Travel Stories: Three Days in Dubai with a Baby

dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubaiThere is something about Dubai that absolutely fascinates me. It’s unlikely I’ll get there anytime soon, So I’m delighted that Kelly has shared her story about visiting Dubai with a baby. Kelly was en route to Australia and had a three-day stopover that also included a visit with mom. What an awesome adventure and a great way to break up a long journey–if you can handle it!

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I love travel, but if you had told me that I would be in Dubai with a baby, my four-month old baby to be exact, I would have told you were nuts. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even have known exactly where Dubai is on a map (it borders Oman and Saudi Arabia, if you’re still unsure). But when the opportunity presented itself to me, I couldn’t say no.

dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubai

The Burj: The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is spectacular lit up at night. | photo by Kelly Burch

For many Western Travelers, Dubai is a stopping point. The international airports in Dubai and neighboring Abu Dhabi (both part of the United Arab Emirates) are hubs for Emirates and Etihad airlines respectively, so Americans travelling to India, Asia, or the Pacific have a chance to lay over in this desert oasis.

That’s exactly how I wound up in Dubai. My daughter and I were meeting my husband and his family in Brisbane, Australia. When I looked up flights from Boston it was cheaper (and only slightly more flying time) to travel east, stopping in Dubai, than it was to travel to Australia via Los Angeles like I had done in the past.

Coincidentally, my mother and stepfather had just moved to Dubai, so breaking up the flight and visiting their new home was an obvious choice.

I was hoping for a few days of rest and relaxation, but in my mind Dubai was a harsh metropolis, filled with single businessmen from around the globe. When I arrived my biggest surprise was how family-friendly the city was. Carriages were everywhere, pushed by robed Arab women and stylish foreigners alike. The women who worked in the service industries in Dubai loved cooing over the baby, and everyone – from our flight attendants on Emirates to the staff at the local gelato shops – worked hard to accommodate me and my daughter.

Here’s what I did during my three-day stopover in Dubai with a baby:

dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubai

Babywearing: Although I love babywearing, it only took one short walk along the
marina to realize it was just too hot to babywear in Dubai. | photo by Kelly Burch

Day One: The Marina District and JBR…

“Where does your family live?” the customs agent asked when my daughter and I arrived in the UAE. “The marina?” I said, questioning if that was indeed the name of my mother’s neighborhood. “Of course,” the agent replied, giving my daughter’s passport its first stamp and sending us on our way.

The Dubai Marina is a two-mile man-made canal that opens into the Persian Gulf at both ends. The Marina was designed with tourists and expats in mind. The tall residential buildings along the marina are reflected off the canal’s waters, and the whole setup is gorgeous at night, when you’re most likely to be outdoors exploring (it’s simply too hot during the day). The seven-kilometer Dubai Marina Walk is newly paved and easy to navigate with a stroller. The walk is lined with cafes, restaurants and high-end stores. My daughter was too young to enjoy the playground, but we did pass swings and slides set up in the shade beneath the bridges that cross that canal. The Marina’s best draw, however, was the people watching: Strolling along the marina we heard more languages than we could count, and saw families from all over the world.

In the afternoon we walked from my mom’s apartment on the marina to Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), a mile-long stretch of upscale apartments, hotels, and dining along the shore of the Persian Gulf. I can never resist the water, so we began our afternoon on the beach, watching the construction of Bluewaters Island, a new construction project similar to the famous Palm Islands. As a Bostonian I’m used to being shocked by a cool ocean, but the waves in Dubai were truly like bath water. I visited in early October, and my mother said that a month before the ocean had been too warm to even be refreshing.

After swimming, we showered and changed in the public restrooms on the beach (like everything in Dubai, they were impeccably clean). The Walk at JBR features over 300 restaurants and stores, many of them offering outdoor dining overlooking the beach. It was perfect for us to push the stroller directly to the table, and families with toddlers and older kids could certainly benefit from the added space and casual atmosphere of the al fresco dining.

dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubai

Grand Mosque: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is filled with ornate details. | photo by Kelly Burch

Day Two: Abu Dhabi and The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque…

Our second day in Dubai we set off on a road trip to Abu Dhabi, which is about an hour and a half away by car or public bus. While Dubai is young, fast-paced and international, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is an older and more conservative city (I’ve seen it referred to as Dubai’s sophisticated older sister).

Abu Dhabi is well known for its Formula 1 Track, but our destination for the day was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The Grand Mosque was designed and planned by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and opened in 2007 as a cultural center to promote respect and understanding between religions. Visitors to the mosque can take a free audio tour, which touches on the tenants of Islam, cultural lessons, and the construction of the impressive monument.

I knew that conservative dress is required in the mosque, so I wore a loosely knit sweater and long pants, and brought a scarf to cover my hair. When we arrived, one of the staff members pointed out that the knit holes in my sweater allowed too much skin, and asked me to wear an abaya (a traditional black robe), which the mosque provided for free. I steadied myself for the stale smell of used clothing, but the abaya was perfectly clean, and light enough not to be bothersome in the heat. It was fun to have the chance to dress traditionally, since in downtown Dubai you can wear anything you would wear in the U.S.

dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubai

Baby Friends: The baby had no trouble making friends throughout our trip, which
was especially helpful when I was flying alone with her. | photo by Kelly Burch

It’s clear that the people who work at the mosque respect the sacred nature of the site, and that visitors are expected to as well. I was concerned that the baby would fuss, or need to be nursed, disturbing the tranquility of the site. I didn’t need to worry, however. Babies are a universal language. Tourists from around the world smiled at my daughter, and one Chinese woman who spoke no English even scooped her up for a cuddle. My daughter didn’t need to eat during the time we were at the mosque, but I have no doubt that with all the layers we could have easily nursed without anyone noticing, or we could have retreated to the mosque’s impressive bathroom suite (which was a work of art in itself).

