My name is Jay, mom to Jasper (3) and Esmé (6 months,) and wife to Joe. We are a Canadian family calling Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, home. Back in 2010, my husband accepted an international position with his oil & gas company, which saw us move to Gabon, on the West coast of Africa, for our first expatriation. Two years later, we moved to Norway where we spent four years and welcomed our son and finally, to Abu Dhabi, where Esmé was born.
Abu Dhabi is a city of just over a million people and located on the Arabian Gulf. Often in the shadow of the flashier Dubai, the capital city is perhaps slightly more understated but fascinating, nonetheless. Massive shopping malls, theme parks, luxurious hotels, beaches and sand for days, it’s easy to keep oneself busy.
6:30AM Wake Up
The baby is usually the first of us up and depending on how the night went, my husband or I will take turns getting up with her. This morning, I’m lucky enough for a short lay in but when Jasper wakes at 7:15, I’ll get up with him. Weekends in the Middle East are Friday-Saturday with Friday being the holy day, and thus a little quieter. Often times we’ll have a special breakfast – my husband makes pancakes or eggs – but today we are anxious to get out of the house for a trip to the beach.
We eat cereal, toast, fruit & yogurt and then round up our swimsuits, toys, towels and snacks, put on sunscreen and load everything and everyone into our car.
Saadiyat Public Beach is a 5 minute drive down the road for us and is the nicest beach in the city. We like to get there first thing in the morning because now that the weather is cooling off (it’s 30 degrees by the time we arrive) we know the beach will get busy. We pay our entrance fee, rent 2 chairs and an umbrella and lug all of our things down the boardwalk. The bonus of arriving early is choosing front row sun loungers.
Jasper immediately digs out his sand toys and we relish the few minutes that he hasn’t remembered the water, as soon we’ll be doing endless rounds of filling buckets. Esmé is new to outdoor activities as she was born in May when the weather was just turning too hot to spend any amount of time outside. We spent most of our weekends at Yas Mall – Jasper and Joe playing in the indoor playground called FunWorks and Esmé and I wandering the shops. Now, she is fascinated with the breeze and the new sounds and smells, happy to kick away on the sun lounger.
Eventually, we make our way to the water. The beaches here are gorgeous. The sand is soft and the water is clear, calm and warm. We go back and forth from the water to the sand until we’ve decided we’ve had enough sun and retreat to the shade for snacks. The beach is getting busy now, almost all of the chairs are taken, and we’re ready to head home but not before a stop for ice cream at the entrance.
We return home, rinse all the sand off and the kids go down for a nap, played out from the sun. Joe and I decide to order in some food from the café down the street. I choose our items on a food delivery app and half an hour later, everything is delivered. Joe has a chicken wrap and I have a cauliflower & chickpea flatbread (Esmé has sensitivities to cow’s milk protein, soy & egg and I’m breastfeeding so I often find myself ordering from the vegan menu.)
Before the kids wake up, I’ll place our online grocery order to have it delivered tomorrow. One of my favourite things about living in Abu Dhabi is the ability to order almost anything for delivery. Afterwards, I’ll sneak in a quick nap on the sofa.
3:30PM Ripe Market
Everyone wakes up and we get ready to leave the house again. This time, we’re heading downtown to Umm Al Emarat Park for the weekly Ripe Market. It has been on hiatus during the summer heat but has returned with great popularity, as everyone is excited to be outdoors again.
Our first stop in the park is the zoo in the children’s section. We pay 10 dirhams for a handful of greens for Jasper to feed the animals. There are lamas, goats, donkeys and Jasper’s favourite, the camel. When we’re done, we’ll make our way through the tree-lined paths. Jasper spots the playgrounds and takes off running. Esmé and I will peruse the handicraft stalls where the local artisans sell their wares. She is a smiley baby and attracts a lot of attention from the local women who often kiss her hands saying ‘mashallah,’ an Arabic blessing meaning ‘God has willed it.’
6:00 PM Sunset
The sun starts to dip and we hear the call to prayer play out over the park. It signals us that it’s time for dinner so we round up a reluctant Jasper and head to the collection of food trucks set up for the market. The kids and I lay out a blanket in the grass while Joe buys dinner.
He and Jasper are having wood fired pizza and I’m having tacos. It’s getting close to bedtime and while many local families are only just arriving (kids included) we try to stick to our routine so we pack up and head home.
7:30 PM Bedtime
The city really comes alive at nighttime when the weather is slightly cooler and while you’ll see full families out until midnight, our kids have been sleeping for hours. We return home, bathe and both kids are asleep by 8:00PM.
Joe and I grab a cold beer and head out to the balcony but we don’t stay up too late. Esmé will be up a couple of times in the night and we’re both tired from a busy day.
Thanks for joining us on a perfect Abu Dhabi day.
For the Day in a Life Series we have featured families from countries around the globe. The series aims to give our global Bebe Voyage community a personal and authentic account on what a perfect weekend day looks like for families around the world.