Children playing in parks and swimming pools is a common sight in The Lakes Image Credit: Supplied

As Dubai expands and its communities become more established, residents are increasingly being able to choose where they live based on what is most suited to their lifestyle. For those seeking an active life, surrounded by healthy cafés and fitness facilities, many areas are increasingly meeting such demands. For families with children, there are communities dedicated to childcare and schooling, while for those with a penchant for a more eco-friendly lifestyle, there is a community for that too.

New communities are popping up all the time from the Green Community to Meydan and everything in between and it means residents are spoilt for choice. Quality of life is being planned into many of the new communities, but even the older communities are now able to serve the more discerning resident.

JLT: convenience and simplicity

Nerry Toledo, a PR executive and yoga teacher, says that for the last eight years, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) has been the home she cannot imagine leaving. With so many options for recreation and leisure, from its cafés and restaurants to gyms and community events, it is a place she calls home.

She says: “It’s a breathable place to live too; you get the greenery and the calmness of the water on top of all the things happening around us. Everything is accessible by Metro, which is just a walk away and the same with the beach. I don’t think of living in any other place. I love it here.”

Yoga teacher Nerry Toledo describes JLT as a ‘breathable’ community

Although it is a densely populated area, she says the simplicity of the community makes it attractive. “It is not as crowded as the other neighbouring communities. Cafés and restaurants are at your doorstep, hotels, spas and fitness centres are all around. I live in the cluster where the Bonnington Hotel is located and there are plenty of healthy restaurants and cafés all over. My office is also just across the street. It provides convenience and simplicity; the reasons why I never look anywhere else to live.”

The Sustainable City: holistic living

Ina Folkesson, a Norwegian mum, has lived in The Sustainable City (TSC) for almost one and a half years after living in Arabian Ranches close by. “We moved to Dubai because my husband got a job, but our choice to change community and move to TSC was easy,” says Folkesson. “It gives you everything you want and even more, including a safe community for the children. We have no cars driving inside the community, only 122 electrical buggies. All transportation is electrical and they are charged by solar panels, including the garbage truck, landscaping and our own bus. We have a gym and a lap pool that is free for residents.

Folkesson also appreciates the activities organised weekly for residents. “There are free activities for the residents every Tuesday at 8pm,” she says. “Before the summer it was yoga, boot camp, Pilates and Zumba. For the kids there are former professional football players that are teaching them how to play for free on Friday mornings.”

She adds: “We have an amazing community pool that looks like a resort area, and we have animals like donkeys, goats, hens, chickens, bees, ducks and fishes. Almost like our own farm.”

Ina Folkesson says living in TSC is almost like living in her farm

TSC also has the Fairgreen nursery and an autism centre. Inside the community there is a plaza with a grocery store, ladies’ saloon, gents’ saloon, tailor, pharmacy, pet shop, tutoring centre, flower shop, coffee shop, several restaurants and play area. “We do not need to go outside the community, we have everything we need,” she says.

Karim El-Jisr, executive director of the SEE Nexus, the knowledge arm of TSC, says such holistic living was part of the master plan. “Our commitment to sustainability has always been holistic, which means we address social, environmental and economic sustainability,” says El-Jisr. “Sports and wellness, including health and wellbeing, lie at the centre of our social sustainability strategy and programmes.”

The farm, playground, green field, sports tracks and dog park all provide extensive opportunities for outdoor recreation and sports, El-Jisr explains.

“There are many ingredients to happiness,” says El-Jisr. “In our experience, the car-free clusters have created a unique space for families to socialise and this is priceless. Carpooling such as school pick-ups and drop-offs has become second nature because our residents know and see each other daily. The opportunity to cycle within the community, recycle household waste, exercise, farm and partake in our social events greatly enhance happiness. Our events are wide ranging, including show-jumping events, yoga festival, electric vehicle road trips and parades, picnics, and markets.”

The Lakes: health and wellbeing

Belen Settembri and her family have been living in The Lakes, one of Dubai’s more established communities, for the last eight years and now in their third home there. “It was the community and knowing that the place is ideal for kids made us move there,” she says. “The community is full of kids that can play together in the different parks and swimming pools within the compound. You have three nurseries, two schools that you can bike to, a gym and lots of after-school activities like swimming, tennis, football, dance classes, etc.”

Belen Settembri doesn’t have to drive her children around The Lakes; they do everything with their bikes

The mum of three, life coach and yoga teacher is also active in community classes for residents. “You have many nice parks and the lakes to do it. I also go to the gym, to other teachers’ houses within the compound. We do everything outside; we run and exercise with other couples. It’s a great community with an ethos for healthy living.”

Her children cycle to school every morning as it is less than a five-minute ride. “There is a supermarket, laundry, hairdresser and all the amenities families need. As a mum of three who works, I don’t need to organise play dates because they are always playing with the neighbours and I don’t need to be their driver like many other parents, because they do everything with their bikes.”

Mira in Reem: pet-friendly and affordable

Emilie Mikulla lives in one of the city’s newer communities, Mira in Reem community, which is divided into five clusters. As she and her husband are avid cyclists, it is a perfect location. “Mira is located right on the Al Qudra Cycle path, from where we can access hundreds of kilometres of cycle track going out the front door,” says Mikulla, who moved into the community in May last year. “No more getting the bike into the car, driving to and from the cycle track.”

Price was also a factor in their move. “The rent is more affordable than our previous location at Falcon City and you get a lot more for your money. We also have two kids and a dog and wanted to make sure we chose a neighbourhood where they could thrive,” she says. “We couldn’t have picked a better place. Truth be told I’ve lived all over Dubai, from Emirates Hills and Tecom, to Barsha and Falcon, and Mira is my favourite place by far.”

Mira’s dog park is a perfect fit for the Mikulla family

She says the area is designed with families in mind, with each Mira cluster having a 25m swimming pool with a lifeguard on duty and a shaded baby pool and a playground. The community also has a dog park, skate park and football pitch. The community’s lush greenery is a plus, says Mikulla, while amenities such as a supermarket are conveniently located.

“It’s also very easy for us as our seven-year-old attends Safa Community School, which is 15 minutes away, and our two-year-old goes to Jebel Ali Nursery in Motor City, which is very close,” says Mikulla. “People feel like Mira might be at the end of the world, but it’s actually quite central with direct access to the new Academic City Road, 611 and 311. It doesn’t take us more than 20 minutes to go anywhere.”