Dubai // Going in House

At home in the desert, a Canadian couple finds opportunity and adventure in “Muslim Las Vegas&rdquo

By Daniel Cohen

On Thursday March 6th, 2008

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In their spacious, magnolia-coloured villa in the Arabian Ranches neighbourhood of Dubai, Erin and Dan Rankin like to watch the sun rise from the second-floor terrace. French doors in various rooms shower the house with sunlight. “That’s a huge difference,” Dan says when comparing his home with living in Toronto. “You hardly feel like you’re inside a house.”

Erin and Dan in Dubai

Called to the Ontario bar in 2004, the pair loved working in Toronto. Erin specialized in international arbitration and construction, Dan in corporate and securities law. But as their friends drifted to New York and London, they started looking abroad. Dubai beckoned: with its orgy of construction, fledgling financial market, and promise of adventure, it fit their aspirations perfectly. They have lived and worked here since early 2007.

They laugh when I ask if there’s anything boring about Dubai. “This isn’t your typical expat outpost,” Dan explains, “it’s more akin to living in Muslim Las Vegas.” They’ve taken advantage of Dubai’s role as a travel hub, visiting over a dozen countries between them in the past year.
Meanwhile, Canadian comforts are within reach. In the Mall of the Emirates (home to an indoor ski slope) a Second Cup franchise displays Toronto time; Little Mosque on the Prairie appears on satellite TV; and visiting friends smuggle in Tim Hortons coffee.

Dubai’s amenities are also well suited to the couple’s growing family, with their first child expected in late March. Erin plans to take three to four months maternity leave, she has found a live-in nanny, and a wealth of daycares, nurseries and Montessori cater to ex-pats like her. “You get spoiled fast,” she says with a laugh.


Firms: Lovells (Dan); Fulbright & Jaworski (Erin)

Area of Practice: Dan works in corporate and securities law, and Islamic finance; Erin works in international arbitration and construction law

Location: Arabian Ranches, Dubai

Building profile: Semi-detached, 2,400 square foot, four-bedroom villa (plus maid’s quarters). Neighbourhood includes lake, golf course and polo grounds, swimming pools and shopping centre. Rent is about $4,200 a month.


Photography by Daryl Visscher