We are welcomed in by mum and dad, Dana and Stu, an American-Scottish couple who have made Casa at Arabian Ranches 2 their happy home.
Where did you learn tricks like that, Lily?
Lily: I do gymnastics classes every week, I love it.
Dana: Lily goes to Fit Republik in Motor City twice a week for classes.
Stu: It’s been great for her; her balance has improved so much. She now rides her bike without training wheels, which I think is down to the gymnastics. And she loves her classes. I take her to her Saturday one, so we get to spend some time together which is nice, because as you can see our house is very busy. And that’s one of the things I love about Dubai, there is so much to do here for all the children.
You moved to Dubai last January, so are still relatively new to the city. Why did you chose to live here in Arabian Ranches 2?
Stu: When we were moving to Dubai, we had got a school place for Lily in Dubai British School, Jumeirah Park, and for Cohen at Dubai British Foundation, so we moved with the idea of finding a home at Jumeirah Park, but the community feel here won us over. The outside space, the park and our garden here are amazing.
Dana: The park has been great for Lily, it’s given her independence and she has her own crew of friends. So she gets in from school, has a snack, does homework and then she’s gone. I was anxious about Lily when we made the move to Dubai, she has had so many moves in the last few years and she is still so young. So, this has really worked for her, having her own place to hang out and make friends.
Tell us a little bit about your journey so far and how you came to move to Dubai.
Dana: I didn’t want to come here at first. We had moved from Muscat in Oman to Texas in the US. And while we were in Texas, our area got re-zoned so Lily had to move schools there. It was hard for her. I was just tired of moving. I wasn’t in love with Houston, which is where we were living, but we were beginning to put roots down, beginning to find friends. Cohen had just started at a nice nursery, Piper [the little one narrowly avoiding Lily’s flying legs] had just been born, it was a lot…
Stu: I got a new job and a better opportunity for us.
Dana: The first couple of months here were very hard. Piper was only four months old, Greer was two. I found it hard to let myself settle. We had loved living in Muscat, where we were for three years, and I found Dubai so different. But Stu is the breadwinner and I support him, right? [Laughs]
Stu: We moved to Muscat when Lily was three and Cohen was two. Greer was born there. We had a lot of friends there, but a lot of them have moved on now and Dubai is definitely better for our family, so many more opportunities. I love the Middle East. Dana loved Muscat, but I think we both prefer it here now.
Dana: We are definitely settling. We went to our first barbecue last night. I wasn’t going to go because at two, Greer is at that tricky age. But we went and had a great time. The kids had a blast. It was nice to be out.
And Lily, what did you think when mum and dad said you were coming to Dubai?
Lily: I felt sad, I’d miss... I’d miss, what was that place again Daddy, that I used to really love going to in Houston?
Stu: Hmm, which place?
Lily: You know, with the flags. What was it?
Stu: [Laughs] Oh, Six Flags. You loved that. But there are so many theme parks here Lily, too right? IMG, LEGOLAND, Kidzania and all the rest.
Greer: And animals, I want to see a tiger and a lion.
This is a relatively new community, but driving in, it has a lovely, friendly feel. Does it offer everything your family needs?
Dana: The Souk is awesome, I’m in and out of there all day. The Carrefour there is great and there is an Aster Healthcare, too, although I have found a great paediatrician at the Medicentre Arabian Ranches right next door. We are notorious for doing a full shop and then realising we have forgotten essential items.
Stu: But you can get whatever you need in Dubai if you have an app. Dana will use Instashop if she needs something urgently. I love that about Dubai, we couldn’t do that in Houston. Some people thought we were crazy living here, with the schools being in Jumeirah Park, but the commute time door to door is only 20 minutes. Not bad at all.
Dana: When I saw people’s reactions I started to question my choice, but it’s been fine. If I leave by 7.10am I get to school in 20 minutes. If I delay by 10 minutes the roundabouts get really busy at Studio City and Arabian Ranches, but we rarely run into bother. The kids really like their schools and have made friends. I suppose one thing about the community here is that a lot of the children go to the Arabian Ranches Primary school so they have a network, but Lily has made her little buddies and I know some lovely mums at school, so we are settling.
Stu: My office is in JLT and the journey there and back is absolutely fine.
Dana: I love that Lily has the freedom to come and go to the park.
Lily: And we love Cheeky Monkeys, too. And it’s right by our house.
And does the house work for your family? It’s a lovely, bright, airy home and your garden is beautiful. You even have your own fountain, amazing!
Stu: This is a four-bedroom house. We could probably do with five bedrooms so we are thinking about that. You can get some nice five-bedroom houses here, too. My mum might come out to spend some time with us on a month on and a month off basis, to help Dana and spend time with the children, so we might need the extra space.
Dana: The garden is great, the landlady finished it really nicely and the kids love hanging out there. An extra bedroom would be lovely and I am very close to Stu’s parents so it’s lovely that they can spend time with us.
Stu: It might give us some babysitting, too, so that Dana and I can go and do things, or my mum and Dana can go and do things. I’m an only child, so it would be lovely to have my mum here and get to spend lots of time as a family.
So, Dubai is home for now?
Stu: Definitely. I love the expat lifestyle, I love that our children can sing the UAE national anthem, learn Arabic and see the world all at the same time.
Dana: I’m proud to be an American but there are a lot of things in the States that I wouldn’t necessarily like. I think the lifestyle here is nicer for us all as a family. I love the UK and spending time there in the summer. When we were living in Oman, we didn’t have the luxury of being able to afford to go back that often, but now we can. And Stu’s family can afford to come to us.
Stu: My parents love it here, spending time with the children, in the sunshine. It’s ideal.
Arabian Ranches 2’s top features
The Arabian Ranches 2 Souk has great parking, and plenty of choice when it comes to taking a wander to the shops. You can fill your trolley at Carrefour, grab a capuccino at Caribou Coffee or enjoy a pizza at Carluccio’s. The kids will love browsing Virgin Megastore and ELC and you can even grab a Jo Jo Bow at Claire’s Accessories. Definitely something for everyone!
There’s no excuse for them to be bouncing off the walls when they can bounce on the trampolines at Cheeky Monkeys. A well-proportioned play centre with plenty to keep the little apes busy, it’s also a very popular venue for birthday parties for the Dubailand set.
A health club for the whole family, this is a great environment for getting fit and active and even boasts a children’s activity studio so you can train while the little ones play. The leisure pool is the perfect place to unwind after a rigorous game of tennis or squash and there is even a sprint track to work on your speed.