After the mosque, where we spent about two hours, we opted to go back to Dubai for another evening at JBR.

Day Three: The Dubai Mall and The Burj Khalifa…

I’m not a woman who likes to be in a mall, but I considered a trip to the Dubai Mall a cultural experience. After all, high-end shopping is what brings many tourists to the city. Depending on whom you ask, the Dubai Mall is either your worst nightmare or a dream come true. The mall’s website lists over 60 children’s retailers, plus maternity wear and toy stores. My mom and I filled a morning window shopping for children’s clothing that cost more than our trip to Dubai, in stores like Armani Junior, Dolce & Gabbana Kids, and Gucci Kids. If you’re not a big spender there are also American staples like Gymboree and Build-a-Bear. The mall also offers plenty of entertainment options, including the Dubai Aquarium, virtual reality experiences, Dubai Dino (where you can get up close to fossils), and a skating rink.

dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubai

Fountain: Everyone was transfixed by the fountain show. | photo by Kelly Burch

The most impressive attraction, however, is the fountain show in the mall’s courtyard. Numerous people had mentioned the show to me, but I wasn’t prepared to be impressed by water fountains. I was so wrong. The Dubai Fountain is in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 2, 716.5 feet. The building is spectacular, and even more so at night. The foundation show jets water nearly 500 feet into the air, in a routine that is choreographed to music from around the world. Simply put, the show is magical, for kids and adults alike (even the baby was enthralled). There are large crowds, but getting an outdoor table at one the restaurants on the plaza is a great was to guarantee a view.

kelly burch, dubai with a baby, dubai with kids, stopover in dubaiAgain, on our last night in the Middle East, I was reminded that everyone loves a baby. I nursed in one café, subtly but uncovered, and received only smiles in response. Later in the evening, when my daughter spat up all over me, the laughter from the table of veiled Arab women next to us reminded me again that parenthood really is universal.

Kelly Burch is a freelance writer living in New Hampshire, where she is probably planning her next trip. Connect with Kelly on Facebook, or read more of her work at http://www.kellyburchcreative.com.

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17 Responses to Travel Stories: Three Days in Dubai with a Baby

  1. Chris at 20:41 #

    “Dubai with a Baby” – almost sounds like it could be a title for a sitcom or something, haha.

    Cute baby by the way! 🙂

  2. ahmed gusto at 01:07 #

    Exactly, Dubai is not only a place for shopping, its a fast growing economy and a fast developing country. soon Dubai will amaze the world with their mega projects. Its a happening live city in wherever you go and also its a society of respect for each other.

  3. Robin at 09:00 #

    Dubai with a Baby….. How to manage. its completely different experience. Your article is too good.
    Thanks for sharing this great moment with us.

  4. Amy Whitley at 09:26 #

    I can’t decide if I want to go to Dubai or not, really, but I agree it’s fascinating!

  5. Tamara at 11:09 #

    So did you have to take the pink taxis for women traveling alone? My husband spent some time there for work and told me about those (and the Mercedes police cars!) It seems like a fascinating place and I’m disappointed we were never able to accompany him.

  6. JessieV at 18:08 #

    I love this – your baby is so cute, no wonder everyone loved her so! parenthood IS universal.

  7. Colleen Lanin at 18:17 #

    Fascinating! What I really want to know is…why did your mom and stepdad move to Dubai?! And are they happy with the move?

  8. The detail in the Grand Mosque is just exquisite! Makes me want to go!

  9. Allison at 14:16 #

    I have a friend who just moved to Dubai from the U.S. with six children. They love it there! It’s fascinating to learn more about this exotic city. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. Dev at 04:36 #

    Not sure if Dubai would ever be a travel destination for me. But your post defi seemed interesting

  11. Chaya at 17:12 #

    Oh i love dubai.is the best city for me to travel with my family 🙂

  12. Zen BabyTravel at 16:23 #

    We also loved Dubai with our 16 weeks son and wrote about it 🙂 https://zenbabytravel.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/3-5-months-baby-parents-dubai-winter-sun/
    And planning to go back soon with our toddler & new cheeky little monkey 🙂

  13. Farhan at 12:56 #

    I wish you could put more photos – that would help me make a decision to visit this place with my 5 year old daughter or not. Last trip we took was to Singapore – but she was 2 years – and she doesn’t remember any of that trip.

  14. Yiannis at 16:19 #

    Holidays in Dubai really does not pass through the mind of all of us and certainly this description you are mentioning, gives a good idea of what to expect. The truth is that my first curiosity to go there was a few years ago, when some friends of mine, working as a pilot and stewardess respectively, told me that they had moved there permanently. Alongside the high salary they secured, they described with great enthusiasm how life can be in Dubai. This really impressed me. The warm climate and luxury of almost everything were dominated in their descriptions. If I may suggest, another famous place for luxury vacations is Mykonos. Mykonos is a beautiful Greek island, where anyone can enjoy top rated holidays in very delicately places. Try searching for professional real estate agencies in this island for a nice Villa for rent or sale.

  15. ahmed zaheer at 03:45 #

    I also traveled with my 7 months old. Dubai is a completely baby friendly city. I do recommend that you take light weight push chair with you. Because there is a lot of walk in malls and parks etc. Push chairs can also be used to hang your travelling bags.

    There are baby changing and feeding rooms almost everywhere and baby food, diapers etc are very cheap.

    I even took my son to Bryan Adams concert and we really enjoyed it. He slept through the entire concert :p

    • Corinne at 10:16 #

      Great to hear, Ahmed–thanks for your comment!

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