Dubai UAE

Karishma Bhansali Mehta

Mom of 2

Age : 5 year old boy and 3 year old boy

Resident for : 3 years after stints in the US, UK and Belgium

Profession: Freelance Writer

#1 Travel Tip: Always carry a scarf or a cardigan as the indoors in Dubai are freezing.

About Dubai :

Often known as the “Paris of the Middle East”, Dubai is known for its haute couture, glamorous nightclubs and fast cars. But there is so much more to this desert city than conspicuous consumption. We love going to the night souks, the gold markets and of course, the Dubai Mall. And when you are done with it all, sit down and enjoy a hookah (not kid-friendly) and hummus unlike anywhere else in the world.

GET TO KNOW Karishma

Tell us about all the countries you’ve lived in so far and your experiences moving with kids?

I’ve been globe-trotting since I was a child. I spent a large part of my early years in the States in Washington DC, followed by boarding school and university in London, and then 3.5 gloriously single years in NYC ( something I advise every young person to do)  before I moved to Antwerp, Belgium with my husband, Niral.

After 12 years in quintessentially charming Europe, we moved to this incredible sand pit, Dubai 2 years ago. Moving with kids is a whole different ball game. When you’re single or a couple, moving is a piece of cake. Literally, anything goes! If something doesn’t work you fix it, if one temporary accommodation doesn’t suit you, well, you get up and find something else. Change seems exciting and experimental fun.

When we moved with our boys, everything had to be perfect so things were a little more stressful. We felt the change and transition for them had to be perfect.  Finding the perfect school, finding the perfect home were crucial. For us a move from lush greenery to the desert was a 360-degree life changer. But kids need to be entertained so the upside was that we literally started discovering Dubai from the get-go and within one year we were totally settled and they had started to love it.

Why is traveling so important to your family?

My husband and I both thrive on discovering new places, new cultures, trying new foods, and meeting different people. Sightseeing is of course our top priority but experiencing a city or place like a local is so much more gratifying. We both believe that understanding, accepting and embracing differences makes one grow and we want to inculcate that hunger to discover and explore, understand and embrace the unknown into our kids from childhood. We are preparing our children for a future and job opportunities that we cannot even comprehend, given the way technology is taking over the 21st century. So travel is really the best education we can give them. With the connectivity that Dubai offers, the world literally is our oyster and we are privileged to have the opportunity to explore it in all its glory!

What’s the hardest thing about traveling with kids?

Traveling with kids is always fun and rewarding, but I think the hardest thing is finding a balance between our adult activities like excessive sightseeing for example, and the kiddie entertainment which might include hours in the pool.

Also jetlag affects the children more so flight timings and itineraries need to be planned meticulously. Further, since we are vegetarian and our children also have some insensitivities, making sure that we have a hotel that can cater to us or that we have a good vegetarian spread of food available is also another consideration. And finally, It is always hard to find some quality alone time. If you really want it then you to plan well for it.

What’s your favorite family travel destination in the world?

Italy is our favorite family destination by far. It offers us cultural enrichment, Italians love children and we all love the food. Even our eldest son who was 6 at the time could appreciate the rich cultural antiquity of Rome so much so that after exploring Rome by day we even explored it by night! We didn’t know there were so many things to do in Rome with kids. We have travelled to 3 destinations in Italy and every trip has been a major success. It’s an overall win-win!

What’s on your travel wish list?

Peru, Egypt, Brazil are currently the top three on our travel wish list.

What’s one thing you do on every trip that makes traveling with kids easier?

Our youngest son, Aum is 4 and half so when we do long trips that involve lots of travelling , walking and sightseeing, we feel taking a buggy really serves us well because both the children take turns when they are tired.

Also if you’ve done some local flea market shopping its often easier to store it on the buggy.

When we go sightseeing with the children we try to make them part of the story of the place to make it exciting . Taking colours and paper always helps because no matter which architectural ruin you visit there is always space to sprawl out and draw. When we went to the Acropolis both the kids spent a good 10 – 15 minutes drawing their version of it while we contentedly listened to the tour guide.

Little children can get sick any time so I spare no luggage space to take a fully equipped medical kit. And funnily they have always needed the most unexpected random medicines.

Finally we always research and make sure the hotel has excellent babysitting experience in case we need to get away for some down time!

What do you love most about living in Dubai?

I love Dubai’s internationalism and admire what it has achieved as a new city. Majority of the city is made up of expats and since everyone is in the same boat, people are always eager to meet greet and help. Dubai has become a brand in itself and it has its own unique international soul. The food here is eclectic and amazing. Dubai is a foodie’s dream come true!

There is so much more to the city that meets the eye and as a city it is constantly trying to enrich the experiences of its residents. And let’s not forget the 350 days of sunshine!

 What’s one Dubai-ism/Cultural quirk?

‘Y’alla Habibti!’ become part of your vocabulary no matter where you are from.

Give us one song from your road trip playlist!

Our longest road trip with the kids was a 9 hour drive back from Lego Land in Bilund, Denmark back to Antwerp. The football Worldcup 2014 had just finished and the song repeatedly played was the World Cup song, We Are One!