A seasoned traveller, Jessica Hudson is the co-founder of Chic Collection, a bespoke luxury travel service that she launched in Dubai last year I've lived in quite a few places but I grew up in Dubai. My parents moved here in the 1970s. I don't really remember it but I've got loads of photos of the old beach club and the Hilton. We moved to South Africa after that and lived in Johannesburg. When I got to secondary school age, my family returned to England. I then studied French and Spanish at Bristol University and lived in Grenada, Andalusia for eight months during my studies, and also Paris. My parents moved back to Dubai, as did my sister, and then my husband Tom was given a job in the Dubai office of his law firm, Linklaters. We had a six-month sabbatical prior to that and had come out here; I did some work for Al Maha and Emirates Hotels and we loved it, it was really a no-brainer.
Dubai is home, although you always have those mixed feelings about home when you go back to the UK. Dubai is our first home together since getting married, and we've built it together. Having family out here, and all the old family friends from the 1970s, makes Dubai feel like home. Equally, there's also a familiarity about South Africa. The smell of frangipani trees and the childhood memories are there, but really home is now Dubai.
We live in Jumeirah 3 and family are nearby in Umm Suqeim. We're lucky to have found a place where we did. It is near to Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, which is an old expat place that my parents have been members of for a long time. They know a lot of people there and it's a really nice little spot. The flat itself is in an Arabian compound of 20 villas and apartments on the beachfront. It has been designed to look like the old wind towers and has what in my opinion is one of the best pools in Dubai, an infinity pool overlooking the sea. There is a lovely big roof terrace on one of the apartments belonging to our neighbour and we do movie nights. We were lucky to have things shipped out by Tom's company so we have all our nice wedding gifts as well as new things like an old Omani chest and lots of little memories from our travels. Our place in Fulham, London, now seems quite small and pokey by comparison.
When you've had a childhood growing up in the sunshine it is nice not to have to wake up in the dark to a rainy morning. I really miss the friends side of things a lot. I also miss going for a walk-up the King's Road and Portobello Market and wandering around the shops, it's not the same when you are in a big mall. Tom's family live in Windsor and it was always lovely to be able to go there and have a dose of greenery and countryside at weekends.
I had started to know Dubai from holidays and visiting my parents here. The first time I came to visit my parents I remember being surprised at how well kept and smart the city was, especially when you compare it to some towns in the UK. I guess also knowing that the Madinat and Palm have been built since mum and dad have been here is quite amazing to think about as in London you don't even notice a crane most of the time.
I feel healthier and fitter and spend more time with Tom who was working crazy hours in London. Also, we have made many new friends here. Our friends in London are great but it is a more closed social group and we'd not have met people from so many walks of life if we had not come here. That is something we will definitely take away with us wherever we go. Sandra Lane is away